Photographer Kaitlyn McLachlan has put together a guide for everyone who wants to try aerial photography using a drone.
These tips are from part 2 of her drone photography series over at 500px ISO and they are focusing on how to use the drone. If you’d like more tips for choosing the right kind of drone in the first place, we have included a link to part 1 at the end of this article.
Getting Comfortable With Your Drone
Take a read through the manual and understand how to operate your drone and what each of the switches and buttons do. Once you’ve done that, find a nice open space where it is safe to let your drone take off and fly. Most drones will hold exact position when you are not actively controlling them. If that is the way your drone works, just remember that you can take your hands off if you’re ever unsure what to do and need to re-orient yourself.
I personally recommend that you don’t worry about capturing photos or videos on your first (or first few) times out. Get familiar with controlling your drone and getting the movements you’re looking for. Gradually send it higher in the air or further away from you until you’re starting to feel very comfortable using eyesight, the controller, and the video feed to maneuver your drone.
1. Look down — straight down!
We walk around in our world every day, but seeing it from above is so different. The natural shapes and symmetry that exist in both our manmade and natural worlds provide a plethora of interesting composition opportunities.
2. Experiment with height and angle
You’re going to be seeing things from a very different perspective (literally!) once you send your drone in the air. Many go really high and really far, which allows you to adjust what you fit in your frame and at what angle you do so. One of the first things I learned was that sometimes flying too high isn’t ideal — it can result in the photo looking a bit too abstract, with subject matter too small or a lack of focus.
Many newer drones include some level of “smart features,” and although they may go by different names, here are some of the most common or most helpful features:
Using either sight or GPS, the drone and camera can be set up to automatically follow an object on its own, including flying in the right direction and adjusting the camera angle. Getting that shot of a runner along the beach or a car driving on the open road is now easier than ever.
This allows the drone to automatically fly a perfect circle around a point while keeping the camera centered. By adjusting both the direction of flight and the camera position in perfect harmony, this can create great footage that would otherwise be very difficult.
Cable cam / waypoints
This allows you to configure specific points or paths that the drone will fly. It can redo this over and over, often allowing you to control the orientation of the camera independently. This allows you to ensure you get that perfect pan and framing, and it allows you to splice different segments of the shots together more easily.
Source: 500px ISO