I’ve been shooting drone images for a few years now so I thought it was about time I shared my top tips to shoot amazing drone photos. I primarily use the DJI Mavic 2 Pro now but these tips are great for any and all drones.
1. Get confident with your drone
It is a little scary to fly your drone in the beginning. I was the same but after years of experience, I know what my drones are capable of. I suggest the best way to get used to your drone is head out to a large open space, play around and build your confidence in your own flying skills as well as that of the drone.
Drones are amazing pieces of technology. But the image sensors are all fairly small and a long way off that of the quality of your DSLR. You may notice a reduction in quality and noise so its important to use the best setting to reduce this as much as possible in order to shoot amazing drone photos. Always use ISO 100 and ideally stick between f4 & f5.6 as these produce the best results. You can push this to 6.3 or even 8 but after that, you really notice the sharpness dropping off.
3. Higher doesn’t mean better.
One of the biggest mistakes I see with drone photos is they are taken too high. Go too high and the frame looks messy, lower and closer improves composition.
Play around with different heights to see what works best for each image. This is one of the main advantages drones have, you have almost unlimited perspectives whereas on the ground you are far more limited.
4. Stitching images
Following on from my previous point; drones don’t have wide lenses. So in order to get close to a subject, the Panorama option is fantastic. I use the horizontal panorama most often. This method takes 9 images in a 3 x 3 x 3 grid which you can then simply stick together in post-production.
I use Lightroom but PT Gui and Microsoft Ice are also great. This method doesn’t only allow you to get a wider angle shot it also adds a great deal of quality to your final image. Instead of the one frame, you are now using 9 to create the same image. This method also works great for portrait or vertical images.
Google earth is an amazing tool. You can pretty much get anywhere on earth using the 3D view to research your angles and prepare your shots. As flight times can be limited knowing exactly where you need to be is a great help to shoot amazing drone photos.
6. Use Apps
Aside from the DJI app you are using to control your drone there are a number of other apps that I find really useful. Nats drone assist is great for finding out the best and safest places to takeoff and fly. Photopills has a really great drone module that works the same as google maps except you can add in your drone model and attitude. Drone buddy is great for checking the wind conditions.
7. Noise reduction stacking
This is really easy to implement and will massively assist in helping you to shoot amazing drone photos. I often shoot in burst mode so the drone takes 5 rapid-fire images of the same thing.
As I mentioned earlier, drone sensors are very small so noise can become an issue. Once I have my 5 images I can stack them and as the noise pattern will be different in each image I can average these in post-production resulting in a crisp clean shot. The process is very simple.
- Select the images in Lightroom >Right Click >Open as layers in Photoshop
- Select all layers in Photoshop >Edit >Auto Align. This will auto-align the images in case the drone moved slightly during taking the images
- Select all 5 layers >Right click >Convert to smart object
- Layer >Smart Objects >Stack mode >Mean
- The noise is now averaged and you’ll see a cleaner image. If you then save your image, you’ll get it back in Lightroom and can continue editing your image
Composition is as important as ever with drone photography. Its easy to forget this when starting out as everything just looks so cool from above.
The standard rules apply such as the rule of thirds but you can really shoot amazing drone photos by using the array of natural leading lines that you can find from above. This could be roads or even shadows. The options are far greater than they are from the ground level.
So there you have it, our guide to help you shoot amazing drone photos. Use this list to capture stunning drone photos and don’t forget to share them with us.
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Jordan Banks is a travel photographer with almost 20 years of experience shooting assignments and campaigns for some of the worlds leading brands and companies.
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