If you’re reading this you’re most likely interested in drone photography. At the moment, this type of aerial photography is incredibly popular due to the affordability of drones. I’m still learning the craft of drone photography but I hope my tips help you!
*Whilst this is an old post, written over four years ago (!), the tips below are still relevant to help you improve your drone photography. If you’re interested in seeing more of my drone photography, I put together one of my favourite posts showcasing Australia from the air that you can see here!
Use Exposure Bracketing
This is my number one tip. I’ll put my hands up and say that the quality of photos from drones generally is quite poor unless you’re spending thousands. The drone I have, the popular DJI Mavic Pro, has the same size image sensor that’s in your smartphone. Sure, 4k video quality from the Mavic is insane but the same cannot be said for its photos.
When I first started taking photos with my drone, I noticed that the images were very noisy in Lightroom. When you then try and edit the RAW file, the noise levels ramp up even further. What I’ve now started to do is take advantage of the built in Auto-Exposure Bracketing (AEB in the settings). I set the drone to automatically take five photos at varying exposures which I can then merge in Lightroom to create a perfectly editable image with barely any noise!
Include a subject
I’ve been guilty of not including a subject on so many occasions but it really helps to give a sense of scale especially when shooting landscapes. Whether your subject is a person or vehicle, it’ll really help liven up the image. I’ve taken far too many photos that would have been winners if they’d had at least something else in, other than just say a mountain.Of course, there can be times when you don’t need a person or vehicle such as a minimalist seascape or a cityscape.
Shoot from a low altitude
Of course, going as high as possible and getting a shot of your subject can be great for a sense of scale (think campervan in a huge forest) but I’ve found that getting lower and closer to your subject turns out better. I’ve found myself going as high as I can (120m in Australia) only for my photos to look terrible.The Mavic Pro has a 4.73mm lens (equivalent to 26mm on a full frame camera) so its quite wide. Your subject will appear further away than you think!
Use a polarising filter
These filters are perfect for shooting seascapes. The filter will cut through all of the reflections from the water and leave your photos looking unreal.
This is simply my opinion but I find that landscape photos taken from a drone don’t always cut it. Some photographers do produce beautiful images yet my images (and many I see) have more of an impact when taken in portrait. Find what works best for you but definitely don’t rule it out.
Drones offer a completely different perspective to what us travel photographers are used to so why not use that to our advantage. I’ve noticed that villages, roads, beaches all look so much better from the air especially when shooting straight down.
Rule of Thirds
Whether you’re a professional photographer or someone just starting out, you’ll have heard of the rule of thirds. If you haven’t; divide your viewfinder into thirds both vertically and horizontally. Your subject should be placed where those lines intersect. This doesn’t work for all types of photography obviously but, for drone photography, it can work really well.
Always check the local laws and regulations in relation to the use of drones
If you’re in Australia, download the Can I Fly There? app. It might be the lawyer in me speaking but I see so many photos (really good photos at that) from places that are no fly zones such as marine parks or near airports. Whilst you might get 1,000 likes on Instagram, you might also get a huge fine! In Thailand for example, the police are very strict on drone rules. I was scared of even bringing a drone into the country!
One final tip from me relates to the post-processing of your drone photos. I find them much more difficult to work with than RAW files from Fujifilm cameras. However, after following my advice to use auto-exposure bracketing, there are four editing steps you can do to make your drone photos come to life:
Increase Contrast to +50
Enable Profile Correction
Use Gradient Filters to balance highlights and shadows.
Hopefully these tips will help improve your drone photography. Feel free to get in touch either in the comments below or by emailing me if you have any other questions or need more advice!