Using drones for photography nowadays has become a norm. They are affordable, super easy to use and a lot of photographers now have them. Drones can make it a lot easier to take good photos. A lot of places just look more impressive and epic from higher elevations. But there’s still a lot of skill needed to get those beautiful shots, sometimes even more so than with a standard camera. I have been using a drone for over a year now and it’s revolutionised the way I shoot. So below I’m going to outline some advice from my experience into how to take stunning drone photos.
Before I go any further, a word of warning; drones can be very dangerous if used incorrectly. Always adhere to local laws, never do anything that could put anyone in danger or invade anyone’s privacy.
Let’s talk about light
Light is just as important from a drone as it is in any landscape photography, only it’s a little more tricky to master. Most of the time, the best light for landscapes can be found at golden hour (the hour after sunrise and before sunset). It’s when the light is golden, soft and low so it casts long shadows. This helps to create nicer textures and make a photo jump out at your, it has more depth to it. I usually shoot towards the sun when using my SLR, it creates that beautiful flare and accentuates the colour of the light. This becomes tricky with a drone though, they don’t deal with flare very well because the lens and camera quality can’t rival a high quality SLR. So I would recommend shooting perpendicular or away from the sun on a drone.
It is still a great time to shoot however, shadows become even more important in aerial photography and you can get some really cool shots using long shadows from things in photos.
Look at things from a different angle
The whole point in a drone is being able to get all sorts of angles you can’t usually get. Sometimes just being 20 foot up can make an awesome angle, sometimes you need to go much higher. I love photographing straight down with mine. It’s an angle that’s hard to do with anything else other than a drone and it always makes an interesting shots. This is a great angle to experiment with shadows too.
Look for patterns
The Earth has so many beautiful and interesting patterns to it. Often you can’t see or photograph these without getting in the air. I use a little guess work for this and just explore. But one of the best tools is to research before hand. Use Google Earth to explore areas you will be travelling, zoom in and look for interesting shapes and patterns in the landscape. Things that work well are snaking rivers, patterns in fields of different crops, tree lines, forests, roads, paths and waves in the ocean.
Add a little colour
Find complementary and contrasting colours. Look for places where water runs close to land, whether it be the ocean, or a glacial river, often there’s really interesting contrasts of colours and these can look really distinctive from the sky. Autumn is a great time to experiment with this too, you have snow on mountain peaks, you have the golden oranges and reds of autumnal trees, but the grass is still green. It’s great to play with these colour contrasts to make interesting and original compositions.
Water and reflections
Water always looks great from above, look for interesting shapes and patterns under the water. Coral reefs look amazing, kelp in rivers and also transitions between sand and stone. You can also get some great reflections in water. But you do need to be careful of sun glare. Buy a decent polarising filter and that will cut out the worst of it. It helps to think about the angle you are shooting too.
This is a classic composition but works extra well from above. Look for interesting lines that lead your eyes into a photo towards a subject like a mountain. Hedge lines, tracks, roads, crops, waves all work great.
Drones do have some limitations. You can’t use long exposures which are so common in landscape photography. Another big one is you can’t photograph very well in low light (partly because of the slow exposure thing). The quality of cameras on drones just doesnt compare to an SLR, unless you spend a small fortune on a drone that can carry an SLR! But they are developing quickly and I don’t doubt that they will rival SLR quality in the near future.
I hope that has given you some useful insight into getting more out of your drone. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. If you are interested in my tutorials, you may want to check out my Youtube channel which has weekly videos.