Tips For Drone Photography


1. Introduction

Drone photography has firmly planted its feet in the digital age and is reshaping traditional photography as we know it. With the ability to reach previously inaccessible vantage points, drones provide a fresh perspective, literally and figuratively. While for some, drone photography may seem like uncharted territory, it’s essentially off-the-ground photography that opens the door for opportunities and innovation.

The emergence of drone technology has led to breathtaking aerial images that were once only possible with a helicopter or a tall building. But the magic of drone photography is more than just its heightened perspective; it’s about the union of technology and creativity—the fusion of adventurous spirit and an enduring love for photography.

Learning drone photography doesn’t just add another feather to your photography cap; it expands your capabilities, enabling you to explore landscapes and subjects from a refreshing point of view. Plus, from real estate to wedding photography, drones have proven their commercial potential, making them a valuable asset for professional photographers.

Understanding drone photography may seem daunting, from maneuvering the drone to nailing the right camera settings. But, like any new skill, it starts with learning the basics. Let’s take that initial step—consider this your informal initiation into the captivating sphere of drone photography. Just remember, every accomplished drone photographer was once a curious beginner too! But, before we can take the grand tour above the clouds, we need to first understand the vehicle that will get us there—your drone.

2. Understanding Your Drone

Just like a painter needs to understand their brushes and a writer their pen, photographers venturing into drone photography need to familiarize themselves with their drones. There are different types of drones available in the market, each equipped with a myriad of features, and choosing the right one can seem a bit like picking out the right tool from a bottomless toolbox. So, how do you start?

Types of Drones

Broadly speaking, there are three main categories of drones – multirotor, fixed-wing, and single rotor. Multirotor drones are the most common type used in photography due to their ability to hover and provide stable flight for capturing crisp, clear images. Fixed-wing drones, as the name suggests, have a single rigid wing and are built more for speed and distance rather than stability, making them less suitable for detailed photography work. Finally, single rotor drones operate similar to a helicopter with one major rotor and a smaller one to control its heading. While they can stay aloft for an extended period of time, their larger size makes them less prevalent in photography.

Useful Features

While the market is flooded with drones of different shapes and sizes, certain features can significantly enhance your drone photography experience and output. For instance, the altitude hold function allows the drone to maintain a consistent height, ensuring stability while shooting. The headless mode simplifies flight controls, making it easier for beginners to navigate. Another handy feature is one key return, which commands the drone to return to its operator at the press of a button.

Additionally, understanding how your drone’s camera works is fundamental. Look out for drones with adjustable camera settings for greater control over your shots. Some high-end drones even have gimbal technology to stabilize the camera in turbulent conditions and capture jitter-free, professional-grade images.

Getting to Know Your Drone

Once you’ve chosen the right drone, take the time to study its manual thoroughly. Not the flashiest of tasks, we understand, almost like perusing a telephone directory. But this familiarity will be your key to unlocking all the potential your drone holds. Learn the capabilities and limitations of your drone, understand how to interpret its various signals and alarms, and master the process of setting up and tearing down for flights.

In sum, understanding your drone is akin to developing a new partnership. The better you get to know it, the more likely you’ll be to capture fantastic photos that truly elevate your portfolio. So, while it might not exactly be love at first flight, give it some time. You’ll be soaring together sooner than you think.

3. Mastering the Controls

Learning to operate a drone effectively is a valuable step in your photography pursuits. Think of it as getting to know a pet: it may look daunting at the onset, but with a little time and patience, you’ll soon develop a symbiotic relationship (minus the pet food expenses, of course).

To start mastering the controls, familiarize yourself with the basics. Most drones share a common set of controls that let you take off, land, move your drone horizontally (forwards, backwards, left, right), and adjust its altitude (up, down). And there’s also the added functionality to rotate your drone to capture those breathtaking panoramic shots.

Now for mastering the controls, we advise practicing in an uncomplicated environment, devoid of countless distractions and obstructions, many of which tend to come across as ‘Drone Enemy Number 1’. Practicing in an open, obstruction-free area allows you to focus on the functionality of your drone without worrying about avoiding that never-seen-before alien tree species. This approach will help you to understand your drone, gain control confidence, and reduce the chances of your prized possession becoming an accidental lawn ornament.

While we appreciate the excitement of doing all those unimaginable acrobatic maneuvers we see on the Internet, let’s not forget the importance of baby steps. Start with subtle movements, gradually becoming familiar with each control. As you get comfortable, add a layer by practicing adjustments in altitude alongside your horizontal movements. Soon, you’ll realize the coordination between your hands and eyes has significantly improved, and you’ll be flying your drone like a bona fide ace pilot. And yes, with enough practice, you’ll…eventually…be able to do those fancy maneuvers.

Once you’ve developed a seamless connection with your controls, the next stage is incorporating photography into the mix. This is the time where you get to express your artistic side while still maintaining technical proficiency. But here’s the spoiler – that’s the next section.

Now, go and practice (in the true spirit of drone ethics and safety, of course). The more time you spend honing your piloting skills, the more seamless your airborne photography journey will be. So remember, a day spent without a little bit of flying is like a camera with no battery…somewhat incomplete!

4. Learning About Camera Settings

Peeking into the tech-side of drone photography, we stumble upon the pivotal role of camera settings. This is where you, as the photographer, call the shots, and can create profound effects on your final output. Hint: it’s not as complex as it feels; all it requires is understanding a few key terms and knowing when to adjust them.

Firstly, let’s uncover the mysteries of exposure. Simply put, exposure is the amount of light captured when you take a photo. Too little light, and your photo might appear as dark as a midnight safari without a flashlight. Too much, and it’ll be as blinding as stepping out from a dimly-lit room into the heart of midday sun. Most drones have an automatic mode for exposure, but if you are looking to differentiate your work, mastering manual control can be a game-changer.

Next in line, we come across the technical trio: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. They form the backbone of your photography settings.

Aperture is akin to your pupils, which expand or contract, depending on the light. For drone cameras, this is a fixed setting but good to understand as it influences the next two variables.

Shutter speed is the time for which the drone camera “blinks” to capture a shot. Picture yourself experimenting with slow-blinks and rapid-blinks; it’s a similar scenario. Slower speeds can create motion blur (think of those silky smooth waterfalls), while faster speeds freeze the action (birds in mid-flight, anyone?).

Now, ISO is the ‘bouncer’ at the club. Crank up the ISO, and it’ll let more light into the shot, thus brightening darker scenes, but be careful—it can also cause graininess in the final photo if pushed too high. It’s your ‘ace in the hole’ for whimiscal sunrise or sunset shots.

Each element above can affect the final picture. It’s a delicate balance, a three-legged race of settings where one is inexplicably tied to the other. To get comfortable with these settings, set aside some time for controlled experiments with exposure, shutter speed, and ISO, noting down how the changes affect your shots. It’ll be a bit like being back in your school’s science lab, just a whole lot more scenic.

In drone photography, understanding camera settings is like learning the chords on a guitar. Just like how a skilled guitarist can create harmonious tunes by striking the right chords, a well-versed drone photographer can create astounding images by tuning into the right settings. With patience and practice, you’ll soon be playing your own symphony of shots. So, grab your drone, it’s time to get techy!

5. Importance of Lighting

A key ingredient in creating spectacular drone photography is understanding and utilizing optimal lighting conditions. Light can change the entire dynamics of your image, bringing out vibrant colors, casting dramatic shadows, or highlighting certain elements in your surroundings.

Just as with traditional photography, the lighting conditions in drone photography can significantly affect the mood, clarity, and depth of your images. Therefore, being cognizant about different lighting scenarios and how to work with them can offer substantial enhancements to the final results. Here are some practical guidelines to get you started.

Ideal Times for Drone Photography

On any given day, sunrise and sunset (commonly called ‘Golden Hours’) offer some of the best light conditions for drone photography. During these hours, sunlight is softer, diffused, and casts an artistic warm hue. This magical light can provide your aerial photos with a cinematic or dreamy look. While the temptation may be to sleep in, remember that good lighting can make a good photo great!

Overcast Weather

You might think cloudy or overcast conditions are not suitable for photography, but think again. Such conditions can work as a natural diffuser for sunlight, spreading it evenly across the landscape. The soft light can bring out more subtle details and textures, enhancing your photos’ overall aesthetic appeal. So, next time you see a cloudy sky, don’t pack away your drone, seize the opportunity!

Understanding Shadows

Mid-day sunlight can create harsh shadows, depriving your images of visual detail. However, a little creativity and savviness can turn this situation on its head. Shadows can add depth and perspective to your drone photos, creating a stark contrast and adding an interesting visual element to them. Embrace the shadows and use them to your advantage.

Monitor the Sun’s Position

Be aware of the sun’s direction, as it affects the final image outcome. A shot facing the sun can cause lens flare, which can be an artistic bonus or an irritating distraction. Conversely, shooting with the sun behind your drone can result in well-lit and clear images. Play around with the sun’s position–the experimentation can lead to unexpectedly delightful photos!

In conclusion, lighting can be your best friend during a drone photography session when you understand how it works and use it to your advantage. Stay flexible, adaptable and keep an eye on weather forecasts. However, be ready to grab your drone and take to the skies when opportunity arises. After all, you’re crafting a masterpiece from the sky, and every artist needs good lighting!

6. Experimenting with Angles

One substantial benefit of drone photography lies in the unique vantage points it offers. The sky is literally the limit when it comes to the variety and novelty of angles that can be accomplished with a drone. This section will delve into the potential of these unmanned aerial vehicles and offer some guidance on how to exploit the myriad prospects of aerial perspective.

Let’s start by saying that in drone photography, the typical eye-level perspective is a thing of the past. With a drone, you have the liberty to add spatial depth and contextual narrative to your shots. It’s not unlike being a bird, soaring above the landscape, free to scrutinize the scene from multiple angles.

Operating a drone enables you to capture photographs from high altitude, commonly known as ‘bird’s eye’ or ‘top-down’ views. This angle provides an outstanding way to observe patterns and formations usually hidden from plain sight, be it the intricate canopy of a forest or the neat rows of a vineyard. Even usual landscapes can look strikingly otherworldly when captured from a high altitude.

But high is not the only way to go. Try out a mid-altitude shot to present a more accessible and relatable viewpoint. This perspective often delivers images that strike a balance between a recognizable scene and a fresh viewpoint.

Don’t forget about the low altitude shots too. Although the drone still offers a higher vantage point than handheld photography, low altitude drone shots provide a near-ground perspective that infuses the scene with a sense of grandeur and scale.

Most importantly, experimentation is key. A slight change in the angle can dramatically alter the mood and appearance of the photo. For example, a forward tilt of the camera can bring the horizon into the frame, while a downward tilt might exclude it entirely, emphasizing the patterns on the ground.

Remember to maneuver your drone smoothly and gradually while experimenting with angles. A sudden or vigorous movement can cause the drone to tremble, resulting in blurred images. So, ensure a slow and stable movement for crisp, clear photos. It may take a bit of practice to perfect the flight patterns, but hey, that’s part of the fun.

By pushing the boundaries of perspectives and angles, you can add a layer of intrigue and freshness to your photos. So, go ahead, put on your pilot’s cap and take to the skies. The world looks different from up there, and capturing that difference is what can drive your drone photography to new heights.

7. Applying the Rules of Composition

Beyond mastering the technicalities, the composition is an indispensable aspect of drone photography. It is about arranging the elements in your picture to create a pleasing aesthetic. Though it might seem intimidating at first, understanding these simple yet impactful rules can greatly enhance the visual appeal of your images.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a basic principle that suggests an image can be divided into nine equal parts using two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines. The theory is that if you place points of interest along these lines or at the intersections, your photo becomes more balanced and directs viewers’ attention more naturally. In drone photography, whether you’re shooting sprawling landscapes or city skylines, using the rule of thirds can add an interesting depth to your shots.

Leading Lines

Leading lines refers to the technique of using the scene’s natural lines to direct the eye towards the main subject. This could be literally anything that forms a line in your image: a road, a fence, or even the coastline. With a drone, you have an exceptional advantage of uncovering these leading lines from high above the ground that are not noticeable from land. Capturing these lines from unique angles can result in compelling compositions that guide your viewers’ gaze within the frame.


Symmetry is everywhere in nature and tapping into this as a compositional tool can result in fantastic aerial shots. Spotting symmetrical patterns or scenes below when you’re high up in the air can be a fun game of hunting. It could be a row of beach huts on a seafront or a geometric pattern of farm fields. Symmetrical compositions have a powerful visual impact and give a sense of harmony to your pictures.

Practical Tips

After understanding these principles, the first step is to consistently incorporate these rules into your pictures. The beauty of drone photography is the versatility it offers – make sure to experiment with different angles and perspectives, waiting for the best light, and trying different heights or distances. Remember, these rules are just guidelines. Once you have a grasp of them, feel free to break them knowingly for more creative compositions.

Learning how to apply the rules of composition will definitely take your drone shots from good to great. But, like every craft, it is the application, practice, and occasional rule-breaking that will eventually lead to perfection. Carry an artistic spirit alongside your drone controller – never cease exploring, composing, and capturing the world from new heights.

8. Pre-Flight and Post-Flight Checklist

Just as pilots of commercial airliners don’t simply hop into the cockpit and rocket off into the skies, a drone photographer also needs a checklist to ensure that all systems are go before launching their flying camera. By having a pre-flight and post-flight checklist, you can keep your drone in optimal condition and prevent preventable errors during your shooting session.

Pre-Flight Checklist

Before you let your drone conquer the skies, it’s important to perform some vital checks:

  • Drone Updates: Check if your drone software is up-to-date. Carefully assess any new updates, weighing the potential benefits against the risk of unexpected bugs on a photography flight.
  • Battery Charging: Ensure that all batteries, including spares, are fully charged. A drained battery can lead to an unplanned homeward journey—nothing quite stings like a perfect shot missed due to a battery dying at the wrong moment.
  • Weather Conditions: Always cross-check the weather conditions for the day and the upcoming hours. Rough winds or heavy rainfall can wreak havoc on your drone and your photography plans. I’m not saying your drone can’t rock a dramatic, stormy shoot, but weather-related risks are generally best avoided.
  • Location: Before setting off, ensure your planned shooting location is legal and safe. This means checking for air traffic and nearby obstructions. Remember, your drone may carve the skies, but it’s best to avoid real birds, passenger planes, or intrusive treetops.
  • Flight Plan: Having a clear flight plan can help prevent unexpected surprises in the air. The more prepared you are, the less likely you’ll have to make hasty decisions mid-flight yanking your drone out of a nosedive.

Post-Flight Checklist

When you’ve landed your drone after a productive session of aerial photography, the job isn’t over just yet.

  • Photo Backup: Transfer and back up your photographs immediately. To misplace or corrupt a memory card with a day’s worth of footage is a feeling I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy—a clear case where the cliche “better safe, than sorry” rings true.
  • Battery Care: Remove batteries from the drone for charging and ensure their contacts are clean. Proper battery care can extend their lifespan.
  • Drone Inspection: Inspect your drone for any damages and clean it if necessary. Pay attention to even minor damages—like a meek cough turning into a full-blown cold, minor damages can lead to major issues if overlooked.

In conclusion, a disciplined approach to pre-flight and post-flight checks can spell the difference between smooth, successful drone photography sessions and frustrating, foiled attempts. Now that you’re armed with the practical knowledge to carry out these checks, it’s time to let your drone take flight and capture those breathtaking shots. Safe flying!

9. Conclusion

As we glide into the final stretch of this guide, it’s essential to reflect on the importance of understanding each aspect we touched upon. Drone photography isn’t simply about taking your camera airborne; it’s quite like solving a jigsaw puzzle where every piece has its significance – the drone, your proficiency with controls, camera settings, lighting conditions, the angle and composition of photos, and indeed, the pre and post-flight checklists.

Learning the art of drone photography is more than conquering the technical details. It’s about storytelling from a vantage point that was previously out of reach. It offers a unique canvas to portray your perspective and creativity, resulting in images that can truly stand out in the ever-growing crowd of photographs.

Embrace arms-wide-open the golden rule of photography: Practice makes perfect. So don’t worry if your first few flights do not yield the perfect shot. Even seasoned photographers have their share of hilarious drone-miscues to laugh about. Remember, every mistake is a stepping stone, leading you to capture that one breathtaking aerial shot that will have you doing a virtual high-five with your drone.

With all said and done, it’s time to get those propellers buzzing. The sky is no longer the limit; it’s your new playground. Explore, experiment, learn, and most importantly, enjoy capturing the beauty of this world from an entirely new perspective. Now, all set to spread those wings, err…propellers?

The Creativv
American digital marketer and founder of with over a decade of experience in event, travel, portrait, product, and cityscape photography.