drone flying

DRONE PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY

Wandering around Sydney’s northern beaches, it took me a while to figure out where the noise was coming from. It sounded like a small hive of bees. I’d stumbled close to a small group of photographers who were practising their moves with drones. If you haven’t noticed, there is a whole lot more aerial photography on the TV, on Youtube and just about anywhere we look these days. Drones are readily available and hugely popular with so many people, more are taking to aerial photography and videography than just die-hard photographers and filmmakers.

Getting photos and video while you are camping, fishing and enjoying the outdoors with a drone is a whole lot of fun, especially if you want to share amazing photographs and video of your own travelling party or get an aerial view of you and your friends fishing from a kayak.

I sat down with them to get a few tips together for taking images and video with a drone. But before that, it is important we take a look at the laws and the safe use of drones.

If you are making money, using your drone for aerial photography could be considered for commercial operations. The rules in Australia have been slightly updated to make it easier for those who use their own land and fly a smaller (sub 2k) model aircraft or drone for commercial operations. The laws are pretty simple and are covered on the Australian Government’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) website.

Here is a video that covers the basics of the updated laws.

Recreational flying of drones (and remote control aircraft) is pretty much regulation free. That being said, it’s best to follow the safety guidelines as provided by the CASA. Here is a video that covers the guidelines.

Okay, so now we have that out of the way, let’s look at some of the tips I picked up for photography and videography.

TIPS FOR DRONE PHOTOGRAPHY

RAW FORMAT

Any professional photographer will tell you to use the RAW format is the best way to shoot photography if you are planning to use software such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom. As many cameras on drones don’t offer the resolution of high-end cameras, it is a really good idea to go with the RAW format instead of compressing your images directly into JPG format. You will have a whole lot more resolution to work with.

BRACKETING

Bracketing is a feature where the camera takes several photos with different camera settings. This is an excellent way to create HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos by overlaying these images. One of the drone photographers I spoke to said 95% of her photos were bracket photographs. Look for a photography app that offers HDR and bracketing options.

USE BOTH AUTO AND MANUAL MODE

Not all photo apps let you know if you are under or overexposed. If you want to see the difference with your own eyes, you can switch between P (auto) and A (auto) to compare the difference. Slight adjustments while you are using manual mode can be compared to what you saw with automatic mode.

HOW LOW ISO

Using a low ISO setting will reduce noise and help you avoid those grainy looking photos. As we are not supposed to fly at night with recreational drones in Australia, the majority of your photographs during the day and there is no reason to have a high ISO setting. Nevertheless, when taking low-light or night-time photographs, it is important to remember the wind gets stronger the higher you fly. To get a crisp image you’ll need a longer shutter speed setting but it’s better not to go over 3 seconds or you are likely to get a blurred image.

FILTERS FOR THAT CINEMATIC EFFECT

ND (Neutral Density) filters are excellent for improving the cinematic effect with your photos.

If you want to use a slow shutter speed of 1/50 on a really sunny day, a neutral density filter will allow you to control the amount of light getting in the lens of your camera. ND filters are like sunglasses for your camera.

Polarising filters are another way for you to use lower shutter speeds and get great quality photos.

TIPS FOR BETTER DRONE VIDEOGRAPHY

Taking quality video takes a whole lot more practice. It’s best to get the basics down before you do anything else. Here is a look at what you really need to get your head and hands around. Many of the photography tips apply to taking video, however, you have other considerations to think about when taking video.

GO SLOW

The first rule to better drone videos is to go slow. Going slow is more cinematic and gives the impression you are taking video from a larger platform (like from a helicopter or a plane). There is never any need to rush and go easy on your remote control sticks.

USE THE 2 AXIS RULE

If you want to get that big budget look like you see in the movies, you need to think about 2 axes of movement. The easiest one is to go backwards and upwards at the same time. It’s always easier to get a better shoot when you are panning out. Panning in a take a lot more skill.

STRAFING AND ORBITING

Strafing is an excellent way to show landscapes from a unique perspective, instead of the most common way by moving forwards or backwards. Strafing is an excellent way to introduce a subject too.

Orbiting is actually an extension of the strafe. You pull the yaw stick in the opposite direction to the direction of your left or right stick (the yaw stick is normally on the left side of the remote control).

ADD PARALLAX EFFECTS

Parallax effect is becoming more common on websites. A parallax effect becomes apparent when you use fixed structures close to the camera as a visual aid to show the size of the surrounding landscape – bridges are excellent for this purpose.

There is so much fun to be had and shared with aerial photography and video. It’s an endless world of learning and improvement. My journey has only just begun.

 


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John Wilkinson
john.w@dinga.com.au

John is into everything and anything that has an on or off switch. He's a big fan of the outdoors and using tech wherever he can to make it more fun for his son.