Taking good photos with drones is not difficult when you find the balance between theoretical knowledge and the technical possibilities that drones and their accessories offer us.
Depending on the type of drone, it will allow us a different range of action on the final snapshot, i.e., we will have more possibilities to make changes on the photo before and after taking it.
Unlicensed drones are usually more basic drones and with a possibility of changing the photographic parameters more reduced, some only bring a remote control without screen, and without any way to place our cell phone.
Although the quality of drones today is rising across the board, and today it is easier to take better photos with a drone than it was a few years ago. I remember when I started with Javier Gómiz a few years ago, my first drone was a Syma x5c, today, this drone is already more sophisticated than the one I bought at the time.
The Syma x5c had no stabilizer in the camera and no GPS so the piloting was completely pure. The photos came out blurry and shaky, photos that in another photographic context would not be bad, but for the drone photography and video services I do, they would not be accepted.
If you are starting in this, I recommend you to read my articles about the 5 requirements to fly a drone legally in Spain. It is also very important that you know and have a clear understanding of the safe flight zones for drones to avoid flying in restricted or prohibited areas in order to ensure that you do not break the law.
Now you are ready to take good photos with drones.
10 Tips and tricks for taking good photos with drones
Without light there is no image. Light is everything.
This may seem very obvious, and indeed it is. Light is a factor that allows you to play during the phase prior to obtaining the image in order to shape it to your liking. Knowing how to handle the different lighting situations of a scene will determine whether you get good photos with your drone, or mediocre ones.
Here is a list of 10 tips and tricks to take good pictures with your drone:
Take into account the current daylight time of the day.
The best times to get good photos with drones are early morning and late afternoon, known as the “golden hour”, offering soft, warm light, ideal for photography.
Avoid the central hours of the day where the light is harshest as this results, in some cases, in the loss of highlights and shadows in pronounced cases.
Although to mitigate this I have for you a little trick. Read on!
Use ND (neutral density) filters.
When I started flying drones with cameras, and taking photos and videos, I saw that the results were not as expected and my photos had little to do with those of the youtubers I followed. I asked myself, why don’t my photos look the same as theirs? The answer was that he did not use ND filters.
Neutral density filters, for the sake of clarity, work like sunglasses.
Searching for ND filters for the Mini 3 PRO I have in my fleet, I came across these. After using them for a while I can only say that they are really excellent. The filters are attached to adapters, one anamorphic (this adapter, in post-production, will allow you to put those two “black film bars” above and below) and one wide-angle.
ND filters are essential to control the amount of light that enters the camera sensor, especially on bright sunny days, these filters will remove those harsh contrasts that, as I said before, either blow out the highlights or fill in the blacks.
Using them will “flatten” (make the histogram curve less pronounced) the image a little more and allow us to capture more information in the photograph. In post-production we will fix this “flattening” and give more life to the photograph. But that’s another story
In videography, ND filters will allow you to use slower shutter speeds and wider apertures without overexposing the image, achieving more cinematic video sequences thanks to the sweep produced by slow shutter speeds.
Do you know the 180º Rule? If you already work or want to work with drone videography and you don’t know what the 180º Rule is, you should know it, you will see how the quality of your videos and productions will increase sensibly.
Applies exposure bracketing
If these ND filters are not enough to fix the scene we have captured you can use the exposure bracketing technique.
Bracketing consists of taking several pictures of the same scene with different exposures (brighter and darker pictures). Then in postproduction you can merge these images with programs that do it automatically, or with Photoshop in a more artisanal way using layer masks, obtaining a balanced exposure of the scene.
In the drone’s photo menu you will see the option of bracketing 3 and 5 photos, respectively (3BD and 5BD). Pressing the shutter button only once will cause the drone to take all the photos at once.
Learn how to compensate for light exposure (overexposure and underexposure).
Learn how to manually adjust the amount of light reaching your drone’s sensor. In high contrast situations, such as at sunset or sunrise, having such knowledge can help you to save the areas of the picture you need, i.e. you can actively participate in taking the picture.
This article is not intended to be a course on photography but it does teach you how to take good pictures with drones, so I am obliged to at least name the aspects that influence the final result of a photograph, these are the shutter speed, the diaphragm of the lens we use and the ISO.
Shutter speed, aperture (f) and ISO
Familiarize yourself with your drone’s manual camera settings, such as ISO, shutter speed and aperture. This will give you full control over how the camera and make your pictures great. This point for me is key to take good photos with drones.
The following chart defines each of these 3 factors, the right combination of all 3, depending on what we want to achieve, should give us the correct exposure.
Mid-range (DJI Air 2s, Mini 3 Pro) to low-end drones (not all), will allow you to exit the automatic mode and choose the professional mode where you will have control over parameters such as shutter speed and ISO.
In order to control the aperture (f) you will have to scale up to professional drones such as the Mavic 3.
Use the HDR (High Dynamic Range) option.
If you do not quite control this “magic triangle” between shutter speed, aperture (f) and ISO, you can use the HDR (high dynamic range) technique that some drones incorporate to handle scenes with a wide range of lighting.
This option causes the drone to automatically take photos and combine them with different exposures.
Use polarizing filters
Polarizing filters can help reduce reflections and improve color saturation, especially useful on sunny days.
If you fly your drone in Mallorca you must use polarizing filters without polarizing filters. It will clearly make a difference in your photographs, you will avoid the reflection of the water and the blue of the water and the sky will be much more intense and striking. Here are some polarizing filter options that I use that are phenomenal.
RAW photography and avoid JPGE
Shoot in RAW format to capture as much image information as possible. This gives you more flexibility in post-production to adjust exposure and shadow details.
Having our photographs in RAW will ensure that when we modify the main parameters such as lights and shadows we do not spoil the histogram of the photograph, we will maintain the full color spectrum without degrading it, and therefore, the final quality of the photograph will be higher.
In low light situations, consider using artificial light sources. For example, in night photography, you can use lights on the ground to illuminate buildings or landscapes.
Use the Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a principle of composition in photography and art that will provide harmony.
The Rule of Thirds consists of dividing the image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, thus creating nine equal parts. Imagine two horizontal lines and two vertical lines intersecting, dividing the image into thirds.
The points where these lines intersect are known as strong points.
According to this rule, by placing the most important elements of the image at these points or along these lines, a more balanced and visually appealing composition can be achieved.
As a conclusion to these 10 tips and tricks on how to take good photos with drones is to just take photos.
The best way to get better at something is to practice.
If you practice and implement these tips your photography will definitely only improve. Experiment with different settings and techniques in various lighting conditions to better understand how your equipment responds.
What did you think of my advice? Did you already know them all? Would you add some more? I read you in the comments.