DRONE PHOTOGRAPHY: Not as Crazy as it Sounds

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For decades, photographers have been taking photographs the traditional way: keep the camera right next to their face, peer through the viewfinder, set-up the frame and click! Easy, right? But, the way technology has moved in the past few years why would you limit yourself to be peering through a small keyhole of a viewfinder when you can take your camera just about anywhere? Don’t be surprised Drone Photography is now a thing. 

  1. Know Your Drone

There aren’t too many drones in the market, but everyone’s favourite seems to be the ones by DJI. If you’ve never heard of the company before, then you’ve just not been keeping a close eye on who’s making the best and most innovative drones for personal and commercial use. The Shenzhen-based company recently launched their Inspire 1 drone, which has since become their most popular offering. If you’ve ever owned and operated a remote-controlled toy, you should be able to learn and start operating this device in no time. The Inspire 1, on its part, is equipped with a 12MP camera with 9 elements in 9 groups including an aspherical element. This is built on a ½.3 inch CMOS sensor which can also capture 4K videos @ 24-30fps, or 1080p @ 24-60fps.There are a few other companies that make some peculiar and amusing drones too, but the thing about DJI is, their camera systems remains in a single ‘locked’ position if you choose so and will stay that way no matter how the drone moves. Also, the ease with which you can operate the drone is great, plus it comes with 2 different controllers one can be controlled by someone who will simply operate the drone and the other for the actual camera. This is essential and DJI has implemented this better than any, so far. The 3-axis 360 degree rotating gimbal can look in any direction you wish, making it essential to have two controllers though not compulsory.

  1. Raise Altitude for Larger Surface Capturing

Oftentimes, people want to take shots close to their target. This may seem like a good idea, but I suggest taking a lot of raised shots. By flying to a higher altitude, you will get more into the camera\’s view which provides a more spectacular photo. This may mean the difference between taking a picture of a beautiful field with horses running or simply zooming in on the horses themselves.By flying higher, you will get more in your picture, which is never a bad thing.

  1. Try GPS Mode

GPS mode is terrific. Many copters will come with this mode and the one thing that GPS mode is really good for is stabilization. When flying, choose your location, fly to it and let go of the controls. When GPS mode is on, the copter will hover and stabilize by itself. This allows you to take a picture that is still and without any vibration.

  1. FPV System

There are FPV systems that allow for first person views to be shot. You will need to learn when to use FPV and when not to so that your pictures ultimately come out better. I have found FPV to work exceptionally well with ranged shots, but not so well with close up shots.

  1. Buy a Gimbal

If you are serious about aerial photography, you need a gimbal. While expensive, a gimbal really allows you to take precision pictures like never before.What a Gimbal OffersA gimbal is essentially a joint which the camera will be mounted to during flight. When flying, the gimbal will allow you to point the camera at a specific location and keep the camera in focus while compensating for the flight itself. Gimbals are meant for professionals and come at a hefty price. If you are a real estate agent or a photographer that is making a living with aerial photos, there really is no excuse not to have a gimbal. Certain drones will not be able to accommodate the weight of a gimbal, so keep this in mind when purchasing.

  1. The Right Settings

Every camera is different and will come with settings that need to be altered. You will want to familiarize yourself with your camera and its respective settings. There are some settings that work better than others depending on whether or not you have a gimbal installed. The typical settings are:Gimbal InstalledLower resolution (720p) will suffice.Medium zoom.No GimbalIf there is not a gimbal present, you will want to try:

  • The highest possible resolution.
  • A wide zoom.

You will also want to alter your settings to truly learn how to customize them to your needs. Playing with the frame rate, resolution and zoom will provide you with a slew of settings that can be used in any environment.

  1. Choose a Good Location

Location is one of the most important tips a person can remember when taking aerial photography. If you do not choose a good location, you will find that your pictures are subpar. Instead, choose a place that is:

  • Open
  • Not heavily wooded
  • Has no high buildings
  • Free of birds

As you advance, you will be able to ignore the building and bird recommendations.

  1. Watch the Weather Report

Oftentimes, especially with smaller copters, the wind will cause the copter to struggle when trying to maintain a steady shot. You do not want to fight against the elements when trying to take the perfect shot. Instead, choose a clear day that is not filled with a lot of wind.

  1. Balance Your Propellers

Your propellers will have a major impact on the balance of your copter. If you have not recently balanced your propellers, you can do so by:

  • Placing the propeller on a balance
  • Placing the balance on an elevated surface
  • Finding which blade is heavier by the way the blade lays (the one toward the bottom)
  • Sand the bottom of the blade slightly
  • Retest the balance

You will want to keep following the steps above until the blade is actually balanced. Just keep in mind that you want to sand just a little bit at a time to avoid imbalance.

  1. Shoot Different Angles

You will always want to shoot different angles of a shot. This allows you to better find an angle that suits your needs. Instead of trying an FPV-only, try FPV, an above angle and a side angle shot to see which pictures come out best. You want to take a series of pictures too as a change in wind or weather conditions can occur which makes the shot impossible during your next try.

  1. Try New Landing Gear

Sometimes, landing gear will get in the way of a shot. When this happens, you have the option of trying out new landing gear. With new gear, you will be able to keep any part of the landing gear out of focus during a shot. There are several types of landing gear available, but the right choice depends on your model. 

  1. Night Photography

There are many lighting accessories offered for quadcopters. Through lighting, you will be able to take pictures near sunset that you would have otherwise not been able to take. Some front lights are also available which allow for pictures to be taken even when it is pitch black outside.You will want to have a controller with an LCD display if trying night photography. When you can see the camera\’s point of view, it is much easier to take a crisp picture. 

  1. Get a Powerful Camera

Typically, you are not tied to a single camera. Instead, you will have many options when it comes to what type of camera will fit into your copter. There are a few points that need to be mentioned before you go out and buy a new camera only to find that your copter cannot support it. You must consider the following when looking for a camera:

  • The overall resolution will allow for clearer pictures.
  • You want a camera that has a high megapixel count. You can find cameras with 10MP+.
  • The view modes should be looked at to find the best choice.
  • A higher frames per second should be considered for video.
  • Low light capabilities are desirable.

The better the camera, the better your pictures will be.

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