Hold it! Take photos with drones only after you know this.
The FAA could jail you for three years for owning a drone; plus a $250,000 fine. And if you’re lucky, you’d pay $27,000 in civil penalties. That’s if you don’t register your drone.
No. This isn’t a call for panic. People are buying and will continue shopping for drones for the foreseeable future. But if you take photos with drones “illegally” you could pay hefty penalties. So pay attention.
Drone sales are predicted to exceed $12 billion in 2021, up from $8.5 billion in 2016. According to the same report, 29 million drones would be sold in 2021, up from ten million in 2017.
You’re not alone in your love for unmanned aerial vehicles!
Image Credit: Business Insider
Now, what should you know before taking drone photos? Read on.
Know Your Local Drone Regulations
Flying a drone may be restricted in certain vicinities. Don’t be caught unawares. Government buildings and airports are usually not welcoming of drones. No, don’t want to take photos with drones in these places.
Knowing your local regulations will keep you from trouble and away from attracting fines or a complete ban on your quadcopter. In the US, for example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has enacted commercial and non-commercial drone use laws for each state.
The FAA has published rules for operating unmanned aircraft, on their website. Most countries have started adopting similar regulations as the US. You can check your government website for local drone laws if you’re not in the US.
Use the short search steps below to finds your government website if you don’t know it already.
- Go to Google.com
- Enter the search query [COUNTRY] government website. If you’re from New Zealand, then you’d enter “New Zealand government website,” without the quotes.
In the example below, you’d see the Top Level Domain (TLD) of New Zealand’s website is .govt.nz.
Now, you can find your government’s drone regulation pages using the next steps I’ll explain in a moment.
If you already know your country’s government website, you can use the search string to find your local regulations. In the examples below, I provided search strings for the EU, Brazil, and Japan.
site:.eu “drone regulation”
s You’d find results for the EU and maybe for specific countries too (like I found for Portugal) in the screenshot below
The EU has a website (covering Norway and Switzerland) dedicated to drone regulations called Drone Rules.
site:.gov.br “drone regulation”
I’ve provided a screenshot featuring the translated version of Brazil’s ANAC page.
site:.go.jp “drone regulation”
Japan’s drone regulation (like in most countries) hasn’t caught up with the pace of the technology.
Find your country’s drone regulation developments using the Global Drones Regulations Database.
Buy with the Camera in Mind
Don’t negotiate on this step. A good camera is at the heart of excellent drone photography. Greater camera quality equals higher photo quality.
Luckily, you have a wide range of options! As a rule of thumb choose a high-resolution camera that’s capable of taking photos at night. GoPro has high-resolution, night-vision cameras.
Of course, drones like the DJI Phantom 4 equipped with intelligent obstacle maneuvering and self-repositioning capabilities give more advantage. You don’t want to damage your quadcopter or camera mid-flight.
Cameras that have a low resolution use fewer pixels which in turn produce low-definition images. A camera that uses 1080p resolution will deliver better image quality than one that has 720p.
Your camera’s shutter speed matters too. Increased shutter speed reduces blur and motion-induced jello effect. The higher your shutter speed, the more stable your image appears.
Run Checks Before You Fly
Run pre-flight checks on your drones before you fly them out to take photos. You want to check battery levels, motor shafts, calibration, and camera settings.
Scout the location before taking photos. Fly your drone around before you zero in on your target and decide on a position. Determining your site ahead of time saves you battery power.
You won’t struggle with analysis paralysis when taking the actual picture. Having scouted the location, you can use a spare battery to snap your photos quickly and easily.
Choosing a Location
It’s all about “Location, location, location,” like they say in real estate. You can only take great photos if your location is excellent.
When choosing a location:
- Avoid extreme forested areas.
- Prioritize wide open spaces.
- Avoid tall buildings.
- Mind the altitude.
- Weigh in the amount of sunlight in the area.
- Don’t face the sun.
- Watch for birds.
Mind the Weather
Mind the weather conditions when using your drone outdoors. High winds could blow small drones off course. Windy weather could also make your drone shaky and your photos blurred.
For best results, fly your drone on bright days. You’d take great shots, and your quadcopter won’t be at risk.
Too much sunlight isn’t good for your photos also. If you didn’t position your drone well on a bright day before taking shots, it may cast shadows and give you bad shots.
Capture in GPS Mode
GPS mode helps you focus on crafting an epic shot instead of struggling to keep your drone in place. Most drones have the option for GPS mode. All you need to do is:
- Position your drone in your desired location
- Turn off drone controls
- Switch on your drone’s GPS Mode and let the drone hover and then stabilize on its own.
- Frame your shot as you like it and then shoot!
Image Credit: Pixabay
As a beginner aerial photographer, you may be tempted to stay close to the target you’re trying to shoot. Yes, closeup shots are good for some shots. But the beauty of aerial photos is that you can go to high altitudes and then shoot from there – you’d produce better shots that way.
Just don’t break any laws. In the U.S., you are limited to 400 feet.
Use FPV Shots
Shoot in first person view (FPV). The benefit of FPV is that you’d see your target just like your camera, and then you can frame your photograph accordingly.
FPV gives you the advantage to see precisely what the picture would look like when you take it. The best use of this tactic is when shooting nearby subjects.
Buy Quality Accessories, Add-Ons, and Parts
Image Credit: Pixabay
Investing in the best quality accessories ensures that your drone continues to serve you going forward. Consider having extra batteries, prop-balancers (ensures your drone stabilizes before photos are taken), and FPV gear, a gimbal, lighting accessories for night-shooting, stationary support for drone rotation, and more.
Always take multiple shots of your target. It’s best to have a bunch of great photos to choose from than have one average shot.
Now you’ve taken great shots. Congrats!
It’s time to turn up the beauty of those photos by editing them professionally. Do some color corrections, improve image lighting and more using Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or any other professional image editor.
Now You’re Ready to Take Photos with Drones
Remember it’s photography; DO NOT negotiate on having an excellent camera for your drone! Know your state and local drone laws. Run checks on your drone. Find and inspect an excellent location. Go high and shoot in GPS mode – use FPV if appropriate. Know and do these things before you take photos with drones.
Maintenance is a MUST if you want to keep your quadcopter healthy. Buy durable accessories and don’t expose your drone to harsh weather conditions.