September 18, 2017

A Short Guide to Aerial Photography Using Drones

Drones have achieved unprecedented popularity in the last few years, and photography enthusiasts all over the world have adopted this new technique to capture some of the most beautiful and ingenious photographs of all time. While that may be so, drone usage goes much beyond photography and has been used in many scientific, environmental, and military enterprises. Thus, it is not a surprise that the various types of drones available in the market come with different features suitable for the respective usage.

There are low-end drones with basic cameras that let you capture low-resolution photographs and films. And there are drones that let you add a plethora of add-on features, apart from the ones that they come loaded with. But before we get into the technicalities, it is necessary to get acquainted with the legality regarding droning.

What safety measures to be taken while manoeuvring a drone?

The laws regarding drone flying vary from country to country. Two major kind of drones, commercial and Recreational have different official guidelines. Since this article deals with aerial photography, which is a recreational activity, the user does not (in most countries) need to go through any official licensing process. However, he/she must comply with some of the guidelines as mentioned below

  • A drone must be flown in daylight
  • It shouldn’t be elevated above 400 feet
  • It should remain in a direct line-of-sight
  • It shouldn’t be flown over national parks etc.

For further information, it is advisable to inquire about the specific rules that exist in the user’s country.

What essential features should you look for while buying a drone?

While an expensive machine cannot make up for the lack of ingenuity, a decent drone with a few essential features can help you take pictures that cannot be taken with a basic kit. So, here are some of the features one should look for in a drone.

a.GPS and RTH

GPS is a must which allows the drone to use the automated features such as auto return to home (RTH). It is especially necessary for rough terrains where maneuvering the drone back to the user’s location manually can become a serious task. Another useful RTH feature is that when the connection between the controller and the drone is severed by buildings or other structure the RTH feature will get activated and the drone will get back to the user’s location.

b. Wireless live view connection.

This is achieved through a Wi-Fi or 2.4/4.8 GHz connection with a smartphone where the user can view in real time the purview of the drone camera. This is immensely helpful while taking precise shots rather than simple aerial shots.

c. Manual Tilt

Some drones come with a gimble that can be manually controlled. What this means is that the camera can be tilted at a right angle in respect of the drone’s horizontal plane. This allows the user to move the camera between the ground and the horizon. Without this feature, it becomes extremely difficult to shoot a major portion of the landscape.

d. Advanced camera control.

The availability of features such as manual focus control, time lapse, RAW capture opens up the possibility of using a camera beyond the conventional uses. This feature is essential if precision is what one is looking for.

e. Failsafe flight features.

This feature enables the drone to know when the battery is about to die out, and automatically sets its course back to the user’s location.

Technical difficulties

Aerial photography is exactly like normal photography in that it is a game of light and shadows. For professional-like shots it is advisable to use the drone on well-lit days since the camera quality of the drones is still inferior to the land cameras. On the other hand, it is also advisable to use the drones in calm weather where a greater stability can be achieved. Apart from the obvious safety angle to it, calm weather often coincides with better lighting and scenic worth. But harsh weather can also offer once in a lifetime shot sometimes, and in that case, user’s discretion is paramount.

Post Production

Editing a raw footage after shooting is as important as the shooting itself, if not more. If efficiently done, a decent shot can be turned into a great one during post-production. But it is not as easy as it sounds. All the different editing software available in the market such as Final Cut X, Adobe Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, etc, require a considerable amount of practice for the development of efficiency. So, at the end of the day the age old saying still holds: practice makes perfect.