Drones are becoming exceptionally popular. Just as you might expect, so is drone footage. A few years ago, you couldn’t get far on any social media page without catching Gopro video. Now, everyone is sharing their drone footage. There are just two problems with this. A good portion of drone content sucks. It’s also difficult to get any traction with your drone content, because things are so saturated.
So if you want to level up your shooting game, here are ten simple tips for capturing better pics and video with drones.
It takes time and practice to become a decent drone pilot. Until you develop those skills, and the accompanying muscle memory, it’s difficult to concentrate on much else. Your focus will be on safe, smooth piloting, and it should be. Unfortunately, it doesn’t leave you much brain space to focus on capturing good footage.
The only solution is to master your drone. Practice until you can easily fly your drone in a variety of situations, without overthinking each step you take. Once you’ve mastered flying, you can concentrate on flying and shooting.
You know those people who always have amazing drone footage to share on social media? They accomplish that by having patience and an open mind. Yes, they may have a goal of capturing something very specific, but they understand that this is an exploratory process. They fly around, they take test footage, and they pay attention.
In so many cases, you can find amazing shots that you would have never considered taking, just by getting the lay of the land. Think of it like this. If you’ve already identified one, potentially amazing shot in a location, there are probably others.
Fly through your shots. Don’t simply start at the beginning and end. You won’t be able to effectively edit, or add any transitions or lead ins. Give yourself a good amount of footage both before and after your video start and end point.
How do people get such rich colors in their content? How do they capture moving images such as waterfalls so clearly? You can bet that many of them are using filters.
Try experimenting with both CP (circular polarizer) and ND (neutral density) filter. Use them as you adjust your exposure settings, and shoot in different types of lighting. Once you master these, the production quality of your images is going to be a lot better.
If amazing images were all that was required to generate attention for your drone footage, nearly anyone could be a drone photographer. It takes more than that. The best content creators know how to edit their footage, how to add in special effects, even how to use music to create amazing content.
You’re going to need some video editing software. To get started, take a look at a roundup of video editing software for DJI and other drones. There are several options that even relatively inexperienced drone pilots can use to their advantage.
Try capturing your subject from a variety of different perspectives. The shot you get from 15 feet in the air is going to be entirely different from the one you get 100 feet in the air. Approach your focal point from a variety of different angles. Try to capture something interesting to focus on as you move your drone to capture your target object. Identify interesting items to use as foreground and background objects.
If you don’t have much experience with photography or film, you can close some of that gap by learning the rule of thirds. By adhering to the rule of thirds, you significantly increase your chance of creating a well-composed shot. According to this rule, you visualize a grid of nine squares that is created by drawing two equidistant vertical and horizontal lines. Then, every noteworthy element in each shot should happen at the intersection of those lines.
You may hear photographers and filmmakers discussing the golden hour, and the blue hour. The golden hour is a brief period of time just before sunset, and just after sunrise. This is when the sun is in perfect position for you to capture some amazing footage without any glare or other issues.
Blue hour is another great time to take some amazing pictures. This is an approximately 20 minute period of time when the sun is still below the horizon. It’s that period of time when the sun’s position creates a rich, blue hue. Don’t miss this opportunity to take advantage of some amazing lighting before it gets too bright or too dark out.
Don’t simply look at other’s drone footage, and covet what they’ve done. Watch it like a student, and learn from it. Pay attention to the common elements you see in drone content that goes viral, vs. the stuff that nobody cares about. How are these folks setting up their shots? How are they using audio to make impactful videos? Try setting up similar shots yourself, until you get it right.
That amazing two or three minutes of video that you see online could be the result of hours of work. Those hours of work don’t happen when drone pilots aren’t thoroughly prepared. Remind yourself that you, your drone, and anyone else who’s come along for the ride all need to be ready for a long day of work. Make sure you have everything you need. This includes backup batteries, a drone repair kit, and anything else that will ensure you spend as much time flying and filming as possible.
There’s no magical formula for creating great drone content. Instead, you have to have the right equipment, plenty of patience, and the willingness to learn your drone inside and out. Once you do that, you can begin the hard work of mastering drone photography.