Aerial photography and videography isn’t just a hobby anymore. This is now a serious pastime and profession, with pilots and camerapersons paid to capture the best images and sequences of the local area, sites in need of surveying and high rise building. These professionals stand out from the amateurs for a few reasons.
First of all, there is the quality of the finished footage. Secondly, they have a knack for flying the drone and operating the camera in just the right way for an impressive sequence. Third, that drone and camera tend to be more than your basic GoPro and RC helicopter. It takes time, skill, great kits and lots of practice to create drone footage like a professional.
Choosing The Right Camera Drones And Kit
They say that a bad worker should never blame his tools. A lot of success and failure within aerial photography does have its roots in the equipment used, as well as the skills of the pilot.
To begin with, you can only get so much out of a low-grade camera. There are plenty of short videos online of people strapping GoPros to UAVs for some aerial footage on a budget. This is a great place to start and practice, especially if you are only out to have some fun.
(Source: Gadget Inspiration)
There are still limitations in the processors, image quality and tech of these cameras. In the end, they look precisely like a quick flight with a GoPro, not the professional footage that some people are after. Anyone looking to work professionally and build their skills should invest in a higher quality camera. It will be worth it in the end.
Then there is the drone used to transport the camera into position and achieve those impressive sequences. You do have to think of the drone as the vehicle for the camera – the craft that keeps it secure and steady up in the air.
A quadcopter with a good motor and strong battery will provide that stable flight for long sequences more easily than a cheaper helicopter. It also needs a secure, mobile gimbal for a wide field of view from the drone. Different models suit different users. Chat with other videographers and pilots to get an idea of the best models for the profession, within your budget.
You Have The Right Camera Drones, But Can you Fly It?
You now have a fully functioning, assembled drone in front of you and the best camera you could get. The next thing that you will want to do is get it up in the air and start shooting. However, you can’t get a good sequence of the film unless you can fly the drone.
There will be some people reading this and thinking that this is easy. Perhaps they had a small RC helicopter or have played around with drones before. The truth is that flying one of this device for aerial photography and videography is different. There is a little more skill involved than just getting up in the air.
You will appreciate what it is like to be up in the air, in a breeze, once you attach the camera and see how shaky all the footage is. It is important to be able to enjoy a smooth, effortless flight that is reflected in the sequence.
Ideally, the images should look as though they came from a helicopter or other manned aircraft rather than a small UAV. This means that all new users need to take the time to learn to control the drone in a precise, steady manner from the initial lift off to the landing. Those that learn to hover can linger over subjects of interest without swaying around. Also, it should go without saying that no pilot wants to crash their drone with this expensive kit on board.
Move Onto Playing Around With The Camera
You can start to get more adventurous with your flights one you have a greater command of all the controls and movements. If you have the confidence to take off, maintain a slow flight, hover and land safely, you can then place a little attention onto another task. Add the camera, set up the feeds and see what you can get.
The test flight should just be a basic run through to make sure that the camera follows the controls – such as panning, zooming and tracking on all the right objects. With time, you can focus in on the main subjects, work on those slow, sweeping shots and consider other elements of the sequence.
Understand The Capabilities Of Camera Drones
There is more to it than the quality of the processor and megapixels. There are different lenses to try for a different look – such as a polarizing lens to help with sunlight and fish eye lenses.
There is also a different type of software for each model, with various tools to aid in motion capture. Learn about the frame rates and how to shoot in slow motion. Look at tracking software that will follow behind a subject for a clear sequence. Also consider sports modes for a faster, cleaner approach.
Filming footage with a Drone has its challenges, but we also need to remember the basics of photography.
So you now have the drone operational, the camera mounted and a good idea of the software and hardware capabilities of the machine. However, you are not going to take perfect shots and sequences with camera drones just because you have a good piece of kit. Even the best machine can produce terrible images in the wrong conditions.
Think about the subject matter and the way to best capture them on film. What is the most interesting approach to a local landscape shot? What can you film that is unique? Think about the composition of the shots, such as the way that you want subjects to come into frame and the angles.
Finally, think about the lighting of the shots. This means the position of the sun compared to the lens and the general light levels. Too much lens flare ruins a shot and cameras will struggle in low light.
Remember The FAA Rules And Regulations When Filming Your Subject
There are issues with photographing buildings, coastlines, and people. The problem with aerial photography via drones is that there are still some regulations to keep in mind before you head up in the air to shoot. You have to be very careful about your subject and the control you have over the device.
There are regulations in place to ensure the safety of people and property, so drones cannot fly too close and risk injury or damage. It is also important that we fly drones within the eye-line of the pilot in a safe manner so they can be controlled if there is a problem, or brought back before batteries fail. The issue of battery life and eye line are discussed further below.
There are also issues with the lighting and flying in low light. There are plenty of aerial photographers that love the idea of being able to shoot the perfect skyline at night or the perfect sunset over a stunning coastline. The problem is that there are once again regulations over the hours of flight. Again, this is all about safety and the visibility of the craft. For a start, you don’t want to be flying an invisible aircraft into the path other others. Some camera drones have guiding lights fitted to ensure they are visible, and this works for this low light session for dawn and dusk shots.
Budgeting Time For The Best Sequences And Shots
You have to remember that whatever you want to shoot for you aerial video and photographs, you need the right amount of time to get the shots. This isn’t a typical camera where you can keep rolling until you run out of data and then pick the best sequences later. The drones have a designated flight time, and you want to make sure that you can make the most of the time with an effective shoot.
Be aware of the potential issues of the battery life in camera drones. This means a clear understanding of the flight time, battery capacity and charging time of the equipment. How long will the drone be in the air until it needs to land, and what can you achieve in this time? How does the camera work and gimbal work affect the battery life?
Remember that a flight time on a typical excursion will reduce with all these functions in operation. How long do you have to wait to get back in the air? Some small scale devices are back up d running in around 45 minutes. Others will take over an hour or even more. Again, it is all about budgeting the time and using it effectively. Scout locations and edit data while the drone recharges, ready for the next sequence.
Working With Goggles And FPV
A first person view is a great tool for many drone users as it provides a better idea of where the craft is, what it is doing, and what it can see. This is great in a recreational situation, as it provides a new experience that takes users off the ground, in a sense. However, there are more practical applications for those that use the camera for videos, or other vocations.
This first person view provides a real-time view of the world as the drone sees it, perhaps with a slight lag of a few seconds. This helps users to adjust angles and shots for a clearer idea of precisely what they will capture. This also helps with dealing with lighting.
A first personal approach can remove some of the guesswork required in aerial videography and photography, allowing for more accurate shots. In turn, this will help to budget your time in the air even more and provide the most efficient session. Users have a choice here between a remote system with a screen to display the images, app-based drone flight with a bright display on a phone or tablet, or VR goggles.
Working with an assistant or spotter is essential in this situation. There are plenty of benefits to using these devices for a first person view, but we have to remember the safety implications at work here. There is still that cardinal rule that all operators need to keep the drone within their eye line and in complete control at all time.
Those that focus on the screen or use the googles are looking through the drone, not at it. This creates a potentially hazardous situation. A second person can help here. They can keep an eye on the drone and additional factors while you concentrate on the footage and camera operation.
Learn From Others To Improve Your Craft
The first place to start here is to watch others and learn from them. There are many videos out there from keen drone operators and videographers that offer interesting new ideas and sequences. Some may provide further detail about the methods and equipment used in their video description. Some may even be open to inquiries if you like their videos and comment. You aren’t trying to copy them; you are simply looking to learn from more experienced drone pilots and videographers to improve your experience.
Also, you don’t just have to learn from other videos for the best results. There are plenty of books and guides on photography and drone flight that you can relate to this experience. As was mentioned above, the basic principles of photography and videography still apply to this form of image capture. Those that have a strong understanding of the basic theory and mechanics will have some insight into the best approaches for shooting drone footage.
Keep At It, Apply What You Learn, And Learn From Your Mistakes
Finally, the best way to find out how to shoot the best possible footage with camera drones is to go out there and practice. Put everything that you have learned from the guides and videos in practice and see what happens when you head out with the right equipment.
It will take the time to get to know the sensitivity of the controls, the true capabilities of the camera and the potential of locations. However, you won’t know what you can do unless you go and try.