Drone Photography and Cinematography Guide | Tips on Shooting from the Sky


One of the decade’s most exciting developments in technology - and art - is drone photography. High flying cameras help you capture stunning new viewpoints of familiar subjects and are used in everything from cinematography to real estate. With drone photography, the cost of getting a camera airborne has dropped substantially, and a new industry was born. But there’s more to getting a good shot than just getting your camera in the air. Framing, brushless motors, and smooth panning work together to get you high-quality photos.

Getting Started

Many drone companies highlight ease of operation with encouraging phrases like “Fly Straight From the Box” or “Ready to Soar.” While it’s always exciting to get your drone soaring, make sure you’ve read the instructions and given the drone a practice run before sending it high into the air. You can flip through the manual while your battery is charging.

Does your drone offer preset movements? Does its camera or camera mount stabilize shots and adjust for strong winds automatically? What’s the maximum height and distance you can safely send your UAV? Make sure you know the basics of your drone to ensure your photography and video turn out how you want.

Once your battery is charged, it’s time to pilot! Always test your battery charge, spin your propellers, check your motor shafts, calibrate your unit, and wipe your camera lens before takeoff.

Take your drone out into an open area to get a few practice shots while flying. Run your UAV through as many movements as you can. Try manually adjusting the camera’s pitch. Test out your battery life. Experiment and play all you want until you’re comfortable. The better you become at piloting your drone, the better your shots will turn out.

How to Shoot Prepared

As with all photography, planning your shoot in advance is crucial to your success. Too many amateur photographers wind up with unusable shots (or just not enough) because they didn’t consider the needs of their projects and the limitations of their gear ahead of time.

Come prepared with a general plan of action for the shoot to help you manage your time effectively and protect your battery life. Since most drones average 15-25 minutes of flight time with a single battery, bringing a few spares is always a good idea - especially if you’re shooting a long event such as a party, concert, or wedding.

Another big tip - always be aware of the weather. While some drones and cameras are waterproof, many are not. Likewise, you’ll want to avoid winds higher than eight miles per hour.

Keep it Cinematic

As a photographer, your goal is to capture your subject or scene in the most impressive way possible. Follow a general storyline from opening to closing image. Smooth transitions in perspective will make your scenes vivid and appealing. This can be achieved with speed. Speeding up or slowing down your drone’s flight can be done in post-production. Just remember - the further away from the subject you are, the faster you’ll have to move for your audience to perceive motion. High-speed movements should come from your drone, not your camera. If you move your camera too quickly, you could end up with jolted shots that need to be scrapped. Move slowly and gently with few adjustments to capture smooth, cinematic shots.

A static moving shot, where the camera remains stationary as the drone flies by the subject, is an excellent way to establish the setting of your scene. Other ideas include the bird’s eye, when a shot is taken from directly overhead with the camera facing down at the subject, the retreat shot, where the camera starts near the subject and moves away, and the wrap shot, where the camera “wraps” 180 - 360 degrees around the subject to add depth and shadow.

Lighting can be overly harsh from 10 AM to 3 PM. While you can still shoot in broad daylight hours, try to get your most breathtaking shots before or after. The Golden Hour (an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset) and the Blue Hour (the period of twilight early in the dawn each morning and late in the dusk each evening) will help you achieve richer shots with greater depth. Colors will intensify and shadows will be more dramatic when the sun is rising or setting.

Upgrades for Drone Photography

KDE Direct offers carbon propeller blades, multi-rotor brushless motors, and replacement kits to help your UAV stable and soaring like never before. KDE Direct leads the field in technology, employing top-of-the-line components to deliver longer flight times and more durable systems. Designed and engineered in the United States, KDE Direct’s brushless motors provide best-in-class power, performance, and efficiency. From design redundancy standards and fail-safes to payload capacity and thrust performance, KDE Direct motors are engineered for longer flight times, higher efficiency, and higher payloads that push the limits of today’s technology.

The KDE Direct UAS Multi-Rotor Brushless Motor Series presents high-quality and engineered motors specific for multi-rotor and UAS applications. The series was designed to provide market-leading performance and zero-vibration operation for hours of maintenance-free usage and market-leading performance.

As an industry leader in component design and production for UAV and multi-rotor systems, KDE Direct is pleased to remain the leading choice amongst amaetur and commercial photographers alike who depend upon industrial quality and performance. KDE Direct heavy lift brushless motors, carbon fiber propeller blades and specialized electronic speed controller (ESC) systems and software have set the standard in the multi-rotor industry.

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