Once exclusive to defence, government and corporations, drone photography is soaring in popularity for recreational photographers. While there are no hard and fast statistics for Australia, the burgeoning global consumer drone industry is on a flight path to be worth more than US$11bn by 2026, with photography enthusiasts noted as being the main drivers of market growth.
Drone photography is an exciting growth area with Australians keeping in step with the upward global trend. However, whether you are a recreational photographer or looking ahead commercially, all drone operators must comply with important safety and security obligations.
Whether its landscapes or night photography that tickles your fancy, here’s a few tips to check off as you take to the skies and experience the thrill of capturing your perfect aerial shot.
An important first; know the drone flying rules. Depending if you are using your drone for recreation or business, the rules and laws differ. Generally, there are a few similarities such as not flying over or near people, not flying over or near emergency service operations, flying at certain height limits, not flying at night, and always keeping your drone within line of sight.
It’s also worth remembering that the key rules can change without notice in response to national or local circumstances. It makes sense to check the CASA website before you fly your drone, as not knowing about a sudden change is no excuse for breaching a rule.
If you are using a drone for commercial reasons, it is essential you are aware of the laws and requirements around the type of drone you will be using. The legal experts at Southern Coast Lawyers suggest to “plan ahead for every drone exhibition. If you are using your drone for business, you need permission to fly, and if your drone is over 2kg, you need a licence. Illegal drone use can result in a court-imposed fine of up to $10,500, so know the rules and stick to them.”
It sounds like an obvious statement, but always check the weather at your planned flying area. Ideally, you should be using a detailed UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Forecast to get the details of wind speed, direction, cloud cover and other crucial weather advice that can affect your drone. There are a few UAV Forecast sites and apps available so do your research and choose wisely.
If you aren’t considerate of the weather, you could lose your drone or even create chaos if there are people in the way when it gets knocked from the sky. Wedding celebrant, Margaret Milne, says “I’ve seen my fair share of drone disasters as inexperienced users trying to fly in windy weather. At one relatively windy wedding, the drone crashed into the bridesmaids mid-vows. Make sure you consider that weather and wind speeds can be different a few metres up where your drone is, and fly with care, especially if the weather is less than perfectly still.”
Shoot in RAW format
So now you’ve got the rules clear and hopefully the weather as well, it’s time to get the best images from your eye in the sky to help your shots stand out in the crowd.
Like any terrestrially limited camera, it is always a good idea to set your drone camera to manual and shoot in RAW. This format captures all image data, uncompressed, enabling greater editing choices, including brightness and exposure. For a more natural end product, remember, go RAW. It may be a bit intimidating to shoot in RAW at first, but there are plenty of resources online to help you switch over from automatic.
Choose a low range ISO
Wherever you can, set your ISO as low as possible. This will reduce the noise in your drone photography. Play around with the aperture and shutter speed to balance the light and produce the best shot.
The battery on most drones only allows a flight time of between 25 to 30 minutes, so if you are seeking a particular image, you don’t want to waste flight time trying to compose it mid-flight. Composing your shot by using the overlay grid that (mostly) comes with your drone camera can be helpful in ensuring you get the shot you’ve come out for.
Lighting, as in any type of photography, is essential to relay the mood of the moment, or make your statement through your image. By observing the light throughout the day, you can learn how the aerial view will introduce light, shadows and symmetry not seen from the ground.
The golden and blue hours early in the morning and around sunset may enhance the composition, while experimenting with light at a new time and from a different perspective may provide equally interesting results.
Keep it simple
Whether you’re new to drone photography or you already have a few flights on the board, it often helps to just keep it simple.
Industry experts at directappliancerentals.com.au advise that simple compositions can produce outstanding results. They tell us to start with static shots, stating, “Try static shots rather than video until you are more familiar with movement and action. The images can still be as captivating as more complex compositions. Also, your editing and lighting skills will improve as you go along. Jumping in too early to more complicated video or image composition may be discouraging, so start low-key and continue with simple images until your skills catch up with your enthusiasm.”
So what are you going to do with these new tips in your belt? Once you figure out the technicalities, you can put a greater focus on your composition and finding a style that suits you, whether that be landscape photography, capturing urban architecture or events. Constantly aiming for improvement is inherently part of being a photography, so keep trying new things, experimenting and progressing
Amanda Dickens is an Australian writer and a Business Administration student living in Sydney. She has extensive knowledge in financial data and project management topics. Amanda has a passion for photography and when she’s not studying or writing, you’ll find her outdoors chasing the perfect shot. If you need to reach out to Amanda, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.