If you’re a fan of beautiful pictures, you’ve probably seen some breathtaking aerial photos of mountains, rivers, cities and sunsets. Welcome to drone landscape photography. This is where creativity flows without limitation.
It’s easy to wonder what it would take to capture something so beautiful, crisp and colorful. We bring you this short but comprehensive guide on the most important tips & tricks to make your drone landscape photos really pop.
Essential Drone Features
The best drones for landscape photography will have a gimbal with either a 3-axis or 5-axis mechanical stabilization system. It must be capable of hovering in one spot on its own and a camera with full manual settings, including RAW file format, manual shutter speed, exposure and aperture.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on drone performance specifications such as maximum flight-time, altitude and range.
Regulations & Safety
Know the local laws. Not everyone thinks drones are cool. You should keep in mind people might feel threatened by your drone. Now, you can’t tender everyone’s feelings, but you should respect privacy of others and obey your country’s laws and regulations regarding drone piloting. Avoid no fly-zones such as city parks and airports.
Preparation & Settings
Preparation is everything. Take the time to explore the area on foot before you take off. Scan the environment and try to foresee what you’d like to capture. Maybe you’d like to shoot a sunset over the horizon, or maybe you’d like a top-down photo of a pattern on the ground. Once you’ve got some ideas, adjust the camera and drone settings before taking off. Set the ISO, white balance, shutter speed and other parameters to approximate values that’ll be needed once you’re in the air. This will save you valuable battery life in the air.
- ISO number represents sensor’s sensitivity to light. Higher ISO levels mean more brightness, but more noise too. Keep the ISO number as low as possible.
- Shutter Speed – Longer shutter speeds means the shutter will remain open for a longer period of time, in turn collecting more light and producing brighter image. You can use a slow shutter speed to compensate for low ISO number in dark environments. Just beware of motion blur that is a potential side-effect of long exposure shots.
- Aperture (F number) – Faster aperture (smaller F number) means more light will come trough to your sensor. If you’re shooting a subject up-close, fast aperture will create a blurred background, putting more focus on the subject. Seeing as we’re primarily shooting landscapes, using smaller aperture would be more useful due to a deeper depth of field, resulting in sharper details in the distance.
Shoot in RAW. This is valid advice for any type of photography. Choosing the RAW file format instead JPEG will allow you to properly post-process your photos.
Shoot in Bracketing mode. This mode is designed to capture 3, 5 or 7 consecutive shots of the same scene, each with a different exposure (e.g. -2EV, 0EV, +2EV). You will then merge these images into one final image with a high dynamic range (HDR). This can be particularly useful when you’re shooting a scene with a wide dynamic range, such as a sunny sky in the background with shadowy mountains in the foreground.
Shoot panorama. Whether or not your drone has this feature built-in, you’ll want to try out creating panoramas for your drone landscape photography. For this you’ll need at capture 2 or more photos. Start by capturing the central area of your scene, then move the drone horizontally either left or right so that 30% of the previous composition remains in the next shot. Later you will merge these photos into one ultra-wide composition using software such as Adobe Photoshop.
Experiment with slow shutter speeds. Yes, even some entry-level drone cameras have manual shutter speed selection, but you’ll need a drone that can hover in one place on its own, along with a gimbal stabilization system to pull off blur-free long shutter shots.
Use FPV. If you don’t already have one, you really should get a drone with FPV (First-Person-View) if you want to do drone landscape photography. The drone’s camera transmits a live video feed to your smartphone/tablet, giving you the opportunity to properly frame the composition, rather than shooting in the dark.
We hope you’ll find these tips useful next time you’re doing drone landscape photography. Happy shooting!