Flying drones has become an extremely popular pastime in recent years. It can be both incredibly exciting (and also a little nerve-wracking) to see your drone take to the skies for the first time. As your flying skills grow and improve, it’s time to think of the range and variety of aerial images you shoot. Whether you’re coming to drones from a model aircraft background, a photography background, or with no previous experience, here are seven types of aerial shots you can incorporate in your repertoire for better drone photography.
Seven shots for better drone photography
So why seven different shots? The truth is, there’s no magic number of image taking techniques in any photographic situation, but I have highlighted seven different shots that I use on a regular basis that you can try out the next time you’re out flying.
One thing is for certain: buying a drone (like buying a camera) is not a sure-fire way to produce stunning images. It takes hard work and experimentation to get it right.
1. The horizon shot
This is one of the most common images beginner drone photographers take, where the drone is high above the ground and points straight ahead for a spectacular horizon shot. As with all photography, lighting is important for these shots – I’ve seen many horizon shots taken at the wrong time of the day, which does not flatter the landscape.
It’s also good to keep in mind the rule of thirds (and other compositional rules) for your shots – try to remember them when you position your drone camera angle.
I often see images with both the sky and land taking up half of the frame each. However, all rules are meant to be broken – I didn’t stick rigidly to the rule of thirds when I took this image of a remote beach in New South Wales.
When you’re taking your horizon shots, also make sure you take them in both portrait and landscape orientation for maximum versatility. You can even consider doing a large panorama of the horizon made up of multiple images while your drone is at that height.
2. The long overhead shot
Another common photo many beginners take is the long overhead shot. Ascending up to the maximum allowable height limit, pan your camera down towards the ground and take an overhead shot straight down towards the ground. Objects such as cars and boats appear tiny and you will barely be able to make out people in the image.
Although these first two shots are an important part of your repertoire, there are many other possibilities for better drone photography, so remember to take a range of images when you’re flying.
3. The short overhead shot
Many drone photographers, especially beginners, think the higher up the better. This is not necessarily the case, as stunning, unique perspectives can be had from quite low altitudes.
Having your drone at even just 5-10 meters above the ground provides an opportunity to take an image with lots of interesting detail from a completely different perspective than you would usually see.
The image below is a close up of boats on Brisbane’s Bayside. I had just finished taking the long overhead shot and decided to bring the drone down to capture a close-up of boats from a much lower height. With a short overhead shot, you can capture a lot more detail of objects in the scene.
People in the landscape
People in the landscape can often make captivating images. By placing one or more people in your scene, it adds interest and variety to your landscape images. With the added impact of having the unique aerial view from a drone, this is one way for you to create stunning drone images.
In the first image below, I watched as my daughter took her surfboard out into the sea off Iluka in New South Wales. Her presence adds interest to what would otherwise just be a shot of the beach.
In this next image taken in neighbouring Yamba, I took an overhead shot of the historic Ocean Baths. The image shows someone enjoying a morning swim, and a surfer heading across the beach.
Leading lines are a common compositional technique. It’s where a line or lines lead your eye through the various elements of the photograph. I took this image of Urangan Pier in Hervey Bay, Australia an hour after sunrise. The lines of the pier lead your eye through the image to the mainland in the distance. The rule of thirds is also in play here.
There are lots of leading lines that you can use in your compositions for better drone photography – both natural and human-made. Look for them next time and make them work for you.
Sometimes when you fly your drone over repetitive landscapes, you may feel like there’s nothing worth photographing, but that isn’t always the case. Keep your eyes open for scenes that show textures in the landscape, such as the pine forest in the image below.
When I flew my DJI Mavic Pro over this area in rural Queensland, I was amazed by the textures of the pine needles on the trees below me, punctuated by the brown soil and the tree trunks.
Look for areas with repeating patterns of trees, sand, crops, anything!
One of the fantastic things about flying a drone is that it opens up new ways of seeing our beautiful world. I am constantly amazed by how landscapes look from an aerial perspective. With this in mind, look for better drone photography opportunities via abstract shots where there is a mix of colors, lines, and shapes on the ground below.
I took the image below at the beach in New South Wales. I love the yellow, whites and greens of the sand and sea.
Better drone photography is a combination of many things. Not only do you need to build your skills and confidence by improving your flying, but you also need to add variety to the types of images you take with your drone.
In this article I’ve featured some of the different types of shots I like to take when I’m flying my drone. Horizon shots are a staple among many drone photographers, as are long overhead shots. If you haven’t already, look for opportunities to take short overhead shots, textures, abstract images, and use leading lines. If it’s safe to do so, also look to incorporate people in your landscape images to add more interest and variety.
What other types of shots do you like to take for better drone photography? Tell us in the comments below. And if you haven’t bought a drone yet, be sure to check out my photographer’s guide to buying a drone.