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Sunday 1 October 2023 Dublin: 18°C
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Own a drone? These tips will help you take great photos with one
For one, don’t ever shoot in JPEG. It’s not worth it.

DJI_0036 Philip Joyce Photography Philip Joyce Photography

PART OF THE fun of owning a drone isn’t just the ability to fly your own aircraft with ease, but to take photos and capture videos from it.

Granted, it’s the more expensive ones that allow shots like the one above, but the thought of flying it somewhere in the countryside and capturing footage is certainly an appealing one.

So let’s say you already familiarised yourself with the rules and regulations – if you haven’t, you can catch up here – taking photos can be a straightforward affair, but there are ways to improve the quality of your images.

For Philip Joyce, a photographer who uses a Phantom 3 Advanced, he recommends going through your settings first and shooting all photos in RAW instead of JPEG.

RAW format is better for fixing any exposure problems post-shoot, especially if you’re using an older drone and it makes the sky too bright or the ground too dark.

“The biggest thing I found when shooting was the settings on your camera”, he said. “If you’re not a photographer… I would read up on how to set up your images for processing [first]“.

I knew you had to shoot in RAW but someone who gets this as a gift and wants to take some cool photos, they’re probably won’t know that. When you shoot in JPEG in a drone, it looks absolutely shite.

Shooting in RAW is also recommended by Liam Allen, a producer and director for the Dubai-based company Chopper Shoot.

While you do have to trust the drone to tell you if an image is exposed or not, familiarising yourself with some kind of photo editing software can turn your photos from good to great.

“There are settings within these cameras which give you a nice clean image afterwards, but if you did want to take it to the next level… it [photo editing software] can really make photos shine instead of what you can get straight out of the camera,” he said.

When I took those photos of Cavan, I shot them all in RAW anyway so I had a huge amount of latitude when it came to adjusting exposure later on.

The other thing worth keeping in mind is how something looks on your phone screen might not look as well on your computer screen. Joyce says that “ironically the ones that look the worst will probably be [the settings] you should be shooting with” as RAW photos will give you more flexibility when editing.

As well as not forgetting what’s underneath the drone, shooting directly underneath the drone can give you more abstract shots, the time you take photos can also be important.

DJI_0005 Philip Joyce Photography Philip Joyce Photography

Image sensors aren’t perfect and there will be instances where the sky will look too bright or the ground will look too dark. Joyce recommends shooting either shortly after sunrise or an hour before sunset for the best results.

Just shooting in the later evening gives you better results. It’s the same for landscape photographers… shooting just after sunrise or just before sunset are the two times you should be shooting. The same applies for drone [photography].

Allen recommends planning exactly what you want to do first before you start flying. Due to the sheer amount of resources needed to power a drone, the battery life is very limited so you have to make every minute count.

Untitled_Panorama3-2 Liam Allen Liam Allen

“If they’ve gone to a special area where there’s a castle or a river, they should definitely visualise the shot before they take off,” said Allen. “Most people will only have one battery which will only last 15 to 20 minutes so if you don’t think about what you want to get, what might happen is you run out of time on the battery and that’s it.

Thinking about what kind of photo you want to get is really helpful. I would always plan, no matter what it is. Whether it was the Cavan Burren or Fore Abbey, I had in my mind the kind of shots I wanted to do.

“Upside-down lawnmower”

Considering how simple it is to fly one, it’s easy to forget but drones are complex machines and not toys.

While they come with advanced safety and tracking features like return home (where you press a button so the drone comes back to you), safety should always be the first thing you consider before you take off.

Both Joyce and Allen recommend not to fly over crowds or urban areas, if not because of the IAA’s rules and regulations then because of the damage a drone could do to people or objects if things go awry.

Allen describes them as “an upside-down lawnmower” and while newer models come with additional safety features like extra sensors, he recommends people to know the kind of damage drones can do when things go wrong.

“They’re getting safer but people should keep safety as one of the paramount things to do,” he said. “Definitely don’t go over crowds or anything like that as anything can happen”.

DJI_0214-Pano Liam Allen Liam Allen

So to sum, the things you should keep in mind when taking photos from a drone are.

  • Shoot in RAW format, not JPEG.
  • Read up on your camera settings.
  • The time of day will affect the quality of your photos.
  • Plan your shots so you’re not wasting time. Your battery will only last for 15-20 minutes so make it count.
  • Don’t fly over people, crowds or in urban areas. Things can (and will) go wrong.
  • Photo editing software can help fix exposure issues.
  • Practice makes perfect.

Read: How racing with drones is like being a ‘very fast bird’ >

Read: Check out these amazing photos taken using aerial drone photography >

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