9 tips for better photos from a drone photography expert

Photo: Abraham Joffe/ Tales by Light Series 2.

Drones are slowly being introduce to different working environments in order to improve vision, perspective and enhance products.

One area which is benefiting the most is photography.

As drones have become more popular, they have become cheaper, and now hobbyist photographers are giving the new style a go themselves.

Award-winning Australian filmmaker Abraham Joffe is somewhat of an expert when it comes to this form of photography.

In Tales by Light series 2, which he directed and produced, Joffe draws on his expertise in drone imaging to take viewers behind the lens with some of the world’s best photographers as they pursue their dream projects around the world.

Business Insider spoke to Joffe, who shared his tips for flying drones and taking photos with them.

Here they are.

Photo: Abraham Joffe/ Tales by Light Series 2.

1. Get qualified

Unless flying drones is purely a hobby for you, I strongly suggest going through the training and testing required to become CASA certified. Not only will this allow you to operate drones commercially within Australia, but most importantly, it will upskill you with the knowledge to safely operate drones in the skies. Obtaining my Operators certificate opened my eyes to the real risks of flying and how to minimise that risk. As the skies get more crowded, we all have a duty to keep the skies and ground safe.

The most important flying rules are:

  • Don’t fly within 3 nautical miles (5kms) of a Towered airport
  • Don’t fly above 400ft (120metres)
  • Don’t fly within 30metres of people or over populated areas

2. Start small and cheap when buying your first drone

With entry-level machines costing only a few hundred dollars, there really is no barrier to anyone interested in exploring this exciting new frontier. I recommend beginners buy something small to get accustomed to how drones operate. Once you have mastered this size of more compact machines, you will be ready to step up to larger machines if you have the desire to do so.

3. Always have a plan on your shot before launching

Think about what sort of shots you would like to achieve before taking off. Having a flight plan is not only safer, but will result in better shots and video footage. Thinking through your desired shots will also conserve battery because the process is quicker.

4. Simplicity often works best

The simple shots like grand wides establishing a scene, or a straight down “birds eye” shot can be powerful. Fast flying or in exaggerated moves don’t always mean more impact from a visual perspective. Don’t be afraid to use the drone as a static high vantage point camera position. The power of a well framed eye-in-the-sky shot shouldn’t be ignored!

Photo: Abraham Joffe/ Tales by Light Series 2.

5. Aim to capture drone shots that don’t appear to be drone shots

Some of the most effective aerial shots are those disguised as images historically captured via cranes, dollies or Steadicams. As your proficiency with your drone increases, you will be able to achieve subtle moves that traditionally would have been achieved which a huge crew. Recently while shooting Tales by Light Series 2 in Namibia, we achieved shots that appear as cranes or car-to-car shots with one drone operator in a crew of three people only. The result was dynamic and powerful cinematography that allowed big “hero” establishing drone shots to shine in the footage.

6. Fly within your limits

Don’t allow yourself to be pushed by an overzealous friend or director to go bigger or higher if you don’t feel confident in your ability to pull off the shot you’re gunning for. The leading cause of crashing a drone is flying outside your comfort zone or spur-of-the-moment changes to your flight plan.

7. Watch and learn

Numerous productions now include some form of aerial cinematography. Keep notes and screen-grabs of your favourite shots for inspiration.

8. Learn to fly without GPS

For beginners, a reliance on a GPS is natural to guide flying. It’s important to wean yourself off the GPS however as there will be times when the signal is lost and you need your own skills to control your flight manually and return to the ground safely.

9. Practice, practice, practice!

The saying goes one needs 10,000 hours to master anything. This applies to drones too. The more time you put into learning, the better your footage will become until eventually it becomes second nature.

Photo: Abraham Joffe/ Tales by Light Series 2.

Tales by Light Series Two premieres at 7.30pm AEDT on the National Geographic Channel on Tuesday 25 October.

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