Peter Orsel

7 Tips To Take Your Drone Photos To The Next Level

Drone Photography is amazing and more and more people get into it! With the latest technologies, it is easy to fly a drone and to create amazing content. If you want to know how to improve your drone photos, you came to the right spot. Whether you just started, have some experience or when you’re about to buy your first drone, I’m here to help you out. The last years I’ve been flying my drone anywhere in the world and it became my favourite kind of travel photography. I’ll cover some tips I wish I knew before I started flying and I hope to inspire you to create the best aerial content soon!

In This Post

If you don’t have a drone yet, it’s time to get one first. Rent one, borrow one or dive deep in and buy one immediately! I wrote a blog about the best drone to buy at this moment. Click here to read more about it. 

One of my first drone shots ever. I'm lucky that I grew up close to such a beautiful lake!

Practice flying your drone at boring locations

This sounds a bit weird, right? Why would you fly at boring locations while there are so many amazing spots to fly your drone. Well, it can be stressful during your first flights. If you don’t know what to do when your screen gets black, your drone loses connection or the live view is lagging, it’s better to be at a boring field of grass, instead of flying above the ocean. The modern drones use a Return To Home technology, making it easy to fly your drone back, even without connection.

During my last trip to Schloss Neuschwanstein I accidentally turned on JPEG instead of RAW. The quality is still good, but I lost lots of detail..

Shoot in RAW

This one might be obvious for people who are photographers already, but if you just got into photography or if you’re only interested in drone photography, it can be a gamechanger. RAW files are way bigger than JPEG’s, as they save more data of your photos. Afterwards you can adjust the pictures easily without losing quality. 

Edit your photos

Another obvious one for the photographers, but you should always edit your pictures. It’s your secret sauce, where your photo really comes alive. I highly recommend Adobe Lightroom and/or Photoshop. You could purchase some presets from your favourite drone photographer and edit your pictures from there, or you can create them yourself to make the edit completely yours. If you just started to learn photography, you may feel like: do I really have to edit all of them? Yes, if you want to create eye-catching content, you should edit your photos. Do you see the difference above? The first photo is the RAW file, the second one is my edit. Especially the boats and the glow on the mountain top needed a little retouch. And what about the trees? 

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro taken with a drone.

Choose a clear subject

My most important recommendation would be: choose a subject. I’ve seen so many drone pictures without a subject and I have to admit that I did the same when I just started. Aerial content looks great, but make sure you catch the attention of your viewer. Make sure the viewer knows what he’s looking at and the picture will speak for itself. If you decide to take a picture of a city, always make sure there’s something catching attention. It can be a church, a square, a pattern or even the sun and shadows. Not sure if it’s clear enough? Ask a non-photographer to find out what caught their eye while looking at your shot. A subject can add depth to your pictures as well, look at some examples below. 

Shoot in 4:3 if you don't have the vertical Option

I always recommend shooting in 4:3 instead of the default 16:9. Why? Because social media is focused on vertical content. I usually crop my photos to 4:5 before I post them to Instagram. Yes, this means that you waste about 50% of your picture. For top-downs (90 degrees vertical shots) I recommend creating the vertical composition the way you want to post it, so you don’t have to cut a lot the sides of your picture. Remember here, I’m talking about drone photography, for drone videography I’m still shooting 16:9.

A manual panorama of three photos, to make sure I get the balanced composition I was going for

Learn how to shoot manual panoramas

If you don’t want to crop your 4:3 into a 4:5 ratio, you should go all in on panoramas. The DJI drones can do it for you, but it’s better to do it manually. Shoot your full composition in at least 3 shots (low/mid/high) and merge them into one in Lightroom or Photoshop. This way you use all of the available pixels and your range will be way bigger. It also works for vertical shots. For this, you have to hover horizontally on the same height, taking multiple shots of your composition and at the end every shot will cover a part of your final composition. With top-down panoramas you can capture much more ground and it makes your photo look like they’ve been taken from an enormous height! 

The boats in The Philippines are small, so it's better to fly your drone from the beach.

Don't fly from a boat

This one is a bit specific and I’m sorry to say: I did this, I do this, and will do it again. But, if you don’t have a lot of experience, it can be dangerous for both you and your drone. A boat is very likely to be on the sea. A sea has waves and a boat moves on these waves. Landing a drone on a wavy boat can be extremely hard or even impossible. That’s why you have to catch it with your hands, something that could be tricky too. I’ve heard stories about people losing their fingertips, because their fingers got stuck between the propellers. I’ve heard stories about drones that took a swim instead of landing in the hand or on the boat. That’s why flying from a boat requires some experience. 

Before you even try to catch it on a boat, make sure you’re able to catch a drone on land. Not just on a crystal clear day, but in windy conditions as well. If you’re not used to that, skip the boat. Fly from the beach, from the pier or from a cliff to get these sea shots, but skip the boat until you really know what you’re doing. A certain shot is less important than keeping your fingertips. 

ISO 100 - F/2.8 - 1/500s - 10:41am - Height 438,7m

This final shot of Koh Phi Phi I’m sharing in this post, was actually taken from a boat. Want to know the process of getting this shot? Read the article I wrote about it! 

I hope these tips will be helpful and answer your questions on how to improve your drone photography. Still got some questions? Leave them below or send me a DM on Instagram!

About Me

Peter Orsel is a Dutch travel photographer. He visited over 40 countries, capturing them in the most beautiful ways. Right now he writes about his trips and inspires others to do the same. 

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One Response

  1. I find it interesting when you said that there will be depth in your photos when you have a subject in them. I can imagine how professionals will apply these things to drone videography processes as well in order to be successful with their shots. And this is more important if you will be using the footage to sell a certain property or for other business purposes.

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