Drone photography and drone videography has become more popular than ever. Some of the most basic videography tips for beginners are not including drone shooting tutorials to make their lessons more comprehensive. If you want to level up your video content by shooting from above, these beginner-friendly drone video tips can elevate your videos to a whole new horizon.
Why shoot with a drone?
Before we jump into videography tips for beginners who want to give drones a try, first let us find out why you should be shooting with drones. Drones have gained popularity over the past few years as an equipment useful for photography. They have several advantages when used for videography as well.
Access difficult areas
Some places are just impossible for the human body or any large piece of videography equipment to access. Spaces that are too high, or have a tall obstacle such as a big wall are unreachable for the regular filmmaker. For instance, it would be impossible to take a shot of the outside window of the 50th floor of a building without having to fly.
Drones make these areas visually accessible for filmmakers and photographers. What’s even better is that there is less risk to the person filming as he/she does not need to physically film while in flight, such as in a helicopter.
Capture amazing perspectives
You get a totally different perspective when shooting with a drone. It’s probably because it can shoot at places and angles that are not humanly possible. It captures perspectives that are not normally accessible to us on a daily basis. Take for example an aerial shoot. You can only get such bird’s eye views from a plane or while parachuting, which is not all that common.
Being able to shoot at great heights inspires creativity and innovation for many visual artists, photographers, and filmmakers. You get instant access to shoot from impossible heights, so you tend to experiment more with it and see how much you can create and capture images that are truly unique.
Drone videography and drone photography have become more and more popular than ever. People who avail of birthday shoots, weddings, and even commercial shoots are more curious and ask for aerial shots of their product or occasion. If you own a photography or videography business, learning how to shoot with a drone can catapult your business to new heights.
Drone videography tips for beginners
1. Plan properly
Planning allows you to work and film smart. It lets you determine everything you need before stepping out. When you plan, you save yourself from flying blindly and getting caught unprepared by unfavorable circumstances.
Know the scope and limitations of your equipment
What is your drone brand and model? It is important to know its capacity and its capabilities as well as its limits in order for you to maximize it well.
Visualize the shots you want to take
Try to think ahead where you want to start and end your shot. Take a look at the area you plan to capture and the best angle you want the video to come from. Also factor in the natural lighting and determine the perfect time of day for you to capture your vision.
Plan your flight
Determine approximately how long and how many shots you need. Survey the area you plan to shoot to determine the factors, limitations, and potential that may affect your video. For example, knowing the size and scope of the area allows you to determine how long your battery can last through it so that you can prioritize the areas and shots you want.
Anticipate the weather
Weather is an important variable in shooting drone photography. Some weather forecast information would prove useful when scheduling your drone shoots. You can at least avoid unnecessary trips or attempts when you know that the weather for the day is particularly inclement.
Have a flight-map
An essential part of planning a drone video shoot is a flight map or a storyboard. Simply put, it is the vision that you want to capture before even the act of capturing it, and your plan as to how you are going to achieve it.
When shooting landscape, your flight-map can appear like a literal map, illustrating where your drone takes off, which direction it goes, and which time of day you shoot.
Do a pre-flight check
Before you even go to the location to shoot, run through a checklist of musts before flying. Check that your equipment is complete, your drone and camera are fully charged, your gear is clean, and you have your imaging cards packed. It would also help to pack spare batteries along with everything. Before you leave, run through your list again to avoid having to run back for forgotten supplies.
Doing a pre-flight check ensures that you don’t come back empty handed or with very bad and unusable images.
Other drone video tips may not discuss this, but as a beginner, working smart and planning ahead can fast track your progress. You’ll commit fewer flops and have more time learning new techniques instead of salvaging your work. Check out media courses you can take online to gain more knowledge.
2. Take it slow and steady.
Most amateur drone videos have a shaky, wobbly, and abrupt quality to it. You want your aerial shots to look more professional and even cinematic. Most drone video tips for such effects advise you to take it slow. Think about the cinematics of a high-end film and envision their aerial shots. They are usually quite slow and very smooth.
Have a steady hand
You can do this by making nice and steady movements with your controls. Take it easy on the controls on the remote and try not to make sudden movements. Don’t jerk your drone into a particular action. The same principle applies to your camera.
You might feel tempted to go hard and fast with your drone video, but taking in the scenery at a gradual pace actually increases the cinematic value of your shot. That’s because it gives your viewers the impression that you are shooting from a larger platform, such as a helicopter.
Look into your plans
Part of having smooth and steady transitions is if you know exactly what to expect when your drone is in the air. Knowing what to anticipate will give you the headstart when it comes to the landscape and environment to prevent sudden movements caused by obstructions or landmarks that you did not expect.
3. Practice your piloting skills
As a beginner, you might want to practice your flying acumen. Having some previous experience with a basic drone might help. However, filming with a drone has its unique challenges.
Here are some drone videography tricks you can practice to improve your video outputs:
- Combine axes to achieve a multi-dimensional effect. You can move down and back simultaneously, for example.
- Try strafing or moving sideways instead of just forward and back. This movement shows different angles and dimensions of a landscape.
- Orbit your drone. Be careful not to spin too fast, though.
- Do a fly-over. Focus on one subject on the ground and move the drone over it while maintaining it as a focal point.
- Practice coordination by tracking moving items like cars or runners. Tracking is an important skill that drone videographers need to master. You can follow a moving object from behind or let it follow you as you lead with the camera pointed at it.
4. Nail down your videography skills
Remember that you’re not only flying a drone. You are filming in the air. You may perfect all of the movements that you can do to achieve different drone video effects, but what about your video quality?
Don’t let your piloting skills go to waste and make sure that your videography skills are up to par. Here are a few drone video tips that experienced videographers recommend:
- Pre-set everything in manual mode instead of relying on auto. There is a significant disadvantage when shooting in auto mode with a drone. Differences in light and atmosphere can cause abrupt changes in the settings. These changes will be very visible and will make your video appear unnatural or inconsistent.
- Use tripod mode to further slow your drone’s response. Remember how you want things to be slow and steady. Slowing your drone response with the tripod mode minimizes those fast jolty movements.
- Maintain a shutter speed that is twice the frame rate of your video. This will make the outcome look more natural.
- Use a neutral density filter to modify your moving image’s intensity and match the shutter speed and frame-rate adjustments you just made.
5. Try going low
Just because you’re shooting with a drone doesn’t mean you have to fly high all the time. Shooting from far above can give you a broad scope of vision. However, shooting low has its perks too.
It gives you better detail, especially if you’re shooting an area with several features. It’s also immersive and makes your viewers feel that they’re flying with you. If you speed up your frame by a few notches, it increases the visual effect’s intensity.
6. Get close to the landscape
If you feel confident enough about your piloting skills, try getting a bit closer to landscapes. Hills, cliffs, and even tall buildings are perfect for this. You can also push it further and fly close to big rocks and trees.
This bold move can further add intensity to your videos. Moreover, they contribute texture and dimension that is not easy to achieve with an extensive aerial shot.
This technique is also perfect for “reveal” type videos. Picture a frame with a mountain. Let that frame move, so the mountain moves aside to reveal a breathtaking sunrise.
7. Use different angles
Don’t easily get satisfied with one angle, one motion, and one dimension. If you want to discover better ways and grow as a videographer, you must do a bit of experimentation.
Different angles may receive different amounts of light. No matter how small the differences, these subtleties can make a massive impact on your video quality. Moreover, it can also have different effects on the mood and message you want to carry over.
One particular drone move you can make to maximize all angles is the orbit. This move is when your drone moves sideways, circling your subject while maintaining the camera’s focus on the subject.
This may take a bit of practice to nail, but when you do get it, the results can be breathtaking. There are drones with an intelligent POI (point of interest) flight mode that lets you do this with less difficulty. You can even get creative with an orbit shot by zooming in and out of the subject while circling it.
8. Watch the weather
Mist, rain, and fog are your drone’s worst enemies. Only fly it out during clear, dry weather. You may fly on a cloudy day provided that there’s no moisture involved. Moisture can easily condense on your drone. On colder days, this moisture can freeze quickly on higher altitudes.
The wind is another factor that can affect your drone’s ability to keep steady. Although most drones can fly in up to 30mph winds, going over 20-25mph usually results in a wobbly video. If you want a smooth and stable output, avoid windy days.
9. Maximize the sun
Don’t limit yourself to just shooting at high noon. The early dawn or the late sunset can cast interesting shadows that have deeply dramatic effects.
Not a lot of people shoot during these times. As a result, they could not achieve the unique dimension that different lighting provides. The same landscape can look entirely different when shot at different times of the day. That is because the light casts itself in a different direction, thus featuring a different angle of the landscape.
10. Stay Safe
If you’re used to drones, it may not be that big of a deal. However, if you’re an inexperienced flyer, it’s like operating a flying lawnmower. Before you even think about looking at drone video tips, make sure you know how to operate a simple drone first.
Aside from drones ranging from expensive to crazy-extravagant, you can seriously damage property or harm another person. Here are a few safety tips to help you fly and shoot safely with your drone:
Check with regulations
Did you know that drone flying came with regulations too? That’s right, you can’t just take off and do as you please with your drone. You must comply with the Federal Aviation Administration Regulations in order to keep yourself and others safe. Here are some of the basic regulations that you must adhere to:
- You cannot fly beyond 400 feet.
- You cannot fly your drone within five miles of an airport.
- Do not fly over groups of people or near any aircraft.
- You should not fly your drones over emergency response events.
- Drones are not allowed to fly over stadiums or other sporting events.
- National parks are no-entry zones for drones.
- You must adhere to airspace requirements and restrictions.
You may feel like these regulations limit your filming opportunities, but remember that they exist for a reason. Flying drones near planes or over people can pose a serious threat of injury or even death. Be a responsible drone videographer and stick to the rules when filming.
Watch out for obstacles
This tip is paramount if you want to keep your nice and expensive drone intact. There is already enough online evidence of drone accidents where they smash drones into buildings, walls, or trees.
If you have the extra bucks, try to invest in drones that have built-in sensors that detect an obstruction from several feet away, and be able to dodge them. Such drones may also have a built-in tracking function that allows them to track a subject while accounting for obstacles and changes in terrain (for when your subject is going up or downhill).
If you don’t want to spare the extra cash on a sensor, you might as well spend some extra time practicing. Practicing your drone piloting skills. This will help you develop enough dexterity to maneuver your device. Also, since different drones can “feel” different in terms of their controls, you might want to do a test-run when handling a new device.
With enough practice, you will know just how much push you need to give the controls for the drone to do exactly what you want. This will prevent any unwanted accidents or damage to your drone.
Perfect your video with post-processing
Even the most skillful drone videographers still opt to post-process their videos with video editing software. It does not mean that their work is flawed and that they lack talent. It simply means that they are responsible enough to polish their final product. Find out what the best computers are to perfect your video editing process.
Edit on a computer
This may seem like a total no-brainer for some, but unfortunately, a lot of rookies get tempted to just edit on their phones, or worse, just really on their camera presets. Nothing will make your film more professional-looking and viewer-worthy than a good post-production with a proper software on a computer.
Another pro tip you can get from experts is that it is always wise to shoot a bit more than you need to. Having more images means you get more options and opportunities to explore more angles for your film. You can always trim off any fat in the editing or post-processing stage, but it will take a lot more effort to go out and film some more if you find yourself wanting.
If you want to learn more about drone videography, this Beginner Aerial Videography Course teaches you all you need to know about shooting videos with drones. It can help you get the fundamental skills you need to fly, film, create and edit your aerial videos. Learn about the various broadcasting media advertising here.