Drone photography has become one of the fastest-growing trends in photography over the last few years. Being able to put a high-quality camera into the sky and take stunning aerial images of the landscape below it is extremely appealing to many photographers looking to up their game. To properly use a drone for photography, you will need to understand the practical, legal, and safety considerations of using a drone, as well as know where to get proper training and the needed certification if you plan to use your drone to work commercially. Before you can get started using a drone for your photography, you will need the right equipment. Here’s the essential kit that you need.
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Drone photography equipment can range from off-the-shelf solutions that already have everything that you will need to take great aerial photos and video footage, through to individual components that you can buy and assemble to create a set up that is unique and personal to you and your photography needs.
There are a few important components that are used in drone photography that you will need to have before you start taking pictures. It is also a good idea to learn some basic drone repair.
Obviously, you will need the drone itself. A drone is a flying device that has multiple propellors that allows it to fly around or hover in one place.
Drones can come in a wide variety of different sizes. The smallest options are basically small plastic toys to used indoors, or they can range right up to large drones with integrated gimbals and cameras to be used outside. There are also large, professional drones made from carbon-fiber, that have retractable legs and longer possible light times. These offer serious performance benefits and are usually the best for photography.
The right drone for you will depend on what you plan to do with it. A small drone can be a good idea to practice with while you get the hang of using one. A mid-range drone is probably enough if photography is a hobby, whereas the higher-end models are ideal for professional photographers.
A gimbal is a stabilized harness or frame that is suspended underneath the drone. It is designed to carry a camera and keep it level or allow it to be pointed remotely in a particular direction.
Like the drones themselves, gimbals can vary in price and size. You need to choose a drone that is able to lift the gimbal that you choose and your camera. You should also make sure you buy a gimbal that is able to manage the weight and the size of your camera.
Zenmuse is one of the more popular manufacturers of reliable gimbals for use with drones, but there are literally hundreds of options on the market for cheaper, Chinese models too if you’re on a tighter budget for your equipment. Whichever gimbal you go for, be sure that it will fit your chosen camera. It’s also a good idea to buy one that has good reviews from reliable sources.
Naturally, if you’re going to take photographs using a drone, you will of course need a good camera as well. There are drones on the market that can carry a range of cameras, including a tiny dedicated camera, GoPro action cameras, compact and mirrorless cameras, DSLR cameras, and even high-end movie cameras.
You might feel tempted to build your new drone photography set up around your existing and lenses. You could do this, but before you do that, think about the size and the cost of a drone that will be large enough and powerful enough to lift a heavy DSLR camera.
You might find that it is more cost-effective to look at a smaller, mirrorless camera to use as your drone camera. These are a lot lighter than a DSLR, which makes them much easier to lift, with a more modest, and therefore cheaper, drone set up.
In order to control your drone, you will need a transmitter or a controller. These can range from very simple devices that have only a few communication channels to much more advanced models of transmitters that have a lot of extra channels for controlling more drone and camera features.
FPV Goggles Or Screen
While you will be able to take great photographs with a camera mounted on a drone without the benefit of being able to see what your camera can see, you will get better results if you can see. First Person View is the most popular way of seeing what your camera can see.
FPV works by taking a video feed from your camera and relaying it to a pair of goggles or a screen that you wear or use.
As you move the drone or change the position of the gimbal, your FPV view will change to reflect what the camera is now looking at. When you like what you see, you can trigger the camera’s shutter remotely by pressing a button on the transmitter.
Batteries, Battery Charger, and Other Accessories
Lastly, there are several different accessories that will keep your drone powered up and in the air. You need spare batteries, a battery charger, spare propellor blades, tools for maintenance, spare parts, and a carry case. The battery and battery charger are the most important.
Drones usually use Lipo batteries. These can be charged quite quickly, and provide a lot of power in a short space of time. This does make them relatively volatile, and potentially dangerous if they aren’t handled correctly.
There are budget batteries and chargers out there, but it’s better to stick with known and trusted brands, as these behave in a more predictable way and will be able to withstand more intense use without failing.
If you often charge and use the battery in quick succession, this can make the battery overheat. It’s a good idea to carry a few batteries and use them in rotation, so each battery can recover and cool down before you use it again.