Personal drones and UAVs have unlocked creative new ways to take photos and videos. Learn the basics of aerial photography with these free guides, apps, and sites.
You and your phone might be earthbound, but your camera can soar in the sky with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Shooting images of the world from a bird’s eye view is one of the most common uses of drones. But if you want to get it right, you need to understand the new rules for composing aerial photos, editing these images, and get the right apps to know how to set up a shot.
1. Aloft (Android, iOS): The Best Companion App for Drone Photography
When you’re flying a drone, there are a bunch of things you need to know. There are specialized apps to figure out things like permissions and weather conditions, but if you want a free, all-in-one solution, get Aloft. Especially for beginners, it’s all you need.
Formerly known as KittyHawk, Aloft will use your phone’s location to tell you flight conditions such as temperature, wind, visibility, humidity, cloud cover, and daylight. These factors help a lot in determining your flight. It also tells you whether the location allows you to use the airspace or if there are any advisories issued by authorities for the area (although this is mainly for the US).
Connect it to your drone and Aloft will track your flights, help you prepare missions, and create important checklists such as pre-flight, in-flight, post-flight, and maintenance. Surprisingly, all this is free, without any ads popping up to ruin your experience. If you have a drone, you need Aloft.
2. Expert Photography (Web): The Complete Guide to Drone Photography
One of the leading photography publications on the internet, Expert Photography has put together a comprehensive and detailed guide to drone photography for beginners. It’s in the form of a web article, with several links to more detailed explanations elsewhere on the site.
The guide broadly covers topics like safety measures, gear, beginner tutorials, the basics of drone photography, composition for aerial photography, and post-processing and editing. Each topic has a brief explanation within the article, and you can follow a link to the original piece for more utilities. For example, safety measures will take you to an article with a downloadable checklist.
The step-by-step approach by Expert Photography makes it dead simple for anyone to understand drone photography and get started with it. The sections on composing shots for aerial photography are particular winners. And don’t miss the Table of Contents in the right sidebar to quickly jump to any section or topic.
While you get the option to download the whole article as a PDF, don’t bother with it. It won’t include the links already expanded, which misses the whole point. Instead, stick to the web version.
3. From Where I Drone (Web): Dedicated Drone Photography Blog
FAA-registered drone pilot, photographer, and professor Dirk Dallas created a blog where all his skills and passion come together to help newbies in the world of drone photography. The site hasn’t been updated in a while, but the information already on it is all you need.
The helpful “Start Here” button takes novices through the first steps after buying a camera drone. Dallas answers common questions about registering to fly your drone, rules and regulations, the apps you need, and helpful pre-flight checklists. That should have you prepped enough to go into the sky and aim that camera.
And that’s when Dallas truly shines. He offers several tips and tricks for drone photography and videography that you won’t find in other places. You’ll learn how to find awesome locations, avoiding motion blur on a moving camera, and go deep into ISO settings and other details. There isn’t a whole lot you have to go through, so it’s worth taking one weekend to read the whole site.
If you learn by watching demonstrations rather than reading, there is plenty of free video material on the internet to understand the basics of aerial photography. In particular, you should start with two sources: a YouTube channel and a short Udemy course.
Dronegenuity is a popular brand in the drone media, covering news, reviews, and tutorials. Their YouTube channel is constructive for anyone who wants to get started with drone photography. All the video demonstrations are with a DJI Mavic Pro, but you can apply the basic techniques to any drone. In three playlists, you’ll learn how to fly drones, take better drone photos, and learn to use DroneDeploy for DJI drones. Like Expert Photography, Dronegenuity also offers a mega-guide for drone photography that is worth reading.
Udemy has a reputation for amazing free online courses worth paying for, and this is no exception. Instructor Umair Vanthaliwala only spends 50 minutes on this self-paced video, but his non-technical language and simple tips make the topic approachable to anyone. You’ll learn beginner requirements and basic tips, the likes of which are enough to let you fly out and start shooting.
5. UAV Coach and Drone Sifter (Web): The Best Drone Cameras to Buy for Photography
So what’s the best drone for photography? It depends on who you ask. If you want to compare different options and find unbiased expert views, there are two sites to narrow down your choices.
Drone training firm UAV Coach has a fantastic drone buyer’s guide to understand which specifications matter and figure out what you actually need. It’s one of the most-linked articles on different drone photography forums for beginners looking to buy a drone. Using that advice, check out their best camera drones round-up for recommendations on what to buy, or go by other trusted tech reviewers.
If you want to know your options across major brands, DroneSifter is what you need to look at. It’s a product catalog of the best new drones on the market, with filters to refine them by price, flight range, flight time, video quality, GPS, and type. The catalog mainly lists the top contenders in the US market, so if you’re a hobbyist, you might want to check out some foreign options on sites like AliExpress.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Between these resources to learn aerial photography, you’ll be taking snaps from the sky in no time. But the key to getting good at drone photography is to practice it repeatedly, like basic photography or any other skill. No amount of guides and tips can replace hands-on experience. So get flying and click that shutter; you might find yourself in the Aerial Photography Awards soon.
A camera is just a tool in your hands. To shoot good pictures, try these free lessons to learn the basics of photography.
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