Can You Use Drones for Landscape Photographs?
June 25, 2018
If you are like me and have a passion or interest in landscape photography, it’s likely that you’ve come across fantastic scenery that needs a bird’s eye view to be appropriately captured or perhaps just experienced with a different perspective, is a view from the air! However, that would require one to take a photograph from a helicopter or plane, and even if you were prepared to part with your hard-earned funds for your landscape photography passion, this would be way too expensive to do regularly. Luckily, there’s an affordable way to take pictures of expansive landscapes, cityscapes, and the countryside and all it requires you to use is one of the latest available drones with an inbuilt camera.
This may come off as a surprise, especially if you consider drones to be used most commonly by videographers and media personnel to capture rare footage. But drones can provide landscape photographers with the advantage of being able to reach greater heights. Drones can give you a lot of room to adjust your angle and composition.
But it must be remembered that there’s more to taking pictures with a drone than simply finding your target and clicking the capture button, you need to take additional time for every shot. Hence, here’s what to consider before you go get your own drone to start taking landscape pictures.
The short answer to if you can use drones to take landscape photographs is of course, Yes! You may not be able to print them large scale to the same quality though as you would have from a
The Drone Itself and Camera
Buying and researching the perfect drone is what takes up the most time when you want to start aerial landscape photography. That’s because they can come at a hefty price, especially if you want extra features and better resolution. If you’re overwhelmed by the variety in the market and don’t know where to start then the DJI Mavic Pro is considered to be a good choice because it offers the best of both worlds; exceptional resolution and image quality producing images 12 megapixels in size, along with the benefit of portability for when you are traveling. On the other hand, if you prioritise sensor size and resolution over other factors, the Phantom 4 Pro can do a good job as well. There are plenty of reviews online and the technology is rapidly changing in this area so best to just look at what the latest options are when deciding what is right for you.
Adjust Your Settings Before Heading Out
Before you leave for the site where you intend to capture your landscape photographs, remember to adjust your settings, have everything charged, and ensure you are using the latest software updates. That’s because it can take up a lot of time on-site and you’ll be wasting precious daylight in the process. One of the basic adjustments to make is changing your settings to shoot in RAW because it can allow you more post-production freedom to experiment with your images. It is also important you check the local regulations as to where you plan on flying. There are various websites set up for this purpose, to let pilots know if it’s safe to fly there or not. In Australia, I use the app Can I Fly There? Check your local sites for the latest information.
Choose The Bracketing Feature
Shooting at a range such as that of a drone, it’s likely that you’ll be capturing much more in a frame than you regularly would if you were using a standard camera. This means that highlights could be overblown while shadows will appear darker. What you can do to prevent this from happening is to choose the Bracketing feature on your drone in which it takes multiple images at varying exposures. You can later merge these images to create a high dynamic range shot by using software such as Lightroom or Photoshop and produce an evenly balanced photograph.
Be Careful About Lighting
Just as with other pictures, landscape photography with drones is no different because of how important lighting is. The rules about selecting the time of day, in landscape photography with a drone are somewhat similar to that which is done with a DSLR or mirrorless camera. The best times when your target scenery will be beautifully accented with soft lighting are the periods that come just before and after sunrise and sunset. While these may be considered as the standard universally, it’s still important to experiment a little. But remember not to do so around noon, when the sun is directly overhead. This can cause overpowering brightness and unwanted shadows, in particular shadows of the drone on the ground. Sometimes it can work however does depend somewhat on your exact conditions.
Composition and Focal Points
Just as with every other type of photography, landscape photography requires a focal point which can be determined using the right composition. A common composition technique to use is the Rule of Thirds, in which you divide the image into 9 parts and place your main focus upon the points where your divisions intersect. With the drone, you can at least easily move the gimbal on the camera and experiment to find the right composition that suits as its broadcast in real-time to screen on your controller. Try to use the slowest shutter speed possible without introducing blurring to maximise quality.
From the air, it is easy to discover new angles that provide interest, make sure you look for leading lines and adjust the camera to shoot directly down at the ground, using roads, rivers, fields, and trees to bring an exciting element to the shot. Most people haven’t seen their local areas from the sky and when looking down it can be really different and eye-opening.
Know The Rules
Most important of all is to know the rules and regulations that surround the use of drones, whether for commercial or recreational purposes. That’s because the use of drones has a particularly bad reputation around the issue of an individual’s privacy. Hence, contact your local authorities to learn about the regulations of using a drone in the area and let them know where you’re planning on going so that when authorities approach you there, you can say that you’ve already taken permission.