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Drones Made the Impossible, Possible

Drone photography and videography have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and we have been incorporating it often with our clients, especially in architectural shoots. Drone has allowed us to capture a newer perspective that was not possible before. We asked our drone photographer and pilot, Kevin Averill, a few questions about drone photography, how he got started, and some tips for anyone interested in learning more about drone photography.

We'll start with one of Kevin’s favorite drone photos that kickstarted his drone career with Rob-Harris Productions. The cover image of this blog post is one of my favorite images because it was the first drone image I took as the drone operator for RHP. I was new to this career, and it wasn’t a priority shot, but I was determined to capture something. It was starting to storm, and my chance of getting the image was dwindling, but just before sunset, I had a small enough break to get the shot. It ended up being the image our client has used to market the community to this day.

Kevin, let’s start with some of the basics. What differences are there between drone photography and “on the ground” photography?

The biggest difference is that anyone can take a camera and capture images commercially, but to be a commercial drone pilot, you have to be specifically licensed and follow strict protocol in adherence with federal regulations. Since drones are such a new technology, there are particular laws to follow when launching. We sometimes need to obtain clearance from local airports, and we have to fly within a certain distance from take-off point. Some areas are “no fly zones” (i.e. stadiums, national parks, near military bases or airports, over theme parks, etc.).

As far as the quality of the final product, not much beyond the inability to add extra lights while using a drone, although, there are several more factors to take into account when shooting drone vs ground. Drone operation is 100% weather dependent. We can photoshop the sky, but that doesn’t change the fact that drones won’t fly when there is severe wind or even a little rain.

So, why should an organization invest in drone photography?

Drone photos and videos allow for a new perspective that was otherwise unachievable. When most people hear drones, they assume aerial, but that is only a fraction of what drones enable us to do. Drones have replaced expensive helicopter rentals, but they also allow us to capture images from heights and locations that were previously inaccessible including from tops of buildings, aerials looking down, and images of landscape and community lifestyle.

The drone has become another tool in our tool box. I think of it less as a drone and more as a vehicle for the camera. It’s a way to move the camera in various ways that previously required numerous pieces of expensive equipment such as jibs, cranes, dollies, and helicopters. It enables us to capture cinematic quality footage on a public access budget.

“A vehicle for the camera.” I like that. How do you pick the right drone to begin with?

It’s less about the drone, and more about the camera on the drone. Certain drones have specific camera capabilities. DJI is one of the leading UAV (drone) producers specifically built with the cameras in mind, so we tend to stick to their product line. It comes down to having the best lens and camera on the drone to ensure we can capture the high quality imagery our clients are accustomed to.

Got it! When preparing for a drone shoot, do you have a specific preflight checklist you use?

Preparing mostly comes down to making sure batteries are charged, the drone is in working order, and having backup plans. Preflight is making sure any authorizations are approved, props are secured to the drone, there is nothing in the vicinity that could impede the flight, and that the drone spotter is ready to assist in watching for obstructions. We also try to give any people in the area a heads up that there will be a drone flying so they don’t think someone is spying on them.

What are three pieces of advice you’d give to someone just starting drone photography?

  1. Learn all you can about video and photography first. Flying the drone is the easier part, but learning to capture high quality imagery takes time.

  2. Practice makes perfect, and the more you practice, the more you learn what works or what doesn’t.

  3. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s the best way to learn.

Those are great pieces of advice, even if you aren’t flying drones :) If you’re looking for drone photography or videography for your organization, Kevin and our team are ready to bring your vision to life. Click here and contact us to get the ball rolling. We’ll shoot anything that won’t shoot back!