Drone Photography Buying Guide

What are the Most Important Features to Look For?

By: Scott Wilkinson


Whether you are an experienced photographer or an aspiring Instagram influencer, adding aerial photography and video to your toolbox can give your work a serious boost, not to mention how fun they can be to fly.

So, what exactly is the best drone? It depends on what you plan to do with it.

What You Plan on Using the Drone For Matters.

Just like any photography equipment, how you plan to use a drone is very important in answering the question, “which is the best drone?” Everyone can agree that the Canon 1DX III is a great camera, but is it the best? Well, if you are doing street photography, maybe you want something a bit more discreet. The situation, to some extent, determines which camera is best.

Same goes for drones.

Are you planning on using it for travel photography? You may want a smaller drone that fits in a carry-on bag. Are you planning on using video as well as photos? Find one with a gimbal.

Though it isn’t possible to say definitively which is the best drone for everyone, I can explain some of the major features and how they can affect performance in a variety of situations and help you pick the drone that works best for you.

Image Quality Is Key to Picking the Right Drone (Obviously)

Image quality is one of the main factors to focus on when choosing the best drone for photography. While there are drones that allow you to mount a full-sized DSLR camera, for this article, I’m going to focus on drones with integrated camera systems.

Most prosumer and entry-level professional drones have cameras with fixed lenses and sensors slightly larger than those found on smartphones.

For example, the iPhone uses a sensor that is 1/3 inch [17mm2]. Compare this to drones from DJI, such as the Mavic Pro, Phantom 4, and Spark, which use a 1/2.3 inch [28mm2] sensor, and the Phantom 4 Advanced or Pro models which have a 1.0 inch [116mm2] sensor. Compare this to a full-frame sensor which has an area of 864mm2, and you can get an idea of the types of sensors available.

Though most drones have sensors substantially smaller than full-frame DSLR cameras, they are more than capable of delivering exceptional photographs in conditions with sufficient lighting.

For more advanced photographers, especially if you use professional editing software such as Lightroom, you will also want to choose a drone that shoots in a raw format, for example, the DNG format used in DJI drones—just like with a DSLR, shooting in raw format with a drone gives you extra control over the editing process and can allow you to pull more out of photos shot in lower lighting.

Should You Go for The Full 4K Video?

4k video or 1080p? 24fps or 60fps? Again, it all depends on what you plan on using the drone for.

For most video, 24fps will provide smooth footage, especially for static shots or flyovers made with a straight flight path. If you plan on using slow motion or action shots with lots of twists and turns, you may want something closer to 60fps.

As far as resolution, I always prefer 4k, but probably not for the reason you think. 90% of the work I upload is in 1080p or below. But, I like to use 4k because it allows me to crop, “zoom,” and edit to my heart’s desire and export to a full 1080p video.

If you don’t plan on doing a lot of post-production, 1080p is probably more than enough.

Does the Drone Hover in Place and Make Smooth Movements?

Blurry subjects can make or break a great photo or video, which is why it is essential to have a drone that can fly smoothly and hover in place steadily.

Having a gimbal can help somewhat, but nothing is going to save a photograph if the drone is continuously rocking back and forth in flight. Same goes for videos. We all want our videos to be silky smooth. It’s hard to make these shots if the drone is jerking when you try to make a turn or if it is wobbling while performing a flyover.

In my experience, DJI has, by far, the best flight control system for ensuring smooth flying and stationary hovering.

Size Is A Big Factor When Buying A Drone.

As a travel lover and avid photographer, I always want to bring my newest toys tools with me whenever I travel, and I always have to consider size when making a decision on which gear to buy. Drones are no different.

Smaller drones are going to be a better choice if you plan to take your drone on vacation and are only able to take one or two suitcases. But smaller isn’t always better.

Many higher-end drones are quite large and weigh several pounds. While these wont be fitting into the overhead compartment on your next flight, they do offer some distinct advantages over their smaller counterparts. Larger drones are able to carry larger cameras, meaning larger sensors and better low-light performance, as well as larger batteries, which provides longer flight times. Heavier drones also have a leg up when it comes to stability in less-than-ideal flying conditions and are much easier to maneuver when flying in the wind.

One last thing to consider is the weight. In the US, any drone that weighs 250 grams or more must be registered with the authorities. So, it is no coincidence that mini-drones such as DJI’s Mavic Mini come in at a very light 249 grams.

Flight Time Isn’t as Important as You Think.

Many drones, even professional ones, have limited flight times. Typically drones have a flight time of 15 to 30 minutes on a single charge. And, while that may not seem like a lot, I have found that flight time is not as important as I thought.

What is important is having extra batteries. Think of it like this: Even if you are creating videos with your drone, rarely will you ever need a single shot that lasts longer than a few minutes. You are more likely to send the drone up several times to take several different shots. Simply replace the battery when it gets low and voila.

Many drone companies offer special accessory packages, like the DJI Fly More Combo, which include multiple additional batteries for a discounted price.

Special Features May Tip the Balance.

So, you’ve gotten this far. You know everything there is to know about picking the best drone for your needs, right? Well, not exactly. The devil, as they say, is in the details. Maybe after reviewing the specs of several drones, multiple models tick all of the boxes on your wish list of size, image quality, and price. But don’t forget to look at the extras that each drone offers

Basic drones may have decent cameras but lack subject tracking capabilities, making it difficult to capture moving targets. If you are taking selfies, you may want to find a drone that offers hand gesture controls rather than using a videogame-style controller.

There are drones that us AI to lock on to a subject and follow them throughout the duration of a shot; there are drones that include dozens of sensors to avoid crashing or flying too far from the pilot; there are even drones that have unique controls for racing and performing tricks such as barrel rolls and flips.

By looking not only at the image quality but also the quality-of-life features, you should be able to pick the perfect drone that fits your unique needs.

Mavic aerial drone for photography

Six Helpful Tips For Beginner Drone Photographers

Mavic aerial drone for photography

Thanks to rapidly advancing technology, it has never been easier to capture amazing aerial images and videos of the world’s most beautiful places. Even a very basic drone can produce some of the most breathtaking photography you have ever seen. And, just like many could have predicted, a drone that is basically a remote-controlled toy for those obsessed with photos and videos is just as much fun to fly as it is to capture images. 

When you are just getting started on drone photography, it might seem a little overwhelming. Luckily we have compiled a list of some great tips to not only help you get a good start with a brand new drone but excel in drone photography!

1. Pick a drone that will suit your needs and your skills

As you probably already know, there are hundreds if not thousands of different drones out on the market to choose from. So what kind of drone should you consider getting for yourself? There are two basic types of drones, those with built-in cameras, and those that are not. Drones with built-in cameras are usually larger, and their cameras are often unable to be upgraded. This means that you are stuck with whatever quality (good or bad) the camera gives you. 

Other drones that allow you to attach your own camera, like a GoPro, could be a little easier to handle as you will already know how to run your camera. These might also be cheaper, but these types of drones will not allow you to see what your drone sees as many that have their own built-in camera allow you to do. 

2. Read the Instruction Manual and Learn to Use Your Drone

It’s no secret that everybody hates to read the instruction manual, but with something like a drone, it is important to know how to use it before you ever try flying it. The instruction manual will have everything you need to know about your drone and give you the basics of how to use it. It will also answer any questions you might have, and let you know what your drone can and can’t do. This could save you valuable time, as you will avoid having to learn everything the hard way. The last you want to do is wreck your new drone because you did not know how to fly it correctly!

3. Learn All of the Local, State, and Federal Drone Rules and Regulations

With all of the popularity of drones, there has been a lot of new rules and regulations on how, where, and who can pilot one. For example, here in the United States, anything weighing 0.55 to 55 pounds requires a Federal Aviation Administration registration. It is a simple process, but one that must be done to legally fly a drone of that size.

You must also be aware of where you can and cannot fly your drone. Places like airports are obviously no-fly zones, but there are others as well. Every country and province has varying laws, so it is best to study and learn any and all rules and regulations before you put your drone in the air. 

4. Edit Your Photos After Flying

Capturing the images from a drone is only half the battle, and you should make it a habit of going through and processing all of your photos after a flight. Whether it is color correcting images that you are unhappy with, or editing something out of a shot, editing the photos from your drone can be just as important as what you are doing when you are flying. 

While drone images look great, they need editing in order to really make them shine. This entire process can take just as much practice and learn as flying and capturing the images takes. Even if you already have experience in photo editing, editing images taken from a drone high in the sky are often very different than other types of photography. While it may be tedious work, every good drone photographer carefully edits all of their images!

5. Have the Proper Gear and Accessories

Just like any professional camera, a drone has different gear and accessories that you may want to bring to make your shooting much more enjoyable. Some of these include extra batteries, spare propellers and propeller guards, and empty SD cards. These are just some of the basic gear items that you might want to consider bringing whenever you fly your drone, as each one could come in handy should you need them. Once you got the basics put together, you can start to expand and acquire more advanced gear and accessories for your photoshoots. 

6. Properly Prepare Before a Flight

Before sending your drone off into the air, it would be a good idea to take a note out of the pilots’ notebook and go over a pre-flight checklist. A simple checklist will ensure that you not only have everything you need in order to fly but that you and your drone will be able to fly safely. Some things to check before taking off could be the fly zone, weather conditions, surroundings, drone settings, and battery life. A quick check of some of these factors could not only save you a lot of time and trouble, it could also save you from costly damages to you and your drone!

Final Thoughts

Drone photography can be a great way to expand on your photography and open up an entirely new world of possibilities. While it may seem like a challenge to get started, it doesn’t have to be. By following these simple tips, even a beginner can hit the skies with confidence and come home with some incredible images and a newfound love for drones and ariel photography. 

Real Estate Drone Photography

The Importance of Drones In The Real Estate Photography Market!

Real Estate Drone Photography
Real Estate Drone Photography

The importance of professional photography for success in real-estate

There is no way to go around it – photography sells real estate! Beautiful, engaging, professional photographs attract potential buyers, exude quality, and virtually guarantee success!

According to recent studies by the National Association of Realtors, homes with professional photographs sell 30% faster. Additional photographs increase your chances as well – a house with one photo spends more than 70 days on the market, while one with at least 10 photos spends less than half of it. Professional quality real estate photographs also raise the perceived value of the property – houses in the $200k-$1million range sold for $7k more, on average than those with lower quality photos.

For these reasons and more, investing in professional real estate photography is a no-brainer!

What sets drone photography apart?

Aerial photography via drone opens up a new and exciting world for real-estate photography. New angles, better views, unique compositions – these are all possible with the help of drone technology. Drone photographs offer humans a radically new perspective on their subject as it allows us to see things and places from angles that are otherwise inaccessible to our own eyesight.

So, by employing professional drone photography in your real-estate marketing efforts you can easily capitalize on this factor of uniqueness. Not only this but you will show potential customers you’re in line with the latest hot technology, you’re invested in always improving your activity and reaching new heights, and ultimately – show that you mean business.

Unique types of real-estate photos that drone photography can deliver

What drone photography delivers today could only be achieved in the past when real-estate agencies or developers hired expensive helicopters. Now, all that great content is more accessible than ever.

First and foremost, through drone photography, you can create and deliver an impressive aerial tour of the property. This gives a holistic overview while still allowing us to focus on areas that are more interesting or beautiful. It will surely delight any potential buyer.

Another option is the classic cardinal stills. This process means dividing the 360 views of the property into 8 equal parts, then taking a still shot from each of the 8 resulting points, the first one is perfectly aligned with the front of the house.

A unique type of presentation that can be done through drones is the inside to outside presentation. In this scenario the drone starts inside the property and is flown in a panning shot, exiting the property and flying away, up in the air. Imagine it as a kind of zooming out on the house, starting with the interior and finishing with an all-encompassing, beautiful shot of the exterior.

Through professional drone photography, you can easily highlight features of the real estate property quite inaccessible otherwise. Does it have a cool, large pool, with a unique shape? No problem! Is the property located near a breath-taking marina or a hot beach you’ve got it! Is the property surrounded by a beautiful pine forest that offers fresh air, comfort, and intimacy – highlight it with ease!

These are just a couple of the exciting options at your disposal when contracting the services of a professional drone real-estate photography company like us. There are many more cool features we can share with you. For that, just send us an email at hhphotography@dronephotographywi.com or give us a call. We’d be happy to cater to your needs with everything from classic promos to unique, customized presentations tailor-made for you!