Drone Photography Pros & Cons: A Practical Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. What is drone photography?
  2. Pros of drone photography
  3. Cons of drone photography
  4. How to choose a drone for photography
  5. Tips for capturing stunning drone photos
  6. Ethics and legalities of drone photography
  7. How to edit drone photos
  8. Drone photography gear recommendations

Drone photography might seem like a new trend, but it's been gaining ground in the world of photography for a while now. And for good reason — there are some significant advantages of using drones in photography. But as with anything, there are also some disadvantages. In this practical guide, we'll explore both the pros and cons of drone photography, and you'll discover some handy tips and gear recommendations to help you get the most out of your drone photography experience.

What is drone photography?

Simply put, drone photography is the act of capturing still images or videos using a camera attached to a flying drone. Think of it as a bird's eye view of the world. The drone, which is a small unmanned aircraft, allows photographers to reach heights and angles that would be impossible or extremely difficult with traditional photography methods.

Drone photography is popular in various fields, from real estate to wedding photography. For instance, real estate agents use drones to capture aerial shots of properties and their surrounding areas — a clever way to show potential buyers a unique perspective. At weddings, photographers capture stunning overhead shots of the ceremony and reception, creating memorable and unique photos.

However, while the advantages of using drones in photography can be exciting, there are also some downsides. Before you jump on the drone photography bandwagon, it's important to understand these trade-offs. For example, drones can be expensive and require a learning curve to operate effectively. Plus, there are legal and ethical considerations to keep in mind when flying a drone.

But don't let these potential drawbacks discourage you! With the right knowledge and preparation — which we'll cover in the following sections — you can leverage the advantages and minimize the disadvantages of using drones in photography.

Pros of drone photography

The most obvious advantage of drone photography is the unique perspective it offers. A drone allows you to capture images from angles and heights that are simply not possible with a standard camera. You can get overhead shots, bird's-eye views, and stunning panoramas that can truly elevate your photography game. This can add a whole new level of depth and interest to your photos, helping them stand out in a sea of standard ground-level shots.

Another advantage is the ability to access difficult or even impossible-to-reach areas. Whether it's a steep mountain cliff, a dense forest, or the middle of a cityscape, a drone can go places you can't. This opens up countless opportunities for unique and creative shots.

Drone photography can also save you time and effort. Instead of climbing trees or buildings to get a high vantage point, you can simply fly your drone to the desired height. This not only makes your job easier but also allows you to work more efficiently. And who doesn't love that?

Finally, another advantage of using drones in photography is the sheer fun of it. Let's face it: flying a drone is pretty cool. It's not just about capturing amazing photos — it's also about enjoying the process. It's like playing a video game, but with real-world benefits. Plus, it's a great conversation starter. Who knows? You might just inspire someone else to explore the world of drone photography.

Cons of drone photography

While there are many advantages of using drones in photography, there are also some downsides to consider. The first and foremost is the cost. Drones, especially those with high-quality cameras, can be expensive. Not only do you have to invest in the drone itself, but also in spare parts, batteries, and sometimes even insurance. This can add up quickly, making it a significant investment.

Another disadvantage is the learning curve. Flying a drone isn't as simple as pressing a button. It requires practice and skill. Not only do you have to learn how to control the drone, but also how to compose and capture good shots from the air. This can be challenging, especially for beginners. And let's not forget about the potential for crashes. They can happen, and they can be costly!

Drones also come with some legal and ethical considerations. In many places, you'll need a permit to fly a drone, especially in populated areas or near airports. There are also privacy concerns to consider. Not everyone is comfortable with a drone flying overhead, potentially capturing them in photos or videos. It's important to respect people's privacy and follow the rules.

Last but not least, drones are limited by their battery life. Most drones can only fly for about 20-30 minutes before they need to be recharged. This can limit the amount of time you have to capture the perfect shot. Plus, changing batteries mid-flight can be a hassle.

So, while drone photography can offer unique opportunities and perspectives, it's not without its challenges. It's all about weighing the pros and cons and deciding if it's the right fit for you.

How to choose a drone for photography

Choosing the right drone for your photography needs can be a daunting task. However, knowing what to look for can make the process much smoother. Here are some key factors to consider:

Image Quality: The most important factor to consider is the quality of the camera. Look for drones that have high-resolution cameras and can shoot in RAW format. This will give you the best quality images and allow for more flexibility in post-processing. Brands like DJI and Parrot are known for their excellent camera quality.

Budget: Determine how much you're willing to spend. Drones can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the features and quality. It's important to set a budget before you start shopping to avoid overspending.

Flight Time: As mentioned earlier, most drones have a flight time of around 20-30 minutes. If you're planning on shooting for extended periods, consider a drone with a longer battery life or invest in extra batteries.

Control Range: The control range is the distance at which you can control the drone. If you plan to take photos from high altitudes or far distances, you'll need a drone with a wide control range.

Stability and Ease of Use: Especially if you're a beginner, you'll want a drone that's easy to fly and has good stability in the air. Look for features like GPS and obstacle avoidance, which can help prevent crashes.

Size and Portability: If you'll be traveling with your drone, consider its size and weight. Some drones are foldable, making them more portable.

Remember, the best drone for you depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Consider these factors, do your research, and you'll be well on your way to capturing stunning aerial photos!

Tips for capturing stunning drone photos

Now that you've chosen your drone, it's time to fly—and snap some incredible photos. Here are some tips to help you take your drone photography to the next level:

Plan Your Shoot: Before you take off, plan your shooting session. Determine what you want to capture, the best time of day to shoot, and any potential obstacles in the area. This will save you time and battery life in the air.

Experiment with Angles: One of the biggest advantages of using drones in photography is the ability to capture shots from unique angles. Don't limit yourself to just high altitude shots—try low angles, side shots, or even straight down for a bird's eye view. The sky's the limit!

Use the Rule of Thirds: This is a basic photography rule that can improve the composition of your photos. Imagine your frame divided into nine equal parts by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Try to place your main subject along these lines or at their intersections.

Be Aware of the Light: Like in all photography, lighting is crucial in drone photography. The best times to shoot are the golden hours—early morning or late afternoon when the sun is low and the light is soft. This can add depth and drama to your photos.

Practice Makes Perfect: Finally, don't be discouraged if your first few flights don't result in stunning photos. Drone photography has a learning curve, and it's normal to make mistakes at first. Keep practicing, and you'll get the hang of it!

With these tips in your toolkit, you're well on your way to capturing some truly stunning drone photos. Whether it's a breathtaking landscape or a unique perspective on a familiar subject, the possibilities are endless. Happy flying!

Ethics and legalities of drone photography

As fun and exciting as drone photography can be, it's important to remember that there are rules and ethics to consider before you take to the skies. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Respect Privacy: One of the major disadvantages of using drones in photography is the potential invasion of privacy. Always avoid flying over private property or people without their permission. It's not just about being a good neighbor—it's also about respecting people's rights.

Follow Drone Laws: Did you know that different countries—and even different states within the same country—have different drone laws? These can include restrictions on where and when you can fly, as well as mandatory registration of your drone. Make sure to do your homework and understand the rules where you are flying.

Never Disturb Wildlife: It can be tempting to get that perfect shot of a bird in flight or a deer in the forest, but remember: animals can be easily disturbed by drones. It's best to keep a safe distance and never disturb their natural behaviors. You wouldn't like a drone buzzing around your head, would you?

Fly Safely: Lastly, always prioritize safety. This means maintaining a line of sight with your drone, not flying in bad weather, and being aware of potential obstacles. Remember, it's better to miss a shot than to crash your drone or, worse, cause an accident.

Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. Drone photography can offer a fresh perspective and endless creative opportunities, but it's important to respect the rules and ethics that come with it. After all, we're all here to enjoy the beauty of our world, not to spoil it.

How to edit drone photos

Okay, you've flown your drone and captured some awesome shots. Now, what's next? It's time to polish those images and truly bring out their potential. Here's a step-by-step guide to editing drone photos:

Step 1: Choose the Right Software: There are many photo editing tools available, but some popular ones include Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. For beginners, Lightroom offers an easy-to-use interface and powerful editing tools. Photoshop, on the other hand, is great when you need to dive into more detailed edits.

Step 2: Correct Exposure and White Balance: Start your editing process by correcting the exposure and white balance. Drones often capture images that are either too bright or too dark due to changing lighting conditions. Similarly, the white balance can sometimes be off, resulting in images with a blue or yellow tint. Both these issues can be easily fixed with the right editing software.

Step 3: Enhance Colors and Contrast: This is where you can really make your drone photos pop. Boosting the saturation can make the colors more vibrant, while increasing contrast can add depth to an image. But remember—less is often more. It's about enhancing the natural beauty of the shot, not creating a neon-colored spectacle.

Step 4: Sharpen and Add Detail: Drone photos, especially those taken from high altitudes, can sometimes lack detail. Using the sharpening tool in your editing software can help bring out the finer details in your image. Just be careful not to overdo it or your photo might start to look grainy.

Step 5: Crop and Compose: Finally, consider cropping the image to improve its composition. Maybe there's a distracting element at the edge of the frame, or perhaps the main subject isn't quite in the center. A little cropping can go a long way in creating a more balanced and visually pleasing image.

Remember, editing is an art form in itself. It can take some time to master, but with patience and practice, you can significantly enhance the quality of your drone photos. Happy editing!

Drone photography gear recommendations

Now that we've looked at the advantages and disadvantages of using drones in photography, as well as editing your drone photos, let's talk about the gear you'll need to get started. Here are some recommendations:

1. The Drone: It's a no-brainer, right? But not all drones are created equal. For beginners, the DJI Mavic Mini is a great choice. It's compact, easy to use, and captures high-quality photos. If you're more experienced and looking for something more advanced, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro offers excellent image quality, superior flight time, and advanced features.

2. Extra Batteries: The average drone battery lasts around 20-30 minutes. If you plan on spending a day out in the field, you're going to need more power. So, investing in a couple of extra batteries is wise.

3. A Good Camera Bag: Drones, especially the folding ones, are quite portable. However, you still need a safe and efficient way to carry your drone, extra batteries, controller, and any other accessories. A sturdy, well-padded backpack designed for drone photography can make a world of difference.

4. ND Filters: Think of these as sunglasses for your drone's camera. ND filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera, allowing for more control over the exposure in bright conditions. They can also help create smoother, more cinematic footage.

5. A Landing Pad: Landing pads provide a clear, clean surface for your drone to take off from and land on. This can be especially useful when flying in dirty or sandy environments.

Remember, the best gear for you depends on your specific needs, budget, and level of expertise. The key is to start with the basics and gradually add to your kit as you gain more experience and confidence in your drone photography skills.

If you enjoyed this practical guide on drone photography and are looking for ways to showcase your aerial shots on social media, check out 'Navigating Social Media As A Photographer' workshop by Bryony Coles. This workshop will provide you with tips and strategies to effectively promote your drone photography on various social media platforms and attract the right audience to your work.