written by:
Elaine Li



Drones have been getting immensely popular, as drone-makers make it cheaper and smaller to reach the masses. Drone Photography provides a whole new perspective and enables photographers to get angles they couldn’t ever imagine. I own a family of drones – Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic Pro, and Spark. Although it seems easy to reach for the stars (literally) in photography through the lens of a drone, there are some things that you need to be aware of. Here are my tips for droning:

1# Safety first!

Just like you put on the seatbelt right away when you sit in a car, safety is needed with any vehicle, be it land or aerial. Make sure you do enough research on the drone you own, the restrictions in the area you’re flying, especially for first timers. Things like height restrictions, NFZs (No Fly Zones), and whether there are helipads or helicopter routes nearby. This is really important, and can potentially be extremely dangerous if the helicopter crashes into your drone – or the other way round. There were several cases where photographers flew directly above helipads, which resulted in much more stringent drone laws. Fly to enjoy, don’t ruin it for others in your drone community.

2# Google Map is your best friend.

Before flying, I always look extensively on Google Map with the Satellite view to scout out locations. You might find something unexpected, like interesting city grids or structures. The current drones usually have a battery life of 30 minutes, so it helps to orchestrate a route map on Google Maps before flying. One to save battery, the other is to avoid stress when you’re on the go.

3# Turn on the Grid.

It’s helpful to turn on the grid when taking photos. Shooting with the drone and with a camera is a vastly different experience. With a camera, it’s in your hands, you’re in complete control, and you have a sense of whether the photo is balanced or not. But with drones, that’s not always the case. Turning on the grid helps to make sure the photos are compositionally on point.

#4 Low ISO, no problems.

When droning at night, try to maintain a low ISO to avoid unwanted noise. When shooting with low ISO, you naturally have to use a long shutter speed to compensate for low light. The drones are already very stable thanks to the gimble, but there is always a chance of sudden gusts of wind that throw you off track. For night drone photography, I always shoot in Multiples of 3, in case one or two of them get blurry and all your effort goes down the drain. Here’s a sample, where the left two photos are slightly blurry and the bigger one works perfectly:

5# Find a bag that resonates with you and your needs.

The reason my favorite drone is the Mavic Pro is because it has just the right balance between convenience and portability versus image quality. I use a Manfrotto Manhattan Messenger bag to carry my Mavic Pro. It has just the right amount of space and protection for the Mavic, the remote control, and extra accessories I bring such as battery, sunshade, signal booster and ND filters.

Elaine Li

Hong Kong

Elaine is a Hong Kong-based art director and freelance photographer. She specializes in city and street photography, and is known for her urban exploration and rooftopping work. With her passion in photography and power of social media, she has garnered over 150k following on Instagram, and work with a variety of brands as a social influencer.

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