Do’s and Don’ts of first-time drone piloting for photographers


Do: Take drone selfies!!

As more and more people find out I’m a Drone Girl, more photographer people want to get into drones for aerial photography purposes themselves! Drone World is uncharted territory so there is no right way to do something, but here is some Drone Girl advice for where to start.

Don’t invest in a lot initially. You will crash. You might lose it in a tree (true story for a later date). You will lose control of it. Your propellers will break.

Do invest in a cheap drone to get the flying basics down. Piloting these things require intense hand-eye coordination. ‘Yaw left! Roll right!’ What does that stuff even mean? Well you can practice how to control it, and learn all that fancy terminology, on a drone you won’t feel bad breaking, because trust me, you will. How about this lil guy that looks like a UFO, from the Amazon toy section.
And for the record, I still don’t know what yaw left means.

Don’t cheap out when you’re buying the real deal. You can buy cheaper drones that look similar at places like Brookstone, but just know you get what you pay for, and the quality or ability to upgrade camera capabilities probably won’t be a thing.

Do buy a good quality drone. As cliché as it is, you really do get what you pay for when it comes to drones. I’m someone who wants a drone that works out of the box, so I’d recommend something like the 3D Robotics Iris or the DJI Phantom.

Do buy a GoPro. I’m obsessed with them. You can chuck them off buildings and send them underwater, and they’re foolproof. They shoot HD quality video and can connect to your SmartPhone. Fancy!

Don’t get last season’s model. You can totally buy last season’s jeans (jeans have been the same since gold-miner days, so who cares?), but this season’s GoPro is so much better. It could cost $100 more, but the enormous difference in image quality is so worth it.

Don’t fly over people. We all saw the poor groom who got hit by a drone in a wedding portrait session gone wrong, or more seriously the drone that fell from the sky during the bull run.

Do fly in stunning, unpopulated environments. Take a leaf out of the book of pilots like the Wild Pilots, who started filming in really cool landscapes like Death Valley and Sequoia National Park.

Don’t forget what you learned in photo class. Rule of thirds and flying at golden hour is a good start. Uploading your entire take of footage without editing it down to the best shots is not a good start.

Do meet up with other drone pilots. Chances are, they know way more than you – and me. They can teach you all this technical stuff like flying in altitude mode vs GPS mode, how to fly First Person View (you put on these weird Goggles that resemble X-Men’s Cyclops…though there is absolutely nothing wrong with resembling James Marsden as Cyclops), which you’ll need to learn if you want to get better.

Do have an optimistic outlook toward positive drone use. And do send me links, comments and your thoughts on drone use.

Happy flying!

-Drone Girl

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My story: why I believe drones can assist with journalism
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