The following is a guest post by Chams Edhia Riahi, a drone enthusiast and founder of The Drone Logic. This is the first in a three-part series about drones and wedding photography. Read part two here, and read part three here.
As drone photography and videography continues to gain popularity, some wedding photographers are starting to offer drone footage in addition to standard footage. Professional drone operators are becoming more and more in demand, either through an already-established traditional photography business or as a stand-alone service.
Offering drone photography as part of a wedding photography package can easily help you stand out in a crowded market of wedding photographers. After all, an aerial shot can serve as a stunningly unique addition to what are already your elegant wedding photo albums.
But before you start using drones to photograph weddings, there are a few critical things you need to know:
1. Avoid Indoor Locations
While every bridal couple wants a unique picture and beautiful aerial shots, remember that not all venues are drone-friendly. Indoor or tented locations are much more risky to fly in than outdoor locations: you’ll likely be faced with more obstacles and limited area to fly, such as ceilings, fans and light fixtures. Noise is also typically more noticeable indoors.
And the biggest problem with flying indoors? Increased risk of magnetic interference. To avoid magnetic interference problems, you’ll need to turn off all sensors, obstacle avoidance and visual positioning, as well as forego IMU and compass calibration. Basically, you’ll be flying in all manual mode, which is incredibly difficult for most pilots.
That said, sometimes flying indoors is unavoidable. Luckily, there are increasingly more drones designed for flying indoors. They just tend to not offer as high image quality (though the Avata drone is the best of the bunch).
One more note of caution: even if you are outdoors, you aren’t totally obstacle-free. Avoid areas with a large number of mature trees, and areas with low-hanging wires. For the best results, choose open outdoor areas, including countryside or island settings, like this beach wedding:
Don’t be afraid to say “No” to gigs at potentially unsafe locations.
2. Know your focus methods
The two basic autofocus system modes on drone cameras are single and continuous. Continuous mode tends to work better for aerial photography and moving targets because it continually focuses on your subjects. However, single AF mode is usually sufficient while hovering because it automatically focuses and locks onto your target image until you take your shot.
3. Limit use during the main ceremony
No matter the quality, most drones are not silent. While some have quieter moving parts than others, keep in mind that a drone may cause disruptions to the wedding ceremony or festivities. Even if noise is not a factor, guests can still be disrupted or easily startled by a drone dropping out of the sky unexpectedly as it tries to get the perfect angle.
While aerial shots are definitely unique and breath-taking, they also take extra time to capture. Since they can be very distracting, avoid drone use during the actual wedding ceremony. Instead, get a wide shot of the venue before the wedding, or stick to just filming during the reception where the drone will not detract from the special day.
If you need a drone to capture ceremony shots, consider capturing the close-up shots during the rehearsal, but limit its use to wide shots during the actual ceremony.
4. Watch the weather
Drones are an expensive and fragile piece of electronic equipment (and most aren’t waterproof!), meaning inclement will severely limit – if not cancel – operations. Avoid flying in high wind or drizzle. Follow the weather forecast, and cease operations in the even of snowfall, rain, high winds or lighting. Make sure you have in writing in your contract the ability to cancel the flight if the weather is bad.
5. Know your ISO
For the perfect aerial shot no matter the lighting conditions, use your drone’s ISO settings properly. ISO controls how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light. Using the lowest ISO ensures the highest resolution possible for your images. (However, it is not recommended that you go below the lowest rating offered by your specific drone camera.)
Below are a few basic ISO recommendations based on lighting conditions and subjects:
Low ISO (100-200)
- Outdoor subjects in sunlight
- Landscape or indoor stationary subjects (when accompanied by a tripod)
- Provides maximum image quality
Medium ISO (250-400)
- Scenery with dull lighting
- Movement in good lighting conditions
- Good for hand-held candid images
High ISO Settings (500-800)
- Poorly-lit areas
- Concerts and night photography
- Fast movement in dull or indoor lighting
6. Have insurance
Even with optimal preparation and skill, accidents still happen, and professional drones are expensive. Touch bases with some of your local insurance companies to see if they carry drone insurance. Some policies have special requirements like certain permits or flight certifications. Drone insurance policies such as the one offered by DroneInsurance.com allow you to insure against ground-based liabilities, and then purchase flight liability coverage on-demand, for as little as a day or as long as a year. Here is a quick guide to drone insurance.
7. Check permits ahead of time
Permits and regulations vary greatly state to state, city to city, and venue to venue. Always check with the selected venue ahead of time to ensure you have everything in order (some places do not allow drone use over private property). If the venue is near an airport, you may not be able to fly, and National Parks never allow drone usage. Do your homework. Check out the FAA’s website for more information on U.S. drone laws, or use this guide to find out if you can legally fly at that particular venue.
–By Chams Edhia Riahi
Following his passion and ambition for writing and technology, Chams Edhia started TheDroneLogic.com, an authority site where he writes about the best drones on the market, tips on how to fly them and other industry announcements.