The following is a guest post by Chams Edhia Riahi, a drone enthusiast and founder of The Drone Logic. This is the second in a three-part series about drones and wedding photography. Read part one here, and read part three here.
Wedding moments are not repeatable, so you want to ensure a high-quality, easy to use drone that won’t leave you wishing you could have a “do-over.”
Drones used specifically for aerial photography and video recording are naturally going to be higher-quality (and price tag) than those used by beginners or hobbyists. So before you invest money on a drone for your photography research, know what you’re buying.
Before settling on a drone, know your specs and what you should look for when shopping for quality, professional wedding photography drones:
Specs to consider before purchasing a wedding photography drone:
Image and Zoom Quality
The main component in determining image quality is the sensor. The iPhone 7 has a sensor that is 1/3” in diameter; whereas a high-end aerial photography drone has a 1” sensor. The larger the sensor, the better the image quality, especially noticeably in low light.
To ensure crisp, sharp footage, get the fastest lens possible. Shutter speed is the most influential factor in reducing blur (with drones, both the camera and subject will be moving, increasing the potential for blurry images). Aim for shutter speeds around 1/1,000 at 200mm or 1/500 at 100mm to reduce blur
A long lens is also recommended for a variety of shots or if a greater distance from the subject is needed. A lens with 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom is a good option.
The longer flight time you have, the more time you have to capture photos or footage. Most professional drones have a flight time of 20 to 30 minutes.
Since you likely won’t have to fly particularly far, getting 1 or 2 extra batteries should be enough to quickly swap batteries. Batteries typically cost around $150.
Beyond that, remember to charge your batteries one night before the wedding, and to make sure you place a fully charged battery before shooting important moments.
Support for RAW Format
The majority of photographers use Lightroom or Photoshop for image and footage manipulation, so be sure that your drone supports RAW or DGN formats. Remember that RAW files are huge in comparison to compressed file formats like PNG or JPEG. Make sure to buy spare MicroSD cards, or bring a wireless SSD, to have sufficient storage for your files.
Hovering Capabilities and Stability
Most professional drones will have hovering and location lock capabilities. But if you opt for a cheap toy drone and don’t otherwise have extremely precise flying skills, your images will be unwieldy and possible blurry.
Look for a drone with a 3-axis gimbal to get professional-grade footage (a camera drone gimbal is a support system that has the ability to keep the camera stable while the drone is moving and rotating). Gimbals also provide extra image and angle control by allowing you to swivel and pivot effortlessly.
No one wants to hear a drone buzz around as a couple professes their undying love for each other. Smaller motors produce less sound than larger ones. For a high quality drone with minimal noise, consider the DJI Mavic Pro Platinum, which upgraded the original Mavic Pro via FOC sinusoidal driver ESCs and 8331 propellers for a quieter flight experience.
The best professional wedding photography drones of 2019:
If you want the safest possible flying experience: DJI Phantom 4 Pro
The DJI Phantom 4 Pro is equipped with a 3-axis gimbal, and a 1” 20MP sensor and captures 4K footage at either 60fps or 30fps; It also supports RAW format we mentioned earlier.
Its titanium and magnesium alloy frame keeps it lightweight, making it easy to carry (you’ll likely be schlepping along enough other camera gear!) and prolonging its flight time to around 30 minutes. It has more than enough control range for a wedding (4.3 miles).
One reason we love the Phantom 4 Pro for weddings in particular? Obstacle avoidance. This drone senses any potential obstacles in five directions to help you avoid collisions from all sides (most other similar drones only have obstacle avoidance in the front and/or back). Even if you’re a good pilot, you don’t want to risk a crash, and obstacle avoidance almost guarantees your drone is crash-proof. Another perk of obstacle avoidance? Most insurance companies like it, which means it could bring your otherwise high insurance costs down.
If you want the best possible image quality: DJI Inspire 2
The DJI Inspire 2 is your best bet for the highest possible image quality. It can take 20.8MP pictures and capture video up to 6K (RAW).
We love it for longer weddings in particular, because it has a dual-battery swap feature, giving it up to 27 minutes of continuous flight time before requiring a battery swap.
So what are the downfalls? The DJI Inspire 2 is a much bigger drone than most of the others on this list, thus more noisy. It also provides obstacle avoidance, but unlike the Phantom 4 Pro, you’ll only get it dual-directionally (obstacle sensors in the front and back rather than on all sides).
If you want the quietest possible drone: DJI Mavic Pro Platinum
The Mavic Pro Platinum folds up to the size of a water bottle, making it the smallest of the drones in our list (ideal if you want to leave room in your camera bag for other gear as well). Thanks to its more aerodynamic propellers, the Mavic Pro Platinum is a nearly silent machine designed for discreet flights, making it ideal if you intend to shoot during the actual ceremony.
The Mavic Pro Platinum is a new and improved iteration of the DJI Mavic Pro. According to DJI, the Platinum has achieved a 60% reduction in the noise generated vs. its counterpart, the DJI Mavic Pro. This alone makes this drone a perfect choice for weddings shooting.
Since the original Mavic Pro, the Platinum’s flight time went from 27 to 30 minutes (again thanks to the new propellers) using the same battery as its predecessor. It weighs only 734 grams and shoots in 4K, has a 3-axis gimbal carrying a RAW format-capable 12MP camera.
The footage below was shot on a Mavic Pro:
–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.