It’s a big world out there. Here’s how to shoot it with your new drone

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Understand your legal boundaries

Due in large part to the instantaneous boom in unmanned aircraft, the legality surrounding where, how, and who can pilot them warrants serious consideration for anyone. Understanding the significance of this craze, the Federal Aviation Administration announced in late 2015 it would soon require mandatory registration for any UAV weighing between 0.55 lbs. and 55 lbs. The FAA’s rule, which officially kicked in on Dec. 21, 2015, requires any new drone owner to register her aircraft prior to flying it for the first time. For a mere $5, pilots simply supply their name, address, and email address to the FAA in order to register an entire fleet of unmanned aircraft for three years.

Outside of registration, there also exists a bevy of airspace regulations a pilot must heed during any flight. For instance, it’s imperative that drones steer clear of other aircraft (manned or unmanned), airports, and airfields, as well as helicopters and the like. Moreover, it’s highly recommended to be a safe distance away from people, buildings, cars, etc., to avoid causing physical harm and property damage. As anyone would reasonably understand, multi-rotor drones can cause serious damage. This may seem like common sense, but it merits saying anyway: Stay within the boundary of the law.

Don’t forget your settings

The ability to adjust or tinker with various camera settings depends on which kind of drone a pilot chooses. Some owners may opt for a drone with a built-in camera mount, meaning any setting alterations must be done on the attached camera itself. Additionally, drones that feature on-board cameras should let users adjust settings ranging from white balance and frame rate to resolution and exposure.


Spend some time getting familiar with these basic terms and settings and you’ll find your drone landing with photos and videos that are drastically improved. Properly calibrated settings are possibly the single easiest way to go from novice photographer to seasoned vet.

Make use of smart mode

Though smart features aren’t comprehensively available on unmanned aircraft, the number of drones with them continues to grow. Whether it be fully autonomous drones such as the Hexo+ and AirDog, or a joystick-controlled craft with optional smart settings like Yuneec’s Typhoon, more companies have begun including these innovative features.


What makes a drone with smart settings particularly attractive for photography and video purposes lies entirely with the aircraft’s programmed brain. From having the ability to set a desired flight path to choosing from a variety of pre-determined movements, a drone’s smart features make snapping photos and capturing video an absolute breeze. Plus, most pack some form of camera stabilizing feature, meaning regardless of wind or other environmental variables, shots should come out smooth and clear.

Everything is fixable in post-production

Relying too heavily on it boils the blood of video and photography pros, but post production is an absolutely vital part of the process. Be it splicing frames of video or color correcting a batch of photos, what’s done after shooting is as important (if not more) than the actual process of capturing the content.

Apple Final Cut Pro
Apple Final Cut Pro

Thing is, editing photos or videos isn’t a walk in the park. It takes practice — and loads of it. Be it Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, or Photoshop, each particular piece of software boasts its own learning curve. And each one has unique ways to help you churn out professional-grade content. Drone photographers or videographers should count on spending a few hours just toying with their chosen post-production app, or even taking an actual course with the software.

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