Planning is one of the most important aspects of aerial photography. I like to map out my shooting sessions well in advance so I can choose the exact days and times when I know I’ll be able to capture the exact image I want. If you are super busy but still love to shoot, I would definitely recommend mapping out your photography sessions.
Location is one of the first things I look at before even shooting with the drone. I always want to make sure a spot is worth it so I constantly search google maps for places to fly. I remember where these places are because I simply pin them and them save them to a list on Google Maps. I like to organize by state or theme (ie: VA travel or Tennis Courts). I can see all of my pins on both my phone and computer which makes things really convenient. All I have to do is get in the car, open maps, tap the spot I’d like to go to and drive there. This has been huge for me lately because I haven’t been able to go out and shoot as much as I’d like, but by doing this I’m able to find spots where I can hit a bunch of places within a certain distance in one route.
Finding a good location is key to getting good photos. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to find a perfect location to create great images but it does help. One tip I have for everyone flying is to arrive at your location early and get a flight in before hand to scout the location and get a few test shots. I am typically shooting during sunset so I tend to fly before that golden hour to see what I want to capture when the light is where I want it to be.
Weather is an absolute essential to check. This could make or break your shoot, especially if you are planning it out in advance. When you drive a good distance only to find out that you can’t fly there, you may be pretty disappointed. Remember, this is 100% your fault because all you had to do was check the weather. In fact, I made the same mistake a few months back and I could not fly at any of the locations I went to because the winds were consistently blowing 20+mph. If I did take my drone up, it wasn’t safe to fly it more than 100ft away from me because it was so hard to get it back. That being said, it just wasn’t worth the risk and I decided to just put the drone away and surrender to the weather. I was definitely mad, but I learned my lesson and ended up scouting a few of the locations so I had an idea of the area before I returned to fly again.
If the weather is bad and you know it may be too risky to fly, please don’t chance it. Losing your drone is probably not a fun thing, especially when you know that you didn’t have to be flying in the crazy conditions you were in. Always better safe than sorry in this case, so please use your best judgment before going out to fly.
Selecting a Drone
This is actually completely up to you as well. Since I do a lot of work with drone, I have the option of flying the Inspire 2, X5S and whatever lens I want, the Mavic Pro or the Mavic Air. Owning three drones, you could say I have some choices but to be completely honest, I do prefer flying my Mavic Pro a majority of the time because of its size and performance compared to the other drones. I use each drone for a different reason and usually travel with all of them on me for work. Just remember, as long as you have a drone, you will be able to fly one whenever you need to. Even when traveling for fun, I’ll be sure to have my Mavics on me just in case I spot anything that interests me
When I am on the go and want to just grab some quick photos, the Mavic is always my go to. I even use the Mavic to scout locations just to get an idea of what I could shoot there. If I find something I really like or would like to shoot in better quality, I will eventually go back to that location with my Inspire and use it to shoot. I will add that I have been very impressed with the camera technology that DJI has. I see these cameras get better and better and they never seem to let me down.
Tips on Finding Places to Fly
（in NJ and Any Other Place You Travel To)
Living in NJ for a majority of my life and growing up doing photography here, you’d think I would run out of places to shoot. I have to be honest, I feel like I have but at the same time I continue to look for more and more places to shoot every day I can. I’ve heard a lot of people say that NJ is boring and that there’s nowhere to really shoot. I’ve heard that you have to travel to take good pictures and all these other wild things that aren’t true at all. My theory is that if you look hard enough, you can find a lot of very interesting things to shoot.
New Jersey is a bigger state than I had ever thought it was. I drive over the whole state for work, let alone my own personal aerial photos. Google Maps has also probably been my biggest help here in the sense that I can get an idea of what the land looks like from the satellite view before I set out to go fly there. Of course technology has its ups and downs, sometimes I find things on google that aren’t actually there anymore or things that have changed since they were last put up there. However, most of the time, Maps is very reliable and it has become an essential tool to me for aerial photography.
With all that being said, don’t get down on yourself because you can’t find places to shoot. Take the time to use the resources you have and find new places you think would be interesting. If you have to, go to them beforehand, and get an idea of what you really want to shoot there. When you have the time, the weather is right and you can make it there at the right time of day, give yourself some time to get out there and go enjoy some shooting because it is a great thing to do. I always say that we are the ones to create excuses for ourselves and I think that is very true. There is so much to see in Jersey alone, but it’s just a matter of finding those spots and shooting them in a way that means something to you.
If Google Maps becomes a primary method of finding a location, run with it. Organize places you want to go and map out the routes you’d like to take. Research the seasons and weather. Know what to expect if you are going to travel. You can wing it if you want but the outcome may not be as good. This technique can help you find places anywhere in the world. Over the years, I have become picker than ever with my work, so I like to make sure if I travel somewhere, I can make that trip worth it.
This is probably the hardest one to explain and I more than likely won’t do a good job at it. Anyway, every time I shoot something for my own personal work, it has to be something that means something to me. I either have an interest in the location, an idea, a concept or something I just feel the need to create. Water, railroads, textures, seasons and so many other things have caught my attention over the years.
Being mainly a real estate photographer/videographer, composition has become one of the main things I focus on. Whenever I go out to a location to shoot, I always make sure I nail the composition. Lighting, time of day, colors, look and all that jazz comes second. Not to mention editing is a process of its own after the shooting is done. Recently I have been really busy and overwhelmed with work. A lot of my time goes into my business but taking a break from work and going out to shoot on your own can be a very relieving thing to do. This is also why planning to take a trip for a few hours is super helpful. With all the traveling I do, it’s not hard to check new spots out but it is important to have plenty of batteries haha.
Being able to fly has given me so much more opportunity to shoot and I have fallen in love with it. Though I do a lot of paid work with my drone, I live to create my own work as well. It has become something that drives me. I’ve been flying for almost three years now and I probably love it more now than I do when I first started. Going out to shoot has become more than just driving somewhere and shooting. It has become a process. Not only a process for my aerial work, but for a lot of my other work as well. The more you fly, the more practice you get, the more you create, the better off you are. You’ll find your style and start to create images that mean something to you. Safe flying to everybody out there and I hope this article helps out a bit!