Consumer drones have advanced by leaps and bounds over the past few years, and they now offer some incredible features, including cameras to rival professional photography gadgets. Prices have also plummeted, and although these drones will still set you back a pretty penny, they are much more accessible and affordable than they used to be.
Users can now purchase a drone fully equipped with a high-end camera, or mount their own DSLR on to the UAV to be lifted into the heavens. The most recent models have taken aerial photography to the next level, with improved image-stabilization systems and increased processing power among many other remarkable features.
Whether you are an everyday flyer or a professional, these amazing flying machines can help to expand your horizons and lift your photography up to new heights.
Can drones take professional photos?
Absolutely. One of the most exciting developments in photography over the last few years is the drone. Many are now capable of taking stunning 4K video and 20 megapixel stills. Not all drones are made equal though; some cheaper drones take low quality, shaky photos, and video, and others don’t come with a camera at all.
If you don’t purchase a drone with a built-in camera, you can add your camera on to some units, taking advantage of what you already have. You’ll want to go for something lightweight, with HD quality and dynamic range. You can even mount your GoPro on certain models, with the GoPro Hero series rated highly for drone photography.
Why would you want to use a drone to take photos?
Drones have a unique perspective that is impossible to achieve with any other camera. They provide incredible aerial photos from previously impossible angles, and they can reach areas where planes and helicopters are restricted.
Photography drones provide one of the only ways to capture incredible images of our world’s beauty—including geological features and wildlife—while keeping a safe and respectful distance. Your drone camera can pan over stunning vistas and wide open landscapes that you have only ever seen in Hollywood movies.
Drone cameras can also be used for commercial purposes. There has been a boom in brokers using drones to capture eye-catching stills or videos of real estate properties, for example. If you run a photography business, adding a drone to your stash of cameras can make you stand out from the competition, and the popularity of drones at weddings, events, and family photo sessions is growing rapidly.
Taking aerial photographs can also help to build your social media following, and the process of posting straight from your drone to your smartphone has never been easier.
Characteristics of a good camera drone
Price—While you can get a starter camera drone for around $100, the prices shoot up when the big boys start flying. These drones are upwards of $500 and zoom into the thousands. Bear in mind that you are paying for amazing quality and features that you won’t find elsewhere.
Camera—Obviously, the most important aspect of a camera drone is its camera, but there are certain things that you’ll want that camera to achieve.
- 4K video—When it comes to shooting video, the cameras on drones are top notch. A good drone camera should shoot Ultra HD and 4K video.
- Zoom—A zoom lens is vital to get you closer to your subject. A good drone for photography will provide a 2x optical zoom lens.
- Gimbals/gyroscope—Gimbals provide stability to your drone. Any kind of shaking or instability is going to ruin your photos and footage, so look for at least a 3-axis gimbal (a 6-axis is best) and 360-degree rotation.
- Sensors—Sensors have a big impact on image quality. Look for at least a 1-inch sensor in your drone if you are serious about photography
Other things you’ll want to consider when buying a drone for photography include…
Flight time—Superior camera drones will stay in the air for 20 to 30 minutes, giving you plenty of time to capture those incredible images.
Transmitter range—To make the most of aerial photography you will want a drone that can travel long distances behind or in front of you. Some of the best aerial drones can transmit footage back to you from more than 4 miles away. Be wary of losing sight of your drone though, and ensure that you check FAA flight rules in your area.
Collision avoidance—The best drones have obstacle sensing, meaning they won’t crash into anything, and you’ll get clear footage of whatever it is you’re trying to capture.
Speed—With a top camera drone you’ll get a machine that will fly up to about 60 miles per hour so it can quickly traverse stretches of land.
Active track/follow me—These features basically make your drone follow you, or a chosen subject, throughout the shot, making cinematic shots easier and safer.
Which drone is best for photography?
There are a ton of options out there when it comes to drones for photography. Here are two models you can’t go wrong with.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro—Flight time: 31 mins, Range: 4.3 miles
The onboard Hasselblad camera produces incredibly sharp 4K video, and the 20-megapixel camera produces stunning stills. It has 10 obstacle sensors facing in every direction, so it’s almost impossible to crash, and the active track follow-me mode makes flying and capturing shots easy. The camera boasts top-notch line and color performance for vibrant photos. It is also super compact, and the foldable design means you can take it anywhere with you, making it one of the best drones for aerial photography.
DJI Inspire 2—Flight time: 27 minutes, Range: 4.3 miles
This beast is the titan of the professional photography drone world. The Inspire 1 and 2 have even been used on professional film sets. This drone offers two different cameras—one of which is a dedicated first-person view (FPV) camera. And with a top speed of 58mph in 4 seconds, a whopping 5.2K video quality, and the capacity to take 24MP stills, this drone outperforms all others. It is rammed with features for flight autonomy, and intelligent flight modes so that you can concentrate on the most important thing: your images.