Looking upward has become an adventure these days. Satellites falling to earth. Spectacular “special effects” engineered by Mother Nature herself. Fireworks no longer saved for big holidays. In fact, spotting a drone or two floating aloft has become so commonplace, laws in certain communities have been written to provide guidelines for their use so as not to invade the privacy of others.
But on the topic of wedding photography trends, you would be hard-pressed to find one that’s as popular and requested as aerial photography that offers brides and grooms unprecedented footage from on high.
Sweeping vistas. Calendar-worthy spreads. Dramatic detail captured throughout the day—from the bride’s processional to the last dancers at the reception. Aerial photography is so hot, many couples don’t mind writing big checks to add it to their photographic repertoire.
Is it any wonder wedding photographers are becoming adroit at flying drones to produce pictures that are literally out of this world? Whether you’re a professional shooter or just a skilled photographer eager to master this skill, we can help you take to the sky. We can’t promise the weather will cooperate every time you shoot a wedding, but we can help you get terrific photos if you adopt one or all the following 15 tips.
1. Shop—but not necessarily until you drop
Pick out a drone that is sophisticated enough to get you the shots you need and technologically advanced enough to do the job properly. Visit rchobbyreview.com to get started on your shopping expedition, but don’t make it your only resource. When you’re ready to choose, this guide from PCMag.com offers a wide range of 2018 top picks for your consideration.
2. Watch and learn
Watch this video from Tech Republic to get the skinny on technicalities you’ll need to know to capture photos from aloft: If you’re already an experienced photographer, that doesn’t mean you’re an experienced flyer, too. Here’s what can happen if you don’t know what you’re doing. Keep this in mind if you decide to hire Uncle George and his new drone to do the work on your behalf!
3. Practice makes perfect
If the idea of taking a wedding assignment before you’ve earned your wings sounds like a good idea, it’s not! You’ll deal with issues like fluctuating light, winds and the foibles of drone sensors better addressed before you book that wedding date. Balancing creative and safety issues is no walk in the park. Fly first. Shoot next. A couple of test runs gets you up to speed and you’ll feel more confident. Use this YouTube video as a cautionary tale if you’re tempted to take shortcuts.
4. Scope out the wedding/reception venue on foot and by air
When you’re shooting from the sky, scoping out the site requires more than a tour of the grounds. You may be required to meet rules and regulations associated with drone activity you intend to photograph. Talk with folks at the wedding venue and contact government officials to get permission to shoot.
5. Safety first, say experts
Once a U.S. Air Force photojournalist, Parker Gyokeres advises readers of the Knot.com to think before they act if they say yes to undertaking aerial photography at an upcoming wedding. “If the drone pilot doesn’t have an established safety plan, insurance, extensive knowledge of how to operate the vehicle or close coordination with the venue managers, wedding photographers and the couple, he can be a risk to the wedding party.”
6. Expect the best; prepare for the worst
While professional drones capable of giving you the high-quality aerial photography usually come with insulated batteries, that doesn’t mean they are prepared to operate in rain and winds exceeding 25 mph. Just as the bridal couple formulates a Plan B in case weather goes haywire on the big day, so must you. Wind and temperature extremes will drain a battery fast and even extreme heat can stress out a drone. The folks at Dummies.com warn that “Snow is not friendly to drones,” either.
- Manage the couple’s expectations
If the blissful couple has fallen in love with the idea of getting video or photos from on high to the exclusion of those taken on the ground, deliver a reality check with a spoon of honey. Advise them of the fact that drones can’t capture audio and they don’t do formal “close-ups” for safety reasons either. Drones can be obnoxious, drowning out vows and distracting guests when their attention should be on the wedding couple.
8. And, manage drone time wisely
The best ideas can turn into annoyances, say drone wedding photographers at Reb 6 Studios who have shot their fair share of aerial wedding photography. That’s why professionals working for this studio only keep their drone flying for 10 minutes at a time to minimize intrusions. Further, they operate their cameras at strategic times so nobody misses a word of the vow exchange.
9. And speaking of time…
Plan to devote more time than you anticipate to framing and taking shots, says Jovan Tanasijevic, whose British wedding photography business is healthy and robust on the ground and in the air. His secret to success? Recognize the fact that drones become scene stealers (he calls them “spectacles”) so grab shooting time after guests have become comfortable with your camera floating above them. Shots of people shielding their eyes and staring up into the sky aren’t what the wedding couple had in mind when they booked aerial photography.
10. Always see the light
Once a photographer takes to the air to scout out memorable wedding shots from on high, it can be easy to become so enamored of the view, technicalities are forgotten. You’ll get better footage if you pay constant attention to light and the way it changes as the day grows longer. If the wedding you’re shooting happens to take place during the two “Golden Hours” (an hour after sunrise; the hour before sunset), you’ll get gems.
11. Do you need filters, a pre-flight and post-flight checklist?
Yes, please. To all three. Especially on ultra-bright days when you’ll have less control of your camera than you would on the ground. Polarizing and neutral density filters can enhance your video and stills when the sun blazes and you need help neutralizing the light. And when it comes to pre- and post-flight checklists, you won’t find a better guide than the ones on the Dummies.com website.
12. Be as creative as you like
You likely already know that it’s become easier and easier just to point and shoot, but artisans love control. Your drone camera probably has a manual mode which allows you to control shutter speed and exposure setting so your shots aren’t good; they’re perfect. And don’t forget about bracketing every still you take. Trying different exposures from the ground adds insurance to your photography because you’ll have your choice of exposures from which to put together your presentation
- The magic is in the editing process
Whether you have a favorite photo editing software that’s designed for professional shooters or you have mastered the art of producing awesome aerial wedding photographs via Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom, this is when artistry turns even less-than-remarkable photography into fine art. The couple has chosen you for the magic you’re able to perform and a good deal of it will take place during the editing process.
14. Don’t forget to protect your investment
You’ve seen to the paperwork involved with getting permission to overfly a wedding venue. Purchased insurance that covers both you, your drone and your camera (if it’s a separate unit) while you’re taking wedding photos. Don’t stop now. You need a Professional Case to keep your drone safe and sound when it’s not in use–particularly if you travel distances to get those wedding photos.
- No need to reinvent the wheel
Borrowing ideas from successful wedding photographers who use drones to capture unforgettable footage is a great way to achieve mastery and hype your imagination. Many wedding videos are copyrighted (a step you may wish to take if you plan to publish your footage), so be selective when you borrow ideas. These two videos do more than inspire; they’re ideal representations of the magic drones bring to weddings—footage that not only prompts unforgettable memories but can raise your profile as an extraordinary photographer, too.