Getting the Right Shots

If you’ve taken Course 3: Finding Your First Sale then congratulations are in order because you have found a client. Now you finally get to do what you want to do: fly your drone.

The shoot itself is the most important part of the business. Everyone can fly a drone and edit a video but not everyone can get the right shots. Getting the right shots will set you apart from your competitors and ensure that your clients are satisfied with the end product that you deliver them.

Getting the right shots is a two step process: Planning the Shoot and Getting the Shots.

Planning the Shoot

Planning a shoot ahead of time is vital to its success. Too many amateur photographers arrive at shoots unprepared because they didn’t consider all of the project’s implications.
Here is a list of a few things to consider when planning your shoot:


As an aerial photographer you want to capture the subject of your shot in the most impressive way possible. This means making your photo/video shoot a storyline and planning it from opening image to closing image. Having a plan of action when getting to your shoot will also help you improve how efficient you are with your battery life.

Battery Life

A big concern with drones is their short battery life. With most drones getting between 15 – 25 minutes flight time off a battery it becomes crucial to be prepared for longer shoots. Whereas you might tackle a real estate listing job with only one spare battery, other jobs such as shooting a vineyard or a wedding venue could require multiple spare batteries and perhaps even a charging port to reuse batteries multiple times.

*Know your flight time. Make sure your batteries are fully charged and you time your flights. Plan to land your drone at least a full minute before the battery will die. Professionals don’t crash their drones during a job.

Lighting & Shooting Outside

One of the key elements in any kind of photography is lighting. When shooting inside it is easy to manage lighting since it is not affected by the time of day. When shooting outside however, you must have an idea of what shots you want to get and what lighting these shots require; remember lighting will affect the shadows present in your picture. Try not to shoot into the sun since the resulting shadows could warp your video or could show dust accumulated on the lens during take off.

From 10 am to 3 pm the lighting is very harsh. You can learn to use this time of day to create good shots, but the most breathtaking shots are usually captured as the sun is rising or setting. The colors intensify and the shadows are more manageable.

When shooting outside you will also have to mind weather and wind speeds. Some drones are waterproof and are tested against precipitation however it is good practice to avoid shooting when there is a chance of rain since this weather isn’t conducive to good shots. For best results, you’ll want to fly in wind speeds of under 7-9 knots (8-10 mph).

Final Checks

Make sure your unit is calibrated. Test your battery charge. Spin your props and check your motor shafts. Wipe your lense.
Don’t fly over crowds, and make sure everyone nearby you is well aware of the dangers of a drone.
Invasion of privacy is a growing concern with drones. If you’re flying in a residential area, as you would for real estate shoots, make sure you notify any neighbors whose property will be visible in the shoot what you will be doing and for approximately how long. This is a matter of courtesy but is not law.

Getting The Shots

Having planned your project you are now ready to go get the shots.

Know Your Settings

A lot of drones have autopilot modes that allow for certain kinds of shots. Remember that when flying in auto pilot your drone will auto-correct itself in flight and it might not make for the smoothest shot.

Be cinematic

In general, you should always fly with cinematic intent minding both the position of your drone and the angle it is shooting at. Smooth transitions of perspective bring  scenes to life.

Part of smoothly transitioning perspective is speed. Speeding up or slowing down your shot is an alteration that can be done in post production however part of conducting a professional drone flight is knowing how to manage this real time. It is important to keep in mind that the further away from the subject of your shot you are, the faster you will have to be moving for viewers to perceive motion.

High speed movement should be left to your drone, move your camera in slow and steady motions. Controlling your camera harshly could lead to jolted shots which you’d have to fix in editing or completely retake. Even if your shot loses your subject, any correction should be done with smooth camera movement. Start slow and be gentle with your controls. Keep your camera moving in one direction, and only make minor adjustments.

Give yourself room for editing

Whenever conducting your flight, make sure to begin filming before your planned shot. Once you’ve completed your desired shot make sure to continue filming for some time after. Leave yourself room for editing in the front and back of your shots so that you can choose the exact shot you want. Starting late or cutting off too early could make you lose valuable footage.

Shoot in RAW format

If your drone supports capturing video in raw format you should do so. An example of raw video format is DJI’s .dng. The difference between raw and jpeg format is that when saving in jpeg the image is stripped of all data to minimize size and raw images retain it. If you’re not shooting in raw format then you are not getting the best image quality possible.

Shooting Inside

Shooting inside can be tricky with a drone. Larger, open spaces are best suited to use your drone for aerial photography. The truth is, a lot of the time using your drone for indoor shots is not necessary. If you are shooting a real estate listing that isn’t a mansion chances are that you do not need to have your drone take off inside. By just using your camera you can get all the best shots.

Types Of Shots

Being a professional aerial photographer means choosing all the right shots and getting all the right angles. This savvy you will develop with exp

Static Moving Shot

A static moving shot is a great way to establish a place’s location and surroundings. In a static moving shot, the camera remains stationary as the drone flies by an object.

Bird’s Eye View Shot

A bird’s eye view shot is taken from directly above the subject with the camera facing down.

Retreat Shots

Retreat shots begin near the subject and then move away. There are many ways to do retreat shots. Some commonly used shots are the “quick” retreat which is a rapid movement away and another is the “spinning” retreat which is moving away while moving the camera in a revolving motion.

Wrapping Shots

Wrapping shots, as the name suggest, wrap the subject. Common wrap shots are the 180 degree and 360 degree wrap. Wrapping shots are good to establish perspective and to show off the subject of the shot. An example of a 180 degree wrapping shot would be shooting a car racing down a highway from the right, and then while keeping focus on it moving in behind it to show where it’s going, and then finally ending the shot on the opposite side showing the car from the left.


A following shot is similar to a static moving shot except it focuses on the subject and keeps it in the frame of the shot while it moves.

Climax Shot

A climax shot involves shooting a build up, followed by a reveal of your subject. If you were shooting a gothic castle surrounded by pastures this would mean starting up high looking down on the pastures and then coming low while remaining focused on the pastures and then all at once your camera turns up to show the majestic castle rising high into the sky.

For more information on getting great shots check out:

How To Get Cinematic Drone Shots