Amazing Aerials: Pro photography advice from the world’s best


Aerial photos and videos produced using drones has developed into a major industry. There are literally thousands of enthusiasts snapping digital images with their drone hoping to turn their exciting pastime into a money making proposition. The cameras and equipment available today are top shelf and image quality is constantly improving. So what does it take to really bring your aerial imaging skills to the next level?

We reached out to six world class aerial photographers and videographers and asked them their top tips and suggestions for capturing breathtaking images. Here is what they had to say.

Paul Prescott

(Croatia)

BIO

From Croatia, Paul is the founder of Amazing Aerial Agency. He spends his summer months along the Adriatic, where he captures the landscapes of the Balkans.

INSIGHT

As in photography in general, it takes an eye to get a great photo. Look for patterns, shapes, and lines. Trying to align these in a symmetrical way will make your image pleasant to look at. I always try to get as close to my subject matter as possible. This avoids stressing battery life. It also allows me to fly without using the FPV screen and maintain visual contact with my drone, which is useful while flying close to the subject matter.

TIPS

For regular photography it is best to have the sun at your back. Midday sun can be unattractive. However, when flying a drone, having the sun at the apex can give you the best colors. Of course, try to avoid getting sun reflections and burned out highlights in water when shooting toward the sun. Polarized lenses can help here. Also, shooting just after sunset provides amazing soft and warm light. It is good to be in the air just as the sun hits the horizon to capture this fleeting lighting condition.

Aerial view of an attractive woman sunbathing on red sand beach, Hawaii, U.S.A.

Favorite Equipment: I sometimes use filters, but I think that some polarized filters can be too extreme on the skies, creating a strong blue halo. I have only flown with DJI Phantoms. I bring four batteries and two chargers. This allows me to fly for at least 90 minutes at one location, and as I am flying using my last battery pack, I will be charging the first ones. I bring about six SD cards. I change my cards for each flight.

Arranging Shoots: I recommend doing scouting flights to get an overview of what is around you. Once you know all the possibilities, you can do a few flights to get more material. Some people shoot either only photos or only videos on a single flight. I try to get the best out of my flight by recording video as soon as I take off and get to the location I scouted. Once there, I take a mix of top-down, landscape, and panoramas. Once I have done my mix, I can start recording again while flying to another location. This means I get a mix of all kinds of media and end up with a lot more stock material. Using Google Maps is a great resource to scout locations in advance.

Composition: Getting people in your shots will give your photos perspective and scale. It will also enhance “sellability” as people photos sell well. Try using your drone like a regular camera, just a few meters off the ground to get photos of people. I try to put people in formation to create portraits. Avoid distractions in your photos; either zoom in to avoid something or zoom out to include it completely in your shot. Also try rotating your drone, this can cut out unwanted subjects in your photo. When shooting video, try shooting without constantly moving the head of your drone. Try using your drone more like a crane and less like a plane. Getting closer to subjects can make footage more cinematic.

Aerial view of extended family at garden table for lunch.

Aerial view of a group of people doing yoga on a terrace surrounded by trees in town

Aerial view of boats anchored at the bay of Stari Grad, Croatia.


George Daskalopoulos

(Greece)

BIO

George spends his summer months sailing around the Greek islands shooting aesthetic landscapes and putting people in eye-catching compositions.

INSIGHT

Drones help us see the world with another eye, something that may seem dull when on your feet, might be something amazing when flying. So get your drone up in the sky and explore. Always look what other people do and get inspired; don’t be afraid to copy and add your own style. Watch movies, commercials, read magazines, go to exhibitions, and watch YouTube.

TIPS

I like using neutral-density/polarization (ND/PL) PolarPro Filters. PL filters are especially handy when shooting top-down photos and videos of water so that you can avoid those nasty reflections and make the water crystal clear. Shooting video, the ND filter helps maintain the shutter speed on the rule of thirds, so that you can have that cinematic look and feel while shooting in broad daylight. Note that there are times that filters have a negative effect on the image, e.g., low light situations. Experiment to see what works best for the specific subject.

Favorite Equipment: This depends on the situation. If I want to travel and be mobile without having to carry a lot, prefer the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. It is an excellent choice and the balance between mobility and image quality is great. If I want to shoot a commercial, I always go with the Inspire 2 because most of the time transporting it is not a big deal, and I think that image quality in commercials is the first thing to consider.

When I travel I go with the F-Stop Ajna backpack. It’s huge and fits everything. It carries my DJI Mavic 2 Pro with ND filters, three batteries, a DJI Ronin S, a Sony A7III with Sigma Art lenses, (14mm 1.8, 50mm 1.4, 18-35 1.8), a Sony 70-200 2.8 GMaster, and a Canon 100mm 2.8 macro. All the above except the Sony 70-200 are Canon EF mounts so that I can use them with my BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K when I do commercial work.

Arranging Shoots: First of all, create for yourself. Try to be the best at it and have a look at what the industry is in need of. Do free work to get yourself into the industry and if you are good, people will come to you and ask for a paid gig. When they do, try to keep them as longtime partners.

Always suggest new stuff. Don’t be afraid to “cold call”—it’s one of the best ways of advertising. For example, if you go on vacation on an island, plan ahead and email 10 hotels or Airbnbs and offer them your services. Even if only one of them replies positively, it’s a success. You can also try to exchange services for accommodations. This will give you the needed experience so that you can climb in the industry.

Composition: Think before you takeoff. Plan what you want to achieve so that you save that precious battery power. Always look for lines that compliment the subject. Plan ahead the time of the shoot regarding the light, I prefer early in the morning or late in the afternoon since the light is so soft at that time of the day. Be creative, add something to the composition, and don’t just wait for it to happen. Symmetry is god, especially in top-down photos. Try to create symmetry in your composition.

Aerial concept of a player on basketball court.

NIKITAS, GREECE – 13 JULY 2018: Aerial view of people under colourful parasols and bathers in turquoise sea.

Panoramic aerial view over the clouds and bay of Santorini island, Greece.


Gunj Guglani

(India)

BIO

A freelance aerial photographer and a film-maker from New Delhi, India, Gunj loves to travel and explore new cultures and landscapes. His hobbies include chasing sunrise, hiking, surfing, and capturing visuals with his drone in perspectives that usually can’t be achieved with human eyes.

INSIGHT

The best time to achieve the best dynamic range and lighting in your photos is during sunrise and sunset, but don’t be afraid to try different lighting conditions. Some lighting will favor different subjects. I usually just use a variable ND filter as it helps me maintain the required shutter speed to get the best cinematic footage while shooting in daylight.

TIP

Remember to create more for yourself, be curious and daring to experiment, and always fly safe.

Favorite Equipment: So far I have used DJI and custom made race drones, and it’s really hard to choose an overall favorite as both of them have a very different use. But while filming stock footage and creating commercial content, I think I would choose DJI Mavic 2 Pro as my fav, as it has omni-directional sensors and a lot of automatic features like taking Hyperlapses, which makes the work flow so efficient and easy. I get that sense of security and trust in technology to fly it miles away. My best equipment is a Sony A7III with 16-35 and 24-70mm lens, and a DJI Ronin S (or any gimbal of choice), a GoPro Hero 7 Black, and a DJI Mavic 2 Pro with neutral density (ND) filters.

Arranging Shoots: You will always get work when can show examples of what you are capable of. So maintain your presence and show your work on all social platforms so others can discover you. Reach out to major brands through email, to pitch your ideas that you think could help them in any way.

Composition: There are no definite rules for capturing the best results in every situation. But, always know your shot before capturing it. Avoid negative space, or anything that doesn’t serve the subject or mood. Look for patterns, symmetry, leading lines, etc. Don’t be shy to experiment (just because you are using a drone, doesn’t mean you can’t go low!).

DELHI, INDIA – 5 JUNE 2019: Aerial view of devotees at prayer during Eid al-Fitr at Jama Masjid mosque. Eid al-Fitr is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims that marks the end of Ramadan.

Aerial view of multicolored Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Aerial view of New Delhi public transport system crossing neighborhood, India.

Aerial long view of devotees at the Jama Masjid mosque.


Charles Martinez

(Chicago)

BIO

Charles was born in Panama City, Panama, and at 18 years old he moved to the U.S. Known as “deftony83” on Instagram, Tony’s handle is a tribute to his favorite band, The Deftones. He is also the founder of several Instagram communities like @art.of.chi, @drone.globe, and @ig.portraits. Charles has been serving in the U.S. Air Force for 14 years and currently as a civil engineer.

INSIGHT

I like to shoot at sunrise and sunset. Foggy days are also amazing for some dramatic shots. Never be afraid to experiment new things to keep things fresh.

TIP

I have been using a circular polarized linear (CPL) filter only since using the Mavic 2 Pro. This allows some amazing aperture and ISO settings that I can use to my advantage.

Favorite Equipment: My favorite drone is the DJI Mavic 2 Pro because of the portability and the automatic features it provides not to mention the high quality that provides for photography with 20 megapixels at my disposal.

Arranging Shoots: I first to go to Google Satellite to scout the location. Then I look for unique angles that I can shoot at these locations. Then I plan the time of day for the best light.

Composition: My best tip for composition is lighting. Always look for the best conditions to shoot in. I avoid bright days because the harsh light, unless I am looking for shadows and what to do with them. I look for top-down shots because it brings uniqueness to many images.

Aerial view of man standing in front of Drangarnir rock formation, Faroe island.

Aerial view of frozen Chicago River crossing business center, USA.

Aerial view of public basketball at public park, Chicago, USA.


Bachir Moukarzel

(Dubai)

BIO

Bachir Moukarzel was born and raised in Lebanon, then moved to Dubai at a young age where he is currently working. His love for photography started when he began using an action camera but grew with his discovery of drone technology. In 2002, there was nothing but sand in Dubai and over time, it became urbanized. Bachir’s photos capture the symbolic progress of the city.

INSIGHT

Weather and time of day considerations depending on the location. I always check the sun directions to plan my shadows in the shot, another thing to consider is the cloud forecast to avoid flat images

TIP

I use neutral density (ND) filters and polarizer filters depending on the situation. They help me control the shutter speed and avoid glare and water reflections.

Favorite equipment: My favorite drone for traveling is Mavic 2 Pro. It’s easy to carry and great quality. For daily usage I like the Inspire 2 with the X7 camera. My basic travel pack/equipment is a laptop and SSD drive.

Arranging Shoots: I do a lot of research on Google Maps to find interesting spots. When I travel, I also check the light direction and the cloud forecast to plan my shoot and avoid weather surprises.

Composition: I work a lot on symmetries and leading lines while shooting aerials. I try to avoid distractions in the image as much as I can.

Aerial view of a building surrounded by clouds, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Aerial view of tourists swimming with whale sharks, Oslob, Philippines.

Aerial view above of wooden pier crossing Jubail Mangrove Park in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.


Jude Newkirk

(Alaska)

BIO

A terminal manager for the largest fishing port in the U.S., Jude is passionate about travel and spend half of the year exploring as much as he can. Aerial photography has become his obsession and it has completely changed the way he sees and appreciates the world. His work mostly includes landscapes, wildlife and abstract images, but Jude really just loves to shoot anything from above. He has also been working on Music Videos for artists he has connected with.

INSIGHT

I use a WandRD backpack to carry all my gear and find that it works great while keeping a sleek design. It doesn’t feel or look too bulky.

TIP

I always try to shoot right after sunrise or right before sunset to really get that perfect golden light as it really brings the photos to life. It doesn’t always work out with time constraints.

Favorite equipment: My favorite drone for traveling is Mavic 2 Pro. It’s easy to carry and great quality. For daily usage I like the Inspire 2 with the X7 camera. My basic travel pack/equipment is a laptop and SSD drive.

Arranging Shoots: I do a lot of research on Google Maps to find interesting spots. When I travel, I also check the light direction and the cloud forecast to plan my shoot and avoid weather surprises.

Composition: I work a lot on symmetries and leading lines while shooting aerials. I try to avoid distractions in the image as much as I can.

Aerial view of a woman in the water in Terme di Saturnia, Province of Grosseto, Italy

Aerial view of a man swimming with the Whale sharks on Mafia Island, Tanzania.

Aerial view of Falaise d’Aval on the shore of Normandy during the sunset, Etretat, France.

Aerial view of people swimming with sharks and sting rays in Moorea Island in French Polynesia.


 

The Amazing Aerial Agency

The biggest hurdle in becoming a recognized aerial photographer is exposure. Media companies can’t buy your product, if they don’t know that it’s available. You can only go just so far with Facebook. One way to gain exposure is with a team specifically tailored for mass media, and that’s exactly what Amazing Aerial Agency is all about.

Amazing Aerial Agency is an “aerial only” photography and video agency, with one of the world’s largest and most beautiful aerial photography collections. The images are shot by award-winning photographers from all over the world. Currently there are over 15,000 photos and 5,000 videos in the collection. Many of the images are shot from perspectives rarely seen before, and highlight abstractions of the earth and oceans, people and wildlife.

We reached out to Paul Prescott, founder of Amazing Aerial Agency, to learn more.

Who would be most interested in your agency?
Semi pro/pro and aerial visual artists would be our main benefactors. Many of our photographers have won awards for their aerial photography.

How did you come to start your company?
We started over two years ago, wanting to bring the world’s best aerial photographers into one place so they can make money from their work. We started with a handful of aerial photographers, and it grew organically to a team of 25. In the last few months we have grown to about 70.

We’ve built an international distribution network including 16 of the best premium agencies in Europe, Asia and in the Americas. So our photos sell for hundreds of dollars (instead of just pennies as with other agencies). Our clients are mostly magazines, media companies, and enterprises with larger spending budgets.

What advantages are there in joining your team?
This really is an opportunity to make a living as a photographer selling photos and videos. We have a standard contract that all our exclusive photographers sign, it is a 50/50 partnership. We handpick our team members for the quality and consistency of their work.

We’re not looking to have thousands of photographers, but rather, have a great variety of talented photographers from all corners of the planet. For more information about joining the Agency, go to: amazingaerial.agency/p/contributor.

Our exclusive contract allows you to sell your photos directly to clients, to post all your photos on social media and your personal website. We are just an extra source of revenue. This also means you cannot sell your photos anywhere else for less (microstock), nor in our network. Many of the agency partners are “invite only,” so you get exclusive access to professional photo buyers from around the world that you would not normally have access to. You’ll be a part of an exclusive team, where you will learn a lot in our community.

Are there any other benefits?
We have an extensive worldwide network of distributing agents and clients. We only work with the top premium agencies in the world, currently 15 agencies from North America, Europe and Asia. Plus you get direct support from our headquarters. We also provide education to our team members with tutorials, but also with feedback on their editing, etc. We are constantly creating more educational videos on how to prepare photos and videos for sale. Team members also get the opportunity to shoot commissioned work for clients.

By Team RotorDrone Pro



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