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Getting Started With Drone Photography And Video

Getting Started With Drone Photography And Video - Preparing for take-off: Brent Kirkman introduces drone photography and video, and lets us know how to get started.

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Phantom 4 Pro in Drones

Words by Brent Kirkman of Lumiere photography, film and air

DJI Phantom4 In Air Wide

These days when readers hear the word drone or quadcopter there can be a real mixed bag of reactions; the affordability of consumer drones, in a market that is forecast to exceed $21 Billion dollars by 2022, is putting UAVs into the hands of all kinds of people including your next-door neighbour.

So, drones are a lot like marmite you either love them or you hate them, especially when the person next door starts flying their drone over your house to take a closer look. What can’t be denied is that the phenomenon has gone mainstream and for the most part drones have developed a bad name – this is thanks to uneducated and irresponsible people exploiting the amazing technology that can be a powerful addition to professional image-makers.

Just last summer we were filming a couple down on the south coast, with an amazing sunset, when a man walked up to us and started shouting about drones being used to kill people. After the event we had a good laugh about it - could he not clearly see that it was just a baby drone with a little camera on it filming a lovely couple standing in the shallows of the beach?

As photographers / cinematographers we are delighted about the third camera angle that we can offer our clients - and it is a wonderful addition to our kit bag.

So, if you are thinking about expanding your offering you will have to deal with the ‘haters’ and abide by the rules of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), but with this is mind you have the opportunity to use a remarkable tool for your business.

 

 

Here are a few things that you will need to consider:

First and foremost, you need to learn how to fly

Although consumer drones are very intelligent and have built-in GPS to help keep them positioned, you still need to be able to fly safely around the subject that you are wanting to capture. I gained a lot of experience flying in actual planes with my Private Pilot’s Licence, but I can say that flying a drone when you are not flying first person requires a different skill level. With the camera only giving you a forward view it is easy to misjudge height, distance and perspective. This is when your relatively expensive new flying camera becomes potentially dangerous and a bad investment if things go wrong. There are many National Qualified Entity (NQE) training schools available to help you get started with your Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS). They will help you become a drone pilot, giving you the knowledge and skills needed to operate effectively, safely and legally.

 

That brings me onto the second consideration

The Air Navigation Order (ANO) 2016 came into force on the 25th August when the (CAA) replaced the ANO 2009. One of the most significant changes has been the replacement of the term ‘aerial work’ with ‘commercial operation’, to align with EASA-OPS. You therefore no longer apply for a ‘Permission For Aerial Work’ (PFAW), but a ‘Permission for Commercial Operations’ (PfCO). If you are going to be charging for your aerial work then you will need to have PfCO. It is imperative that you stay on the right side of the law; to fly a UAV for commercial aerial filming purposes in the UK the pilot needs to have a BNUC-S licence from the CAA. 

 

Retail therapy

Once you have worked out your plan to get legal you can then start to think about what sort of drone you would like to buy. There are many to choose from and they vary in size, quality, on-board camera and flying time. I started with a DJI Phantom Vision Plus, it did not cost very much and I figured that I would gain filming experience on this drone without worrying too much if I lost it in a tree or over the horizon (of course, always flying within the regulations set out by the CAA).

DJI Phantom 4Pro Inspire 2 Side By Side Size DSC00359
 

Not all drones are created equal. You can buy inexpensive drones with lower camera quality or drones that cost a lot more but have superb image quality. You will need to give careful thought to what you would like to film and the quality that you would like to deliver for your final production. This should be weighed up against size, compact design, portability and convenience of use. Kate and I travel all over the world filming and photographing our clients. Superb image quality is very important to us, however portability and convenience is just as essential. When you already have a couple of kit bags, tripods, monopods, light stands and all the different charging stations, it becomes difficult to get around when you then add a large drone to the mix.

Unfortunately, the cost of adding drones to your business does not just end with buying your first drone. Your new drone will need to be insured against total loss or damage. Even the best pilots in the world will have the odd hiccup occasionally. I had just finished updating one of our drone’s firmware and was taking it for a test flight when there was a technical fault and I clipped the branch of a tree. I watched in slow motion as it fell to the ground and broke the camera off the gimbal.

 

You will also need liability insurance

There are one too many videos on the internet of a poor bride and groom being hit by a drone when the operator was attempting to film an epic sweeping shot. Although drones these days have some very impressive flying times, you will need to carry spare batteries on location to get all the footage you need without continually needing to recharge. Also consider the fact that bright sunshine is going to play havoc with your aperture and shutter speed so you are going to need a few ND filters.

If you are safe and sensible then on the whole drones are pretty low maintenance until that newer, better, smaller drone comes out that you just have to have!

The main benefit that drones have brought to our business is our ability to deliver a whole new perspective to clients who have chosen to get married in amazing locations. In March Kate and I were asked to capture several different shoots on the beautiful Mahe island in the Seychelles. This involved a wedding, vow renewal, and a family & couple shoot. We could offer a whole new perspective on the location to our clients – offering viewpoints and an epic scale that they would have to hire a helicopter to experience in person. The main perspective of an island location is to look out to sea but we were able to turn the camera back towards the beaches and resort. Hiring a boat to take us out to sea to capture the island would have been costly, time-consuming and would still have resulted in a ‘normal’ eye level perspective. The height and scale just adds that missing third dimension and the results are often breath-taking.

 

 

Drone footage is becoming increasingly popular with our commercial clients that have large properties, which are hard to experience fully from the ground. There is no better way of showing the allure of an impressive wine estate other than from the air, complemented by imagery from the ground. It gives an amazing opportunity to truly give scale and place a location in the greater surroundings.

Our clients benefit from Kate and I being able to offer the full suite of photography, cinematography and aerial imagery within one team. As a destination imaging business our clients only need to fly two people to their locations and not an extended team.

We truly believe that drones have complemented our businesses and by no means replace our traditional filming - we call it our third perspective dimension.

One last word of warning – we can never promise drone work to a tight schedule – flying is always at the mercy of weather conditions and safety must come first!

Article by Brent Kirkman, from byLumiere, Training by Lumiere, and KateHopeWellsmith.com

 

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