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9 pro tips for amazing drone photography

Getting stunning aerial photos and video with a few simple hacks
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1 of 15 Philip Lima

This is his job

Philip Lima knows aerial photography. A DP and Technical Manager for Impact Creative, he's recognized as one of the best low altitude aerial specialists in the world. Here are his top tips. These breathtaking photos are from the man himself.

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Wrap around your subject

A lot of aerial videos we see on YouTube are of someone lifting off, flying over something interesting. Hey, nothing wrong with that. Those shots can be beautiful. But let's take it to the next level.

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Wrap around your subject

I suggest you find a subject, and then fly around in a circular motion while going up or down, gaining or losing altitude. That creates really interesting shots that grab an audience. So if you want to showcase something specific, like a vehicle or a surfer, you should be thinking about how you can work your shot so you're coming in close and wrapping around them as the subject.

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Know your camera's field of view and get close enough to fill it

Different camera systems will have different fields of views. A GoPro has a wide field of view, so you have to be close to your subject to fill the frame. If you use the X5 camera with the DJI Inspire, you'll have different options based on different lenses.

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Know your camera's field of view and get close enough to fill it

The majority of plug and play cameras have wide fields of view, and that means you need to get close to your subject.

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They call it the magic hour for a reason

Looking down in middle of day, everything looks really flat. It's like looking at the aerial view on Google maps. But in the early morning and evening, within an hour after sunrise or before sunset, the world looks so beautiful.

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They call it the magic hour for a reason

Another advantage of flying in the morning is that there's typically less wind than later in the day. It's really the best time for great light.

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Want to shoot sports? You're going to need a longer lens

A lot of people who own drones want to film sports. Sports are an interesting field and they're getting more popular. The problem goes back to that wide field of view. With most consumer drones your lens is going to be so wide that you would literally have to be part of the game to get a good shot. That's obviously not practical or safe.

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Want to shoot sports? You're going to need a longer lens

If you want to do sports right, you need to look at a higher end system, something that can fly a 100mm or longer lens, which will give you a nice tight shot, even from altitude.

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Turn off your monitor

I tell all my students to turn off their monitors while they're learning to fly. In my opinion, if you want to learn how to control your aircraft for optimal photography, you need to be able to fly without looking at screen. You become so dependent on the screen and framing your shot that you smack into a tree sideways. That's a safety issue.

You also pay more attention to setting up your shot if you're not so locked into the screen. It's beneficial to be able to see where the drone is in relation to your subject.

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What's the best entry level drone for photography?

The best thing in my opinion is the Phantom 3 series. I have the Pro version, because I've had everything, and I still use it. I've taken it mountain biking and the footage I get is absolutely beautiful. It doesn't do what highest end systems can, but it's pretty amazing.

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​What if I'm looking to step up to the next level with aerial photography?

DJI released the X5, which is a micro 4/3 interchangeable lens camera. The kit is $4500, ready to fly. At this point in time, that's the best next level setup.

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What do you use professionally?

I use an Octocopter from FreeFly systems, which is the company that makes the Movi handheld stabilizer. The one I use is the Constar, and that's flying a Red Epic package.

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What do you use professionally?

I also use a DJI S1000. That one flies either a 5D Mark III or a GH4 from Panasonic.

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Drone or UAV?

That still bugs me. I don't think what we're flying are drones. Technically a drone has its own intelligence. I've sort of given up the fight in the face of popular usage, but I maintain that what I use is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

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