In this industry, we all start out as beginners. Even if you’ve moved beyond hobby flights at the weekend to flying drones as part of your 9 to 5, this business doesn’t stand still for long enough for anyone to properly catch up.
So what can you do to keep improving as a drone pilot? What steps can you take to get better at flying your drone and hone all the skills you need on the side to be a success?
We’ve put together a few things that all drone pilots should consider if they want to take things to the next level.
Become your own video editor
Plenty of drone pilots and professional flyers outsource their content editing or don’t do any at all. After a long shoot, the last thing most of us want to do is painstakingly go through footage to create the final product we are looking for.
It’s tempting to hire an editor familiar with the intricacies of the required software. But if you don’t know how already, perhaps 2019 could be the year that you learn how to edit media for yourself?
It’s not all about cutting videos down to size and organizing a montage. Depending on your camera settings and the conditions, all kinds of post-production effects might be needed to bring the best out of your shots, including color correction.
A great place to start is with Adobe Premiere Pro. The software is relatively easy to use, and there is plenty of content out there in the form of videos and guides to support your efforts. The initial trial is free, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
Of course, one of the best ways to minimize the work you have to do in post-production is to get a grip on your camera settings and set up shots perfectly before you hit record.
Which brings us to…
Get a grip on your camera settings
The cameras on many decent drones, incuding those from popular manufacturer DJI, offer solid image quality and near-instant results. Which is why it’s tempting not to worry too much about the settings, send up your drone and hit record.
But if you’re a perfectionist and want to make your media look as professional as possible, you need to get a grip on your camera settings and understand all the possibilities in detail.
This means understanding the basic elements of photography: shutter speed, aperture, ISO and the rest.
These two blogs from DJI are a great place to start:
Fly in challenging conditions
Baptism of fire, jumping in at the deep end… both idioms are all about learning from challenging experiences and improving as a result. With flying a drone it’s no different.
One way to become a better drone pilot and a more effective aerial photographer is to practice. But the conditions are important. Once you’ve mastered the basics, your skills will probably plataeu unless you push yourself and try new things.
So set yourself creative targets, fly at times when the weather isn’t perfect and you’re under pressure to complete your shots quickly. Try out new locations.
That way, when a situation arises that isn’t ideal: low battery, heavy winds, moving subjects – it won’t be the first time you’ve had to adapt on the fly.
Invest in accessories
Being a good drone pilot isn’t just about how comfortable you are behind the controls. It’s also about the quality of your results.
Just as important as perfecting your camera settings and learning the art of post-production is knowing which accessories to use and when.
Some are small but make a big difference to your final product, like Neutral Density Filters. Others are expensive but give you greater control during flight, like DJI’s CrystalSky monitor.
Both will give your footage an edge and provide you with extra creative control when you need it.
Master autonomous modes and flight apps
So much of a drone pilot’s time is spent switching attention between monitor and aircraft. That’s because while the drone and your thumbs are doing most of the hard work, accompanying applications provide technical assistance and are the link between the two.
Learning to navigate your away around flight control apps like DJI Go is an absolute must if you want to make the most of all the flight modes and creative options at your disposal.
Autonomous shots such as Active-Track and Orbit can free your hands and enable you to be a part of the action. On top of that, most drones have preset manoeuvres that capture moments with more of a professional feel than even the most skilled pilots can bring to the table.
Besides autonomous flight modes, there are a bunch of apps out there to help you expand your creative potential and get better quality shots.
These include PolarPro, the app from the popular camera accessory company. The PolarPro app helps you choose the best filter for the conditions and provides the perfect combination of shutter speed, IOS and aperture to bring your shots to life.
You can also get live weather forecasts for your location and alerts for golden hour.
Another popular app with drone pilots and photographers in general is Sun Surveyor.
With the light conditions being so important to the composition of your aerial photos and videos, Sun Surveyor gives you GPS-specific details on the position and movement of the sun so that you can plan flights ahead and nail shots first time around.