I have been shooting aerial photography for years now, but have never really shared much of my process when it comes to creating images. Here’s a look at what goes into my planning of an aerial portrait shoot.
Idea and inspiration
As the creator, it all starts with a blank canvas. Our ideas come from things we’ve seen, known, and experienced. Using a camera, we can look at the world from a certain perspective, determine what we want to photograph, and perceive it in our own way.
A lot of my inspiration comes from photos I see on Instagram. I have to say that I love this platform most for showcasing some of the best aerial photography, photography, and video work consistently. Being that I am repeatedly exposed to this type of work just about every day, I am always forming my own new ideas and trying to put a twist on things.
This idea came from another photographer, Petra Leary, who I admire for her attention to detail and absolutely mind-blowing compositions and creativity. Everything about her work is so clean, and I kind of wanted to take that style and produce a very simple image of a girl venturing through the grass into the unknown.
Scouting a location
Scouting is a great way to make sure you are able to execute your plans when shoot day arrives. This being a personal shoot for me and a more specific idea I had, I wanted to make sure everything was going to work out according to plan. My biggest worry was that the grass was not going to look the way I wanted it to (too short, too tall, too patchy), and it was hard to find a spot with tall grass online. To be sure, I went to some grass patches around my area and flew so I could get an idea of where I wanted to shoot.
If you have an idea and location in mind, you’re off to a good start. If you have the time to scout the location, take test shots, and make sure it’s a safe spot to fly, that’s best to do before the shoot. I have another article you can check out that explains how to find and organize places to shoot with your drone. This can help you be a little more comfortable and confident on location because it isn’t your first time there.
The first step was to find somebody who was willing to help me out with the photo. I knew the grass was a greenish yellow, so I wanted to select tones for the clothes that would contrast with the environment. I chose a dark blue hat and romper for the model to wear.
This location doesn’t seem like much, and honestly, it really wasn’t anything special. I picked this spot because I knew it had tall grass that was easy to access, and I’d be able to fly there without any trouble. After analyzing the grass and patches I could use in this location, I knew it might be challenging yet possible to get what I wanted at this spot.
Using my Mavic 2 Pro and Smart Controller, I made sure to take a variety of photos, try different patches, and even photograph the hat separately (just in case). Checking the work is a crucial step, because you never want to go home unhappy. I always check my images on location to make sure they are close as they can be to what I had in mind.
When planning an aerial shoot with a model or a subject, you want to always make sure they are comfortable helping out. I typically present my idea along with the location and then plan a time I think would be best with the lighting and weather. In this case I warned her we may be stepping in mud, therefore she should wear boots and bring an extra pair of shoes. I even had her bring a few extra outfits in case the colors didn’t work out.
Because I see the edited version in my head before it’s shot, this to me is a huge part of completing the aerial shoot. I do everything I can to get the photo to look how I want in camera, but when it comes time to edit colors and adjust specific things, I make sure I spend the time needed. For this photo, I have included a time-lapse showing the edit. I did a lot of color-tuning in Lightroom, then added a less bent hat in Photoshop and did a few more minor adjustments.
After about an hour editing, the eyes were a bit tired but I felt good about the colors, look, and vibe I achieved. Taking photos like this take time and practice, and since I only had this one shot planned, I set a lot of my focus on making sure I could really achieve it and make an edit that I was proud of. Below you can find the original on the left and the final version on the right.
Editing is a lot of fun because after you shoot the image you had in mind, you can now make any final adjustments to get it to look how you want. Just like coming up with the idea, the edit is all up to you. Here you can tweak the image as much as you want until you think it’s finished. This step is crucial because you can learn a lot about how much you can push the camera on your drone as you continuously shoot and create with it.
Image by @typoland
Adding new elements to your aerial shoot can be quite fun and add something new. During my time learning photography and video I had the opportunity to shoot many different things from portraits to real estate. Through that I was able to work with a lot of new people and found a way to blend drones in with a few things I was already familiar with. My focus now is finding ways to innovate with these tools.
I encourage everyone to make content that they enjoy creating. A lot of the images I have created and shared were just personal ideas that I wanted to go out and execute. Through the years I’ve learned a lot about shooting with these drones to produce the photos/videos I want. A little practice each day can go a long way, but that creativity can last forever.
If you have any tips for shooting with your drone, comment below and share with the community! If you’re interested in learning about how to shoot anything else drone related, I would love to hear what you want to know!