Ever since I was a kid, I’ve fantasized about being a pilot. As a photographer of buildings, I’ve staged dozens of shoots from helicopters—but somebody else was always doing the flying. Now, with drones, I finally get to fly solo.
I’ve been shooting with drones for a few years and I still marvel at the angles and perspectives I’m able to achieve for my clients—without sacrificing clarity or quality. Now that broad expanse of multi-dimensional space between me shooting from the ground and me shooting from a helicopter is part of my canvas—and under my complete control.
It does take a lot of practice and experimentation to get the hang of it—and just like anything else related to flying, safety is priority one. I went through a lot of studying and training before I was granted an FAA 107 license allowing me to operate a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) for commercial purposes.
And as I got better, drone technology got better, too. Better cameras. Better stability. More flexibility and greater agility.
I’m a big fan of drone maker DJI. They’ve developed some amazing technology for the control and flight of their UAV’s and their Phantom 4 Pro is an incredible flying camera, capable of producing a raw still image using a 1-inch 20 megapixel Sony chip. It also features a lens with minimal distortion (meaning straight lines stay straight) and has a wide angle lens that’s great for photographing buildings, close up and far away. For capturing video, its automated flying modes assist in achieving consistently smooth and steady flights.
Of course, I could drone on and on…but I think I’ll let these pictures tell the rest of the story.
Drone vs. Helicopter
- Drone flights limited to 400 feet above ground, high enough for many site views.
- Drone can also be thought of as a “tall tripod,” 15-30 feet above ground.
- Drone flights can operate at lower costs.
- Helicopter can fly higher—a good way to show how a site sits relative to surroundings like highways and landmark buildings.
- Helicopters can fly in some areas that are restricted or difficult for drones, such as dense urban areas and near airports, and for a multi-site assignment, helicopters can travel quickly to multiple places.
- From a helicopter, I can shoot with a very high quality camera and a larger variety of lenses.