If you are a wedding photographer, it is essential that you have all the necessary camera gear and skills to capture these special moments. Nowadays, drone shots and drone footage are quite common in weddings.
So, if you want to be successful at wedding photography, it is important to have a drone and drone shooting skills. While this article may not be a substitute for years of experience in drone wedding photography, it will get you well on your way.
Drone wedding photography combines techniques from drone photography and wedding photography. Getting a drone alone will not help you capture mind-blowing wedding captures. You must also know how to use it in the right manner. I will share some useful tips which will definitely help you to take your wedding captures to the next level.
There are many models of drones in the market. If you are a beginner in drone photography, then it can be really confusing to make the right selection. Don't worry. I will list the best drones for wedding photographers to make the selection process easy for you.
So, let us get started.
Can you fly drones at weddings?
Unlike other photography genres, drone photography needs to follow certain rules. These rules vary for each place. As a photographer, you need to check the drone regulation rules in the wedding location to know whether you can fly there or not. For example, if the location of the wedding is very near to the airport (less than 5 miles from the airport), then you can't fly your drone in that place as per law.
If you are a photographer who is planning to use a drone at the wedding, then you must go and check the location once to ensure that drone photography is allowed in that place. It will also give you a better idea of how to fly your drone in that place if it is allowed.
Make sure you have insurance for your drone business. Drones are basically small helicopters and they can hurt people and damage property regardless of the pilot’s skills. They can short circuit or loose connection to your controller.
Do you need to register a drone for weddings?
When you are flying a drone in a public space then there are many rules that you must follow. It is essential to know these rules before taking them to weddings. These rules are put forward by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
You will have to get the Part 107 certification from FAA to use the drone at a wedding since you are generating income from wedding photography. You can always refer to the rules and regulations from FAA for flying drones. It will cost you $150 to take the Part 107 test.
If you are a hobbyist using drones at the wedding then the rules are a little different. You must not fly the drone above 400 feet. The drone must be always in your sight. You must not fly it above people.
In both cases, you need to display your FAA ID on top of the drone. All drones must be registered with FAA and this registration is valid for 3 years. Once you get the registration and the certification done then you can use it at weddings. But, make sure that you are not violating any of the rules while using the drone.
Drone wedding photography shots
Since drone photography gives you pretty much unlimited freedom in terms of angles without climbing trees or bringing in huge poles and dollies, it can really get your creative juices flowing. However, we still have to follow some rules and not get too carried away in order to get amazing shots.
Always keep in mind that even though you can shoot stills and videos with your drone, and technically you could do freeze frames of your video footage, on many drones the camera mode (usually separate button) gives a better megapixel image than video mode.
Drones these days, and especially the zoom ones i will mention later, can without disturbing the guests too much get a lot of detail of the event, including laughs and actions of the attendees. Just let people know ahead of time not to pay too much attention to your miniature helicopter.
Keep in mind that your drone shots should add value to your wedding photography. Figure out what you can achieve with a drone that you were never able to in a wedding scene and what will make your clients happy. As you will learn, drones are actually more useful and more fun for doing shoots before the wedding in scenic locations, when you have designated time with the couple and are not time pressed as much.
One last thing, weddings are stressful when you are the photographer trying to capture all the important moments (and the surprise ones) on a memory card. Do not start practicing these at the actual wedding. You will have very limited time and things WILL go wrong. practice on your friends earlier. And make sure your drone flying skills are good enough before signing up for an event.
The establishing shot
A drone is great for taking this type of shot. It basically shows the venue and guests from an aerial viewpoint, often facing the stage as viewed by an attendee only much higher. You can also take this type of shot from above where the bride and groom are facing the audience or even slightly from the side. Just make sure you include all the important elements of the setting.
If you want to get creative take some overhead shots from high up depicting all the attendees and the venue, especially when its a very scenic location. Think cliffs above the crashing waves, a gathering on top of a snow mountain, courtyard of a tall castle, etc.
Couple kissing shot
This is a nice shot you can take as you fly away from the couple. Start close and ask them to kiss, then back away and keep taking shots (and footage if desired). Experiment with height and angles.
You can go higher as you pull away to expose more and more of the scene. If the couple is dressed in colors contrasting with the surroundings, they will stand out even when you get high and far.
These are somewhat tricky as not too much of a person can be seen in a closeup overhead shot. See what stands out most when you look at your monitor and focus on that. For example, does the bride’s dress spreading in the breeze look a bit abstract from overhead? Do the flowers she’s carrying stand out? You might also notice some interesting elements of the setting that will add to the shot, such as geometric shapes of the venue, trees, etc.
Keep composition rules in mind for the best effect such as thirds rule.
Take these as you fly along attendees walking toward the stage/altar etc. It can be shot at eye level or much higher, depending on desired framing and scenery you wish to show.
You can experiment with the angles, whether its full side on, somewhat in front of the walking couple, or somewhat behind (45 degrees). You can even follow from behind. The closer you are the quicker you will need to react with your flying. Try a low flying variation pointing the camera up a little for an interesting effect.
If you need help keeping the people in frame, see if your drone has a tracking feature and learn it before the shoot.
Tips for drone wedding photography
I will share some tips which will be really helpful for you when you are doing drone photography at weddings. It will help you to master the art of wedding drone photography.
Avoid indoor usage of drones
If you fly the drone indoors in the wedding location, then there will be more obstructions faced by the drone. So, it can get risky. Also, flying the drones near the bride, groom, family members, and other guests can be annoying for them in enclosed spaces, not to mention possibly dangerous.
Indoors, you will also face lots of magnetic interference. It can affect the working and flight path of the drone. GPS will not be able to see the satellites. You will have to resort to manual flight mode in this situation. You will not be able to use the obstruction avoidance feature of the drone here. It will be really difficult for you to fly it indoors in manual mode. So, avoid it.
Try to shoot from all possible angles
When you are flying a drone at a wedding ceremony and related activities, try to take pictures from all possible angles (aka GET CREATIVE). Make sure to vary the flying height of the drone and capture images. Later, you can delete the pictures which you didn't like.
If you are a beginner in drone photography, then it will give you a better understanding of drone images from different heights and angles. With practice you will learn what works best and what really doesn’t work.
Try to capture emotional moments
You must always focus on capturing images that tell the story when you use drones to capture wedding images. There will be lots of emotions happening during the wedding. Try capturing these scenes using the drone to bring a completely new perspective to the image.
Use image compositional techniques
Image composition is what makes or breaks an image. It is applicable in the case of drone photography also. You can make use of any of the photo composition techniques to compose your shots. Many drone apps include composition help features such as grids on the screen when you are flying. Some of the techniques that you can try include the rule of thirds, use of negative space, golden ratio technique, and leading lines composition technique. You can even try breaking these rules to create a good composition of your own.
Use drone at wedding rehearsals
Nowadays, people are doing wedding rehearsals before the wedding, especially if its a complex ceremony with orchestrated dances, larger groups, etc. It is a good opportunity for you to get the drone shots right. You can ask the bride and groom so that you can also be present during the wedding rehearsal. You can also interact with the bride and groom and share your drone photography ideas. After all its their wedding and they will appreciate talking about their vision.
You can even capture some images and show them to the bride and the groom and get their feedback. They may have some ideas and you can try to incorporate them during the actual shoot. It will help you to ensure that the client is satisfied with your photoshoot. It will help to improve your wedding photography business and earnings.
Shoot at low ISOs
When you are capturing drone shots outdoor in daylight, you will not face any lighting issues. You will have a good amount of sunlight. Thus, you don't have to bump up the ISO of your camera.
In that case try to stick to lower ISO values. It will ensure that there is no noise in the image. The lower ISO settings also help to improve the dynamic range of the sensor. So, the quality of the image will be better and any post processing later will have a better effect. Remember, garbage in means garbage out.
Check the weather!
Weather is an important factor to be checked. You can check online for the weather at the location on the wedding day. It is not advisable to fly drones in bad weather. If the weather is rainy or having heavy winds, then better not to use the drone. Most of the drones are not waterproof. So, flying one in rain may damage it, not to mention endanger wedding attendees. You won't be able to control the flight of drones in heavy windy situations.
Check location on Google Earth
Most of the time, the photographer will be visiting this wedding location for the first time. In such situations, it is a good idea to have a look at google earth. It will give you a clear-cut idea about the wedding location with the help of an aerial view.
Not only that, with the 3D view there (available especially for more commonly visited locations), you can almost fly through the venue never having been there before.
It will help you to plan your drone flight and take pictures accordingly. It is a good idea to grab some screenshots from google earth. You can use it as a reference during the shoot.
If the location is not well represented on Google Earth, see if you can get reference videos or photos elsewhere on the web. Be creative in your search.
Get the exposure right
In most cases, the bride will be wearing a white dress and the groom will be wearing a dress in the shades of dark blue or black. There is a chance that the bride's dress will get overexposed because of the white color and you are shooting from a bird's eye view. So, make sure to nail the image exposure. You can check and confirm the exposure with the help of the image histogram in the drone.
You must not restrict yourself to typical drone wedding shots. Be more creative. Make the bride and groom pose differently and capture images.
The top angle shots which the drone can create can make the pictures really interesting. Normal bride and groom poses will not work for drone shots. You will have to make them sit or lie down and make them look upwards for the shot.
Search online for more ideas
You can always have a look at the work of other wedding photographers who are using drones for more ideas. It is easy to find such images on the internet. I am not telling you to copy those scenes. You can use it as an inspiration and compose your scenes accordingly.
You can also have a look at this video from Stewart and Alina for more tips.
Things to look for when buying a drone for wedding photography
If you are looking for a drone to shoot weddings, then there are certain things to be checked before buying one. You can consider this as the drone buying checklist for wedding photographers.
The first thing to check is the image quality. You will be using the drone to capture some nice bird’s eye view images of the wedding as well as for some eye-level shots. So, you need to ensure that the drone is capable of delivering high-quality images. The drone must at least have 12 megapixels resolution. No cheap drones with low spec unknown cameras. Look for lens names like Zeiss. It must be capable of capturing high-quality images without noise at moderate ISOs.
Nowadays, most photographers capture video at 4k resolution. So, your drone must also support 4k. A frame rate of 30 fps will be good enough for the videos at 4k resolution. If the drone camera can support a 60 fps frame rate then it will be really good. You can use it to capture some nice slow motion videos too in addition to having smooth footage to edit as you please. If you are looking for a cinematic 24p and you don’t want to do that in post, be careful as it will limit your options mentioned earlier after you finish shooting.
The next thing to look for is the flight time. Never compromise on the flight time. You must get at least 20 to 30 minutes of flight time with a fully charged battery. Also, make sure to invest in additional batteries and keep all the batteries in a fully charged state when you are going for the shoot. It will ensure that your drone never runs out of power during the wedding function.
If you are shooting a wedding in cold such as on a mountain, be careful with your batteries. As many have found out before you, batteries may die soon after launch in extreme temps. Keep them warm.
Cost is another factor to consider. You can get drones in different price ranges. But, make sure that the cost is always within your budget. When you consider the drone cost, you need to consider the cost of the accessories also. Many people miss this part. You will have to invest in accessories like ND filters, extra batteries, memory cards, extra propellers, etc. So, take everything into account.
Insure your drone if you can. Accidents happen. A lot with drones.
Obstacle detection feature
You must ensure that the drone is equipped with an obstacle detection feature. Obstacle avoidance from the front and back may not be sufficient for a wedding shoot. The safety of the guests, bride, and groom is a matter of concern when you fly a drone at the wedding. If the drone comes with omnidirectional obstruction avoidance and detection feature, then it will be really helpful. It will help to avoid unnecessary accidents. Having your business name scarred by “that incident at the last wedding”- not good.
Level of noise
Some drones are known to make more noise than others. Check for noise levels of the drone in dB in the specification before making the purchase. Try to pick a drone with the least noise. If the drone is a noisy one and when you fly it near the wedding crowd then it can be irritating for the guests. You DO NOT want them all to pay attention to the drone and not the wedding unless you ask them to look at the drone on purpose.
So, try to avoid it. Go for a silent drone.
You will be capturing all the wedding images in the RAW format in your DSLR/mirrorless camera. These images will be further edited in post-processing software like Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop before they are sent to the clients. The RAW image will help you to edit the pictures in a better way without losing the quality. It will be good if your drone is capable of capturing and saving the images in RAW format. It will ensure that you can process the photo in a better way.
Best drones for wedding photography
As a beginner, you are likely to ask which is the best drone for taking wedding shots and videos. There are many varieties of drones in the market. So, it can be a tough task to select the right one for you. Don't worry, I will list out the best drones that are great for wedding photography in the next section.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
The DJI Phantom 4 Pro is one of the most commonly used drones by wedding photographers. It allows you to capture 4k videos at 60fps and 30fps. Thus, it will help you to capture slow-motion footage. The 20-megapixel sensor of the camera is good enough to capture high-quality images.
You can get around 30 minutes of continuous flight time with a fully charged battery. The range of 4.3 miles is best suited for a wedding. Obstacle avoidance is another feature that makes it attractive to wedding photographers. Other drones usually have this feature of obstacle avoidance in two directions only, front and back. But, this drone comes with five side obstacle avoidance, which makes it safer on the wedding occasion. So, the risk of crashing is very less even if you are a not the best drone pilot.
Even though it is a larger drone, it behaves much better in high winds due to its weight, giving you more stable shots.
DJI Mavic Pro Platinum
If you are looking for a smaller drone for wedding photography, then the DJI Mavic Pro Platinum drone is for you. You can easily carry it in your camera bag along with other cameras. It is almost quiet during its flight. It is possible with the help of the aerodynamic propellers in this drone. It weighs around 734 grams and comes with a 12-megapixel camera.
This platinum version is an improved model of the pro version from DJI. The noise generated is almost 60 percent less than the pro model. It also gives you an additional 3 minutes of flight time when compared to the pro model. So, the total flight time is 30 minutes. Both utilize the same battery.
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
The Mavic 2 Zoom is another top drone model from DJI. It is capable of capturing stunning footage in 4k resolution. You can also capture high-quality HDR images using this drone. It also supports dolly zoom and hyper-lapse features. Nowadays, most photographers utilize these features to capture their wedding footage.
You can also capture good footages and pictures even in low light with the help of the variable aperture feature. This drone is known for its shake-free and smooth video captures. You can capture the video continuously for around 31 minutes with the help of a full charge battery. The omnidirectional obstacle detection feature of this drone will ensure that the drone is safe to use in a wedding ceremony. The drone is also silent and thus will not disturb anyone.
DJI Mavic Pro
The Mavic Pro is another choice if you are on a tight budget but still looking for high-quality videos and images. You can go for the full bundle option. Thus, you will get additional batteries and propellers. The charging hub provided in the full bundle option is an extremely useful one. It will allow you to capture videos for a long time.
You can also do subject tracking with this drone with the help of the ActiveTrack feature. The 3-axis gimbal along with the 4k support will ensure that your footage is always smooth and of very high quality. You can shoot at a frame rate of 30fps with 4k resolution. It supports a transmission distance of up to 4.3 miles.
DJI Inspire 2
The DJI Inspire 2 drone comes with 6k video capability and 20.8 megapixels image resolution for those requiring the best. These two camera features makes it one of the popular choices of drones for wedding photography. The dual battery swap feature in this drone will help you to achieve a continuous flight time of 27 minutes. Thus, it is pretty good for a long-duration shoot.
They do come with an obstacle avoidance feature. When it comes to the size and weight factor, it is a bigger drone.
I hope this article got you more than ready to tackle some drone wedding photography!
Consider reading this article to know more about the legality of flying drones on private property.