Drone photography ideas – 20 ideas to LEVEL UP your drone shots!

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The amount of potential that a drone delivers to your creative expression is unparalleled. The ability to see the world from a viewpoint once reserved for birds strikes awe into the most cynical of people. With all of this potential there’s one thing that regularly holds us back – our own imagination. That’s why I’ve put together these 20 ideas for drone photography that you can use to spark your own little bit of creativity! Here are 20 drone photography ideas to help!

20 drone photography ideas:

  1. Perspective shifting
  2. Group of friends to make a shape
  3. Use some smoke!
  4. Head to a sports court
  5. Create symmetry with your body and objects
  6. Get out over the water
  7. Find contrast in nature
  8. Inside a grand building
  9. Head to the forest
  10. Use a long road as a feature!
  11. Tilt-shift with a drone
  12. Small planet shots
  13. Boat/Jetski to carve the water
  14. Find a hedge maze
  15. Architectural symmetry
  16. Move autumn leaves to make an image
  17. Edge of buildings
  18. Meta images (shots with another camera)
  19. Snow shots
  20. Long shadow shots

In another one of my articles I covered whether or not drones are worth it – Click here to read it. Really it comes down to whether or not you are motivated enough to use the drone for the purpose that you bought it.

One of the toughest things when buying a drone for photography is keeping things interesting. Interesting in terms of shots, compositions, and “bot of the box” thinking. But looking at other images for inspiration we can certainly spark interest in yourselves by emulating the photos that you come across.

I like to look at others photos and ask myself what elements of the photo I like. These are the sorts of questions I ask that can lead to the development of my own drone photography ideas:

  • Is there a scale that I like (comparison of big and small)?
  • Are the colors are the most interesting part of the photo?
  • What is the subject of the photo? Is that why I’m drawn to it?
  • Is there a character in the image and what are they doing?
  • What is the first bit of the image that jumps out first? How can I use a similar feature?
  • Is it a photo of the natural or man-made world?
  • How would I produce a similar photo with the tools I have available to me?
  • + many more

Taking the time to ask yourself these questions will allow you to dissect a photo and then stitch together your own version of it. I suggest you grab a note pad and pen and quickly write down any answers to the above questions that can help you in your own creative drone ideas!

Look at the list and feel free to combine and smash these ideas together – hopefully, this list will be the thing you need to get yourself out of a creatie rut!

Disclaimer: I have attributed every image I can possible to the artist where the information was available. Please let me know if there are any that I have missed and the attribution that I should add!

1. Perspective shifting

This is one of my favorite ways to create fun drone images. Essentially, you send the drone up and point the camera straight down to capture the ground. Then you use that shot as your canvas to create your own fun scene. Ideas include – Harry Potter style broomstick shots, floating shots, bike shots, jumping between parts of the floor.

The most fun part of this idea is finding stages for your scene that look good while viewing from above. Look for walls, pebble to grass transitions, transitions of texture in the image to use as your “base”. Let the backdrop dictate how you pose and what the action is in the scene.

2. Group of friends to make a shape

If you are in a big group of people, there’s one fun thing you can do get them to create shapes. This only works if you can get to grips with organizing them all and they are feeling in a compliant kind of mood! Shapes to try are:

  • Heart (great for wedding shots)
  • Smiley faces
  • Basic shapes – square, circle, triangle
  • Initials or letters

Look for ways that the shape can emphasize the scene. Maybe you can form a shape around people. You could use the shape to point at a part of the scene.

Now all you have to do is arrange everyone to turn up at the same time in the same place – good luck!

3. Use some smoke

This is such an effective way to add a spark of magic to your drone photos and the smoke is surprisingly easy to obtain too! It takes a little bit of planning but I’m sure that your efforts will be rewarded. Also, your clients (if you do this professionally) will absolutely appreciate the extra effort you went to to get these shots!

You can get hold of these impressive smoke bombs at many online retailers like Peacock Smoke. Please use responsibly and remember to clean up after yourself and look after the environment!

4. Head to a sports court

There’s something oddly fascinating about the large man-made surfaces and the geometry of painted symmetrical lines. – a sports field or court (like basketball or netball) can be the perfect aerial canvas for you. You can crop the photo so that you only see the outline of the court.

The striking aspect of this work is when there is symmetry and bright colors. Who would have thought that sports line paintings could be such a fantastic way to see the wold from above. The good thing is that almost everyone has the ability to venture to a local sporting venue – just ask permission first!

5. Create symmetry with your body and objects

Besides the painted lines from above – you can also create order out of chaos by carefully alighting your bodies and other objects. Maybe is the O.C.D in all of us coming out, but there’s something really satisfying when random objects are laid to rest with millimeter precision spacing.

If you are looking for a cool profile picture of Instagram shot – take a moment to consider how you’d show the world what you do and what you’d lay out around you!

6. Get out over water

Flying your drone out over the water can be really scary. It is something that you have to build up to – I know that I didn’t feel comfortable for about a year before I trusted my drone and my skills enough. Water can lead to some pretty amazing drone poos. The wildlife, contrast with waves and the shimmering of light reflecting of the water all add together to make a pretty cool photo!

Top tips for flying over water are:

  • Double check battery flight time
  • Fly into the wind on outbound journey
  • Watch for updraft from cliffs and gusts
  • It boat launching – be careful when catch landing on the return.

7. Find contrast in nature

The natural world is one of the best places to find interesting features to photograph. For this idea – take your drone as high as you are legally allowed to go and look for natural lines while panning the camera down. You may find this natural contrast on the beach – between the sea and the sand. In a forestry tree nursery – between the different types of plant. Along the edge of a river. Agricultural fields with different crops or flowers.

Get out and about and start exploring your local area – where would you find such contrast in nature?

8. Inside a grand building

This is the only one on the list that is inside a building. However, that building is going to have to be pretty grand to make the most of using a drone! Of course, you could just stand at the top of the stairs – but where’s the fun in that? Using a drone allows you to be able to position the camera in a precarious position and capture a unique angle.

Staircases are a popular photograph – there’s something about the spiral nature that is pleasing to the eye. As well, look for large art pieces and sculptures that you could photograph like never before. Obviously, you’ll need to get permission from the owner of the grand house before flying a drone in it – but I’m sure that the offer of a cool pick will entice them to say yes!

9. Head to the forest

Trees of all shapes and sizes look great from the top down! Whether you are entering a forest where all of the trees are the same, or flying above a colorful mat of trees – it’ll look good. I promise you.

The more rugged the forest the better it looks in my opinion. There are so many good reasons to get out into the wilderness to start taking drone photos – taking a long walk in a beautiful forest is just another.

Make sure that you are able to launch the drone from a clearing and there are no overhanging branches that could hit your propellers while taking off or landing. Try getting close to the tree tops for an added sense of perspective if the photo is looking a little too “standard”.

10. Use a long road as a feature

I live in Australia and long straight roads are the norm when you head into the country. You can use these long straight roads a a way to draw the viewer through the photograph. They are also great at providing a contrast between nature and man made features.

Just be careful with local laws and where you are able to fly your drone. Many jurisdictions do not allow you to fly over a moving vehicle or within 30 meters. Look for straight long country roads and roads that bend back and forth in google maps.

11. Tilt-shift with a drone

This is one of my favorite ways to process an image! It turns the real world into a cool tiny world!

Check out this guide from DJI that talks you through the process of editing your tilt-shift drone photo – it is more simple that you think! A brilliant addition to your creative arsenal!

12. Small planet shots

There are a load of different inbuilt (DJI drones) and third party apps that you can use to create tiny world drone shots. If you can frame it just right you can end up with some pretty spectacular shots.

This sort of drone shot requires the user to manually stickh together a series of photos or there are apps that will automate this process for you, such as Litchi or DronePan.

  • When taking a panorama, always shoot in manual mode – this will keep the exposure the same through shots.
  • Make sure you are shooting in RAW. This also allows for much more detailed editing and color toning.
  • Position your drone in the air at whatever height you choose. Take your first photo, and rotate the camera making sure that at least 30-40% of the second photo overlaps with the first photo – turn on the grid to help guide you.  Repeat this until you’ve captured all of the landscape or returned back to your starting point.

13. Boat/Jet ski to carve the water

If you are lucky enough to own a boat for jet ski you have the perfect drone shot waiting to be taken! You can use the wake of a boat for jet ski to carve out a white path through the water.

Large circular patterns work well and makes for a easy framing of the picture. If you have a friends with a boat or jetski you could make some pretty intricate patterns together!

14. Find a hedge maze

In keeping with the geometric theme that’s running through this article, hedge mazes make for some pretty awesome drone photographs. Their spiraling and straight-line walkways are the perfect setting for a shoot!

Visit a hedge maze after it has been pruned in mid to late spring. This will bee the greenest it will get and the sun will be out to show off the hedge in all it’s glory!

15. Architectural symmetry

Humans love to bring order to the chaos of nature by building things that are symmetrical. Luckily for use this makes for a massive opportunity for excellent drone shots! Some cities (like Barcelona) are perfect for this short of drone photography. Have a look at your city to see if there are any blocks or neighbor hoods that would make for a great drone shot like these.

Roof top gardens and pools provide a lovely contrast to the concrete and brick. A little bit of nature way up in the sky!

16. Move autumn leaves to make an image

Just like snow and sand, autumn leaves make for a pretty incredible backdrop! If you want to get particularly creative you could arrange the leaves to emphasize your subject and provide a little bit of magic to the photo!

Look for parks and forests where there is a load of trees that lose their leaves in autumn. If you are taking a portrait drone shot make sure they are wearing a clour that is on the opposite side of the color wheel if you want them to stand out!

17. Edge of buildings

Getting your drone (safely) peering over the edge of buildings can provide us with the sense of vertigo in a safe environment. AS with all these drone photography ideas, you should check the local regulations for how close you can get to the buildings and the laws for flying in densely populated areas!

The change in perspective is what really makes this shot work. Looking for contrasting heights between high rise and non-high rise buildings will really help sell the shot.

18. Meta images (shots with another camera)

If you have another camera – why not try to include the drone in the shot. People are fascinated with technology and the love for drones is only growing. If you have two drones you would even use one drone to take a picture of the other

Maybe it the peak behind the scenes that people like with seeing the technology in use. Whatever it is don’t be afraid of showing your drone off to it’s max!

19. Snow shots

I’ve never lived in a place that has a significant amount of snowfall so I’m always jealous of the amazing snow shot that I see from other drone photographers.

Snow provides such an awesome backdrop to drone footage and the purity that it gives an image is second to none! The white background is perfect if you want to get your subject to wear a red jacket to really stand out! But even unstaged shots look magical with a sprinkling of snow!

Don’t all of these shot just look super magical? I love that you can make the subject pop with a simple splash of color!

20. Long shadow shots

There’s nothing better than massive long shadow shots just before sunset. Some of the most famous shots like this are with camels and horses where it takes you a moment to work out the perspective.

You’ll need to take your drone out late in the afternoon. Maybe a couple of hours before sunset to make the most of this long shadow time. Snow and sand work great at providing a nice canvas for the shadows. It’ll take a bit of experimenting to get it right but the end results are simply stunning!

The final word

I hope that this page has provided you with the inspiration that you need to find the perfect creative angle for your next photo shoot! There are so many things that can be done with a drone and you are really only limited by your imagination!

Fly safe!

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a Drone pilot, Writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV (ABC Documentary) and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones.