Everything You Need to Know About Drone Photography

Taking shots to the next level—literally!

drone photo

Photo by Laura Murray Photography

You know those breathtakingly beautiful wedding videos that open up with a jaw-dropping overhead shot of the venue so that you can see every single detailed aspect of the wedding day? It’s almost like a scene out of a movie, only it’s just the impressive and artistic work of drone photography

What is a Drone?

A drone is an unmanned aircraft that can fly autonomously, meaning it's a device that can be flown without a human in control.

As the name suggests, drone photography involves the use of a drone, or an unmanned flying device, that allows a photographer to capture aerial shots while standing on the ground, explains Felix Barra, director of photography at Haven Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa in Cancun, Mexico. This type of photography provides the unique opportunity to witness one’s wedding day from the air, whether it’s sweeping landscape shots of your venue or a zoom-in close up from above of you and your spouse having your first kiss. 

Meet the Expert

Drone photography isn’t anything new, but it’s picked up in popularity over the last decade. Craig D’Andrea, owner of Craig James Video in East Islip, New York, says about 25 percent of his clients book a drone for their wedding day—a percentage he sees go up every single year. “Having a drone for video seems to be more popular since the shots seem to work really well in wedding films,” he says. “The moving images that a drone can capture are breathtaking and really draws the viewer into the film.”

While drone photography can be useful for any wedding, it’s without a doubt the most impactful for outdoor weddings in idyllic settings, such as panoramic waterfronts, rugged mountaintops, and historic estates. “Drone photography allows for the wide expanse of the blue-hued water to stand out and the perfectly arched chairs set for a ceremony to work in harmony within the frame,” explains Manda Weaver, owner, photographer, and creative director at Manda Weaver

But before you add drone photography to your wedding contract, there are a few important things you should know. We reached out to professional photographers to get the full scoop on everything you need to know before booking drone photography. 

It’s vital that you hire a professional.

In order to receive high-quality photography and videography of your wedding day, you naturally want to hire a professional. But when it comes to drone photography, there’s even more urgency to go pro. “Make sure that any photographer you hire who plans to use drones is certified to do so—and is insured,” notes Matt Sloane, CEO of Atlanta Drone Group. “Drones are very safe, but things can happen and you want to make sure you’re covered.” He recommends asking whether or not your photographer has a “Part 107 certification,” which is the FAA certification to fly drones commercially. 

Drones can be noisy.

While it may sound like an amazing idea to have a drone flying overhead during the most special moments of your wedding, like the moment you say “I do” and during your first dance, it’s important to note that drones can create a loud humming or buzzing noise. To prevent this unpleasant surprise during your wedding, D’Andrea recommends bringing this concern to the attention of your photographer. “Fortunately, with newer drone models and better propeller technology, they have become much quieter,” he says. If you want your outdoor ceremony captured, he recommends telling your drone operator to limit the drone shots to just the beginning and end of your ceremony so that they don’t interfere with the most important moments. 

Drone photography is not always possible.

There are many rules and regulations that cover airspace and drone use falls under this category. Before you book drone photography, communicate with your wedding venue to make sure that drones are allowed to be flown. “For example, if your venue is less than 5 miles from an airport, then they may not be able to fly the drone,” says D'Andrea. “In some cases with the newer drones, they won’t even be able to take off due to restrictions built into the software.”

A drone can be a distraction if not used properly.

One of the most popular ways to use drone photography during a wedding is to capture the ceremony, especially if it is outside, however, this can prove to be tricky if not done correctly. “The ceremony is without a doubt the most poignant part of the wedding day, but when the drone flies above the guests and the couple, it can cause all eyes to shift and completely upstage the beautiful moment,” explains Weaver. “Be sure to hire a drone photographer who knows how to be discrete when using drone photography during the ceremony and all other important parts of the wedding day experience.”

Inclement weather may inhibit drone use.

While most drones are water-resistant and can fly in windy situations, D’Andrea points out that they’re not indestructible. If there’s inclement weather, like rain, snow, or extreme wind, you may not get the best footage or, worse, the drone could break. “If getting rain on the lens is unavoidable, it could ruin your shots,” says D’Andrea. “Always communicate with your drone operator and see what they feel comfortable doing.” A professional will make the right decision in any situation. 

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