In this interview landscape photographer Albert Dros offers some really good drone photography tips to help you make better aerial photos. Albert is a professional landscape photographer and normally travels all over the world. More and more often, a drone is also brought along in the suitcase: currently a DJI Mavic 2 Pro. The biggest challenge of drone photography, according to Albert, is to create strong compositions. A completely different challenge concerns the social acceptance of drones. You can read all about it in our interview with him. You will find the Drone photography tips toward the end of the article.
Drone photography tips from landscape photographer Albert Dros
Who are you and what are you doing? How did you get involved in the business?
“I am Albert Dros, 35 years old and a professional landscape photographer for about 10 years now. I travel all over the world for my work. Not last year of course :). I’ve always been active in the design industry. For example, I studied Media Technology and later obtained a master’s degree in Multimedia & Entertainment Technology. I have actually always worked for myself, in the creative industry. In the past a lot for TV and broadcasting, graphic work. Then you have to think of graphic elements and titles that you see on TV.
At a certain point, I discovered photography, and how much I really liked it. That happened when I was studying in Hong Kong. Photography actually grabbed me. I wanted to record everything and became addicted to it. Once back in the Netherlands, I continued my passion and noticed that I was also starting to earn some money with it. Licenses, magazines, small workshops and things like that. So the ball started to roll a bit. Now, about 10 years later, I am still addicted to it. Little has actually changed, except that it has been my full-time profession for a long time now.”
When did you come into contact with drones? Which devices do you own or have you owned?
“I held off drones a bit in the beginning but got on with the DJI Phantom 3. So I’ve had the Phantom 3, Phantom 4 Pro +, Mavic Pro, and now the Mavic 2 Pro. I always have a lot of ideas for photos and of course, drones opened up new possibilities. That’s why I bought one at some point, and I’ve never regretted it. I don’t use them excessively, but they always offer original angles for photos.”
What appeals to you as a landscape photographer in drone photography? And what not?
“Especially certain photos that would otherwise simply be impossible. I also find abstract top-down photos very interesting. What appeals to me a little less is “the hassle” that is involved. With normal photography, there are actually no rules. You grab your camera and take pictures. That is a bit different with drones. You have to immerse yourself in a number of things and follow the rules carefully. In addition, drones are still not very widely accepted. People see them very much as a nuisance.”
What are the biggest challenges for you when it comes to using a drone for landscape photography?
“I think the biggest challenge for me is to make strong compositions from the air. With a camera, you can change position very quickly and use countless foregrounds on the ground. This works very differently with a drone. Moving a drone takes a lot of time, and making a beautiful composition takes time and effort. In addition, you are, as it were, a “race against time” because you are dealing with a battery that consumes relatively quickly. Flying somewhere whole and back again takes a lot of time, so getting your actual shot takes a lot of effort and time.
Making really good compositions with a drone takes a lot of practice and experience. I have now discovered that you often don’t have to fly high at all to make strong compositions. On the contrary, especially in the Netherlands. When you fly high everything becomes much flatter. Often 20-30 meters is enough to get a good perspective. Challenging, but a lot of fun.”
What does your ideal camera drone look like? What do you hope DJI will come up with?
“I think DJI is taking a great step with the new DJI Air 2S, but it is not going to replace my Mavic 2 Pro yet. I simply want better image quality. The sensor is nice at the moment, but of course, it doesn’t even come close to my Sony Alpha cameras (I am the European Sony ambassador).
What is the ideal camera drone for me:
- M43 sensor, so slightly larger than the 1 inch of today. (larger sensor will probably make the drone too big/heavy)
- Interchangeable lenses so 3rd party brands can make good quality lenses (DJI’s lens today is pretty bad, including the Hasselblad. Very disappointing in the corners).
- Relatively light. I think my Mavic 2 Pro has a great size and weight. Lighter is of course nice, but for me, the image quality comes first for a Pro drone.
- The sound. I always feel guilty about flying a drone because it makes noise. It would be nice to have quieter drones in the future.”
Is (a lack of) social acceptance of drones ever an issue?
“Unfortunately yes. What I mentioned above: I often feel guilty for flying a drone. Especially because I often get up very early to photograph the most beautiful light. People (and animals) are still sleeping. When I fly with a drone, I do disturb a few things, even though I don’t do anything illegal. I also regularly got into trouble with “angry” people because I flew close to their homes. Although that was still quite a distance (100+ meters), people quickly feel uncomfortable.”
What are your top three drone photography tips people who want to raise the bar?
“1. Work very hard on your composition. Flying a little lower is often better than flying higher because you can still have a nice perspective with your foreground. Look very closely at leading lines, for example, ditches, roads, etc. This works well in Drone Photos. I often see drone photos that I see more as “just capturing something” rather than a really good photo. And a bad composition is often the cause of this.
2. To have a maximum dynamic range in your photo, use Bracketing. And make sure you make 3 or 5 separate exposures. You can then merge these in Lightroom, and thus still capture the optimal range of the situation. This is especially useful with high contrast, such as sunsets or sunrises.
3. Use the 5 shot burst mode, especially when shooting in the dark. Drones have small sensors. Even at ISO 100, you have quite a bit of noise, especially if you are going to edit your image. By using the BURST mode and hovering the drone completely still, you can later “stack” these images in software. Each image has a different noise pattern. By stacking almost exactly the same images, you combine the noise patterns and thus get a better quality image. I certainly don’t do this with every image myself, but I do with images of which I think “this is really a nice image for print”.”
Would you like to see more of Albert’s work? Then check out albertdros.com or follow Albert on Instagram. All photos in this article are reproduced with permission. If you have any drone photography tips you’d like to share with us and our readers, be sure to leave them in the comments below.
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