The first mass-market drones were manufactured more than a decade ago. As with anything, being over 10 years late to it can create some hurdles to entry. In this article, I will share some of my experiences as a relative latecomer to drone photography.
Being Late Means More Options
Being late to the drone party is a good thing. There are so many more options for drones available now. Since the first commercial drones were introduced, there have been huge improvements to these flying machines, from longer battery life and bigger camera sensors to more reliable flying and homing technology. But is it too late to get one for yourself? Not! There are drones available at many price points, each offering a certain level of value for your drone dollar.
Beginner drones may cost anywhere from as little as $30 for what is very much a toy. If you are willing to pay a little bit more, up to $250, you can get more features such as a rudimentary camera (which in this case, as a photographer, might be a bit important!)
The prosumer models, which will cost you under the $2,000 mark, are generally a bit more robust, offering better photo and video quality, as well as features that ease flying. These may include auto take-off and landing, as well as auto navigation to return to the user if it gets lost. I have the Mavic Air 2, which I bought less than a week ago and love.
Finally, there are professional level drones, which are very much that, and the price points reflect their higher quality. But let’s be real, if you’re considering one of these, you probably don’t need this article.
I’d err on the side of caution and aim for a price point that is a bit middle of the pack for each category, especially for the beginner and prosumer models.
Get Your Flying Ducks in a Row
At this point, I’d like to take a mini mid-article break and talk a bit about drone safety. To do this, I’d like to share links to the FAA, Transport Canada, CASA, and the EASA. A drone, even when it’s a toy, isn’t a toy. You shouldn’t fly it in restricted airspace and should follow local laws. If you live outside the United States, Canada, Australia, or Europe, then you may need to look up your local aviation authority for your country or region.
The amount of information to cover each little difference for the various regions and local laws sits a bit outside the scope of this article, but some of these government links should at least help you get started.
A New Perspective
We’ll close off with the fundamental question: why get a drone? Well, why not?! It’s in the name of the question: it’s fun! But to offer a bit more serious insight: some of the images I’ve been able to author on my drone haven’t been anything to invite the local critics over to view. But I had so much fun making them.
Photography, as an art, is unique. As an artist working in the medium of photography, the challenge is to capture a photograph that engages with an idea that’s beyond just what is in the image. Now, a drone may not innately help you do all that. But what it will do is offer you a chance at a different perspective or point of view. If you’re in a position where you need a new challenge to your photography, then trying something new and different can be quite freeing. That rush of the first flight may be akin to the rush of that first photo you ever took.
If this article does encourage you to purchase or fly a drone, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Or if you already have a drone, how does it make you feel?
Now is a perfect time to start, because prices for drones have come down so much, and at the same time, technology has improved by leaps and bounds over those ten years.
I just picked up my first drone about a month ago, a DJI Mavic Mini 2, for 350$ on ebay. That’s not too high of a hurdle to jump for an introductory machine. Yet the camera and gimbal are so good that it takes some relatively pro pictures and videos.
This is very similar to my thinking. So much more available now than even a few years ago and at very accessible price points.
No doubt there will be quite a few new drone users by the spring, that's if component shortages don't scupper the best laid plans.
Mine was a bit difficult to get with customs but in the end everything got sorted out.
Drone photography, I never thought it would take off.
Just needs a bit of wind in the wings.
I picked up a DJI Mavic Mini 2 and it has been a breeze to learn how to fly and takes pretty impressive photos
“Photography is so easy a medium to use, the box camera, a roll of film, a snap – a picture! Photography, the art, is so immensely difficult because it is so easy to get a picture of sorts. One must work hard to smuggle anything into a photograph other than record keeping.” ~ Erwin Blumenfeld