Long before cheap drones were a thing, in fact long before the quadcopters we call drones were a thing you could buy for a kid for $50, I was obsessed with the idea of taking aerial photographs. I didn’t really have any money to speak of- and by aerial photography standards, I still don’t. I’d looked a lot ate Kite Aerial Photography. In fact, that’s how I came across CHDK, the Canon Hack Development Kit with which I’ve had so much fun.
I never did get to take any aerial photos though, and drone photography was far out of my reach, with entry level photography drones costing several hundred dollars.
A Cheap Drone Enters
Then something unexpected happened. A friend of mine gifted me a small cheap drone. Just something to fly around the lot next to me and have fun with, really. I’ve flown RC planes on and off since I was a teen, so I picked it up fairly quickly and was having fun. But this thing also has a 720p camera on it. Would it be any good?
The Learning Begins
Ok, so I’ve got this cheap drone and I want to do some drone photography. The first step was to install the app on my phone and then connect the phone to the drone’s on board wifi. In moments I was looking through the drone’s camera on my phone. Cool! A button press on the remote takes a picture. Awesome. This will be fun. Or so I thought.
The first few dozen photos were useless. They were blurred, skewed, and overall just a mess. But then I started to get the hang of it. I picked up a few tricks for drone photography:
- Don’t control the drone while taking a photo.
- Let the wind blow it around instead, and reposition between shots.
- Take LOTS of photographs so you get one or two decent ones.
- Don’t take photos while the drone is moving (except for wind)
- Accept the limitations of a sub $100 drone and reset your expectations.
- Enjoy it for what it is.
- Don’t stop having fun just because it’s cheap
How I Take Photos with my Cheap Drone
Today, my flights are much simpler and easier than they were at the beginning. I tether the phone to the drone, and then stuff it in my pocket. I don’t bother trying to view it during the flight. It doesn’t matter. I take off, get the drone up to some altitude, and then choose a starting position that’ll let the wind blow the drone back toward me as I take photos. Then, I let go of the controls.
I take a photo. Click. Turn (yaw) to the left or right. Click. Turn. Click, just a little each time. Reposition the drone as needed. Make a full 360, taking photos at each point.
These simple techniques have been working very well for me. Don’t take my word for it, here are some pictures from the last few months, all taken from the lot next to my house. These are almost always cleaned up with Google Photos to get them level and give them some color and pop.
This is it: The Snaptain S5C. It’s a cheap drone, and that’s exactly what took the pics above. But if you’re looking to buy your first cheap drone (especially to be used as a photography drone) I’d spend a few extra bucks an the one below.
The SNAPTAIN SP650 is a 1080p drone, and it comes with a much better looking controller. I’d definitely spend just a few extra bucks for this, and I intend to upgrade to it myself.
The Snaptain S5C is darn near indestructible, comes with two batteries (about 7m flight time each) and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one. I’d still get the upgraded version, the SP650 and am seriously considering doing so. If the S5C is this good, the SP650 can only be better!
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have your own cheap drone photos to share, leave a comment below!