Drone Photography Skills – How To Improve Them

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Drone photography is quickly becoming a standard for many professionals in different industries. However, there are so many intricacies in drone imagery, especially if you take photos to engage your online audience. Fortunately, drone photography skills can be easily improved. To help you take excellent photos that easily capture anyone’s attention, the following sections will introduce you to the most important guidelines and tips.

Getting Started

Drone or aerial photography is not essentially different compared to traditional photography, drawing, painting, or any other type of visual media. Regardless of how you take your photos, there are several aspects you may want to consider to improve the quality of your drone imagery.

As viewers, individuals are attracted by even, balanced, and symmetric photos. One way to do this is to follow certain guidelines, such as the rule of thirds. However, you should keep in mind that, despite this rule of thumb, it is always recommended to look at your landscape or subject differently while using an artist’s perspective.

What Is Simplification?

Image of a flower in the foreground in sharp detail and in brighter colors, while the background is very blurry and darker. This emphasizes the flower as the focus of the photograph.
Source: https://daisymorris.weebly.com/the-rule-of-simplification.html

One of the easiest ways to have professional-looking photos is known as simplification. Along with the rule of thirds, this method is a composition technique used in traditional photography. Instead of capturing many elements at once, simplification means that you eliminate all of these distractions and only capture your main subject. You can do this by focusing or lightening the foreground so that it shows more detail, while blurring or darkening the background. This draws the viewer’s eye to the foreground object.

Focusing on Abstract Patterns

Bowls of various colors and sizes arranged neatly across a table. This photograph demonstrates an abstract pattern rather than focusing on a single object.
Source: https://www.wallpaperup.com/37162/abstract_color_pattern_photography.html

If your photography needs do not include a given subject that you could capture using simplification, filling the frame may be a better method. This technique is suitable for abstract photos, although it may be quite difficult to obtain if you are a beginner.

A solution to this issue might be to crop the photo during post-processing and make it look like a close-up shot. In case you want to take a picture of a person, for instance, and you decide to crop the limbs (i.e., arms), do not crop them at the joints.


Another compositional technique, known as sub-framing, refers to adding frame elements to the photo that guide the viewer’s attention to your subject. For instance, sub-framing may be taking a shot through a window, or, in the case of drones, taking a photo in a tunnel. Framing helps to take a tidy, aesthetically pleasing image and guide your viewer’s eye to the subject.

Here is a video that demonstrates how to achieve sub-framing:

Source: Adorama

What Is the Rule of Thirds?

The rule of thirds is a core concept of photography. The rule of thirds allows you to take professional-looking photos and elevate them. This may be an invaluable benefit of learning how to use it, given the increasing popularity of aerial imagery. If you plan to monetize your drone skills, knowing how to stand out from your competitors may be a key aspect to obtaining higher revenue or market share.

The rule of thirds is an important guideline in drawing, painting, photography, and all other types of visual media. When it is applied correctly, your images will not only be visually pleasing but will also guide the reader through the entire photo, focusing on your subject.

A photo from atop the Great Wall of China demonstrating the rule of thirds, with grid-lines shown over the image.
Source: https://www.photographytalk.com/rule-of-thirds

To use the rule of thirds, you need to split the frame into three pieces vertically and horizontally, resulting in nine rectangles (or squares, for a square image). Then, use these areas to place the main areas of interest in your image. For instance, there are different options:

  • Place the subject of your photo at the intersection of the points (and add something less important on the other side)
  • Separate different image components according to the lines
  • Place the horizon line of the photo on the horizontal guide-lines as this helps to balance out your photo, instead of placing the horizon line in the center of your image, which darkens the bottom half.

Since the rule of thirds is often easier to follow when you take traditional photos, there are certain tips you can follow to help you when shooting aerial photos. The main ones would include:

  • Turn on gridlines (if available), which helps break the photo in the aforementioned frames for you.
  • Before taking the photo, consider where to place your horizon line or subject; otherwise, the photo may seem less professional.
  • Overshooting may be key to taking the best photo, so try to get as many angles as you can.

Keep in mind that post-production editing may also help you make final retouches. However, you should not rely heavily on editing because post-production intervention may considerably decrease the quality of your photo.

Here is another article that goes into even more detail about using the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds is simply one of the main starting points to improve your photography skills. There are numerous other composition techniques that will help you improve the quality of your photo, as described below. 

Diagonal Composition

A photo along a riverside showing multiple straight diagonal features, annotated with white lines.
Source: http://petapixel.com/2016/09/14/20-composition-techniques-will-improve-photos/

Diagonal composition is another basic photography technique, similar to the rule of thirds. According to this method, the photo is split diagonally, and elements in your image are organized according to these two halves.

Although this may sound very difficult when you need to take photos using your drone, it can make your photo look extremely dynamic and unexpected. Also, there’s no need to have a diagonal line right in the center of your photograph – you can have it slightly upper or lower, according to your subject.

Alternatively, depending on your purpose, you may also take photos of a subject and place it at the intersection of two diagonal lines. It’s also recommended to place the two diagonal lines higher up in your image, not exactly in the center, as this will make the composition more stable and visually pleasing.

Look For Leading Lines In The Real World

Image of a white dog running along a long suspended walkway towards the viewer. The suspended walkway forms a curved line that extends into the distance.
Source: https://www.photographer.org/leading-lines/

Once you get familiar with leading lines, you will be able to notice them everywhere – a road, a footpath, a shoreline, a bridge, or even the trunks of trees in a forest. Initially, straight lines will be the easiest to identify and photograph. However, once you get used to it, you will also be able to integrate even curved lines in your photography. The main point of leading lines is to use them to guide the viewer’s eyes to your photo’s subject.

Here is an article that gives some great pointers on finding leading lines in the world around you.

Shooting Moving Objects

Photo of a woman mid-air with one arm underneath her right leg and her left leg curled beneath her, in front of a wall painted in artistic graffiti.
Source: https://thelenslounge.com/how-to-focus-on-fast-moving-subjects/

Shooting moving objects may seem quite intuitive, although there are many traps along the way. For instance, regardless of shooting people, trains, planes, vehicles, or other moving objects, you need to give them space to go somewhere. In other words, you should position the object towards the center of your photo, not next to the frame.

Additionally, it is common to take photos of moving objects that go from left to right. This is because we also read from left to right, so it feels only natural not to have objects moving the other way. For an extra touch, you may also slow down the shutter speed to produce motion blurs, if possible. This is known as Bokeh in photography.

Here is an article that goes into great detail on taking photos of moving objects.

Capturing Symmetry

Photo from underneath a pair of bridges that extend symmetrically across a river.
Source: https://mycreativetoolkits.weebly.com/lesson-2-become-a-photographer.html

Another straightforward technique is to identify symmetry. For instance, this may be your go-to method if you shoot architecture, as this is often full of symmetry. This is an interesting capture as people are attracted by symmetry.

However, you may also combine this with other methods, such as the rule of thirds, or go for asymmetry instead. Sometimes, it may be a good idea to break the rules, but you need to make sure that it works.

Add Some Drama

Photo of a three-masted sailboat out in the ocean. The sailboat helps to add drama to the photo that would otherwise be just a photo of the ocean showing between rock faces.

When shooting landscapes, we often end up taking photos of mountains, the ocean, and other elements. One way to elevate your drone imagery is to find an object in the foreground to improve the depth of your image. For instance, if you shoot mountains, perhaps find a creek or an impressive tree in the foreground.

Similar, if you are at the beach, simply taking a photo of the endless ocean may not be sufficient to capture an exciting photograph. However, a ship, clouds, or other objects in your foreground or background will add a much-needed touch of drama to your photo, making it stand out from the crowd.

Look For Odd Numbers

Three horseback riders galloping left across a beach at sunset. The odd number of foreground objects attracts the human eye more naturally than a similar photo that might only have two horseback riders.
Source: http://ricksammon.com/blog2/2013/8/13/day-4-seven-days-of-sunrisesunset-photo-tips

Although it may seem peculiar, human eyes are attracted by odd numbers. For instance, photos with three people, five buildings, or seven ducks are more interesting than photos with even numbers of the same objects. This may be one of the easiest methods to improve the quality of your composition.

Switch Angles

As previously mentioned, switching angles can help you capture the unexpected. Make sure you bulk up on extra batteries when you take your drone out for shooting and try to take photos of the same subject from numerous different angles. Sometimes, changing the perspective can completely alter the entire message of your photo.


All in all, there are numerous techniques you can use to improve your aerial imagery. These are great starting points that might help you improve your photo composition. However, there is no set rule, so exercising and using unique perspectives will definitely help you take excellent photos. The quality of your drone, camera, and your flight abilities are also important in this case. It is recommended to improve your photography skills rather than heavily edit your photos during post-processing as this can ensure higher quality finished images.

If you’re looking for more general photography tips, please check out this article which lays out 20 composition techniques quite concisely and with example photos.

Jeremiah Burnett

What started as a gift for my two sons turned into a major hobby for me! After playing with my sons' quadcopter one winter afternoon, I quickly became obsessed with all things drone. I enjoy precision flying, creating stunning and smooth aerial videos, and taking beautiful photos of my hometown.

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