Travel Photography Masterclass: Taking Great Images With A Drone


Want to take spectacular drone images, but not sure where to start? Aerial photography specialist Riaan Huysamen has some tips on how to take spectacular drone images.

Aerial drone photography can be an exhilarating activity because it affords you a different and unique perspective on the ordinary. It enables you to take quality photographs at better angles, greater heights and different speeds. However, it can also be frustrating if you do not know how to fly a drone properly and responsibly.

You will need patience, along with many hours of practice to develop the necessary skills. Plus, there is the administrative side of things … such as becoming and remaining legally compliant with local aerial drone regulations.

Get The Right Equipment 

If you are just starting out, rather get yourself a cheaper drone until you are confident that you have mastered the flying skills. While the DJI Mavic Air is a good option for beginners, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro will suite intermediate drone pilots. Advanced drone pilots can try the DJI Phantom 4 Pro.

The app that comes with most drones is quite comprehensive for different types of flying. However, an additional app called Litchi is useful because it provides the ability to do grid flying or mapping. Accessories include different types of filters, such as natural density filters to soften the light in brighter conditions, or polarising filters to enhance detail.

Cruise ship, the MSC Sinfonia off of Bazaruto Island , Mozambique
Cruise ship, the MSC Sinfonia off of Bazaruto Island , Mozambique

Be Prepared 

Take care to maintain and keep your equipment clean; and ensure that you have the relevant documentation and permission to fly in a specific area. A battery lasts for approximately 25 minutes of flight time, so make sure you have extra batteries as a back-up.

For videos, a drone should not be operated in wind conditions of more than 30km/h as it will affect stability. The less wind there is, the better it is for still photography.

Plan…But Be Flexible

While it is good to plan a drone shoot, you should be able to adapt in the moment when the weather, angle or light changes. Be prepared to adjust your expectations to the situation and variables, and be patient with yourself while getting the drone in place for the perfect shot.

Bellows Rocks, off Cape Point
Bellows Rocks, off Cape Point

Know What You Want To Achieve 

By being precise on the type of image you want to capture, you can achieve your end goal with greater ease. Different heights, weather conditions and light will produce different effects. The golden rule of thirds for composition still applies to aerial photography; it is just the height and perspective that change. Having the drone positioned high and looking down at a sharp angle can produce quite a dramatic shot – even with a 90° bird’s-eye view.

For images of a shopping mall, a height of approximately 100 metres will be most effective, but the real sweet spot for photographing most large-scale buildings is between 60 and 75 metres. Cinematic shots are best done “low and slow”.

When To Shoot 

The glow at dusk when the sun sets, will bring about a softness in images, and good cloud cover dims bright light, while fluffy clouds add another layer of dimension. Midday, when shadows are short, is more suitable for progress reporting as the light is normally too bright for clear images.

Stretch Yourself 

Although apps and the drone’s auto-functions will initially help you to learn the basics, it is important to start applying functions manually as you progress. Quality aerial photography is all about adding your unique signature and flavour. Most importantly, never stop learning, and take time to enjoy the moment.

The Katse Dam wall Lesotho
The Katse Dam wall Lesotho

Be Legally Compliant

The South African Civil Aviation Authority governs the legal regulations for drone flying. There are different regulations and permissions for hobbyists and commercial drone pilots regarding height, visual line of sight, permitted areas, etc. Therefore, it is crucial to equip yourself with the relevant knowledge and training, and to be fully certified and have the relevant licenses when you intend to fly commercially.

A good rule of thumb for all drone pilots is to always respect the public, roads, animals, neighbours’ privacy, and the air space above you for other aircraft.



A certified CAA drone flight instructor with Cranfield Aviation, Riaan is an award-winning commercial aerial photographer with more than eight years’ experience of building and flying drones.

With his business SkyPixels Riaan photographs construction sites, buildings, vessels at sea, as well as landscapes, and has recently worked on a few movie sets with production companies such as ShootAway & Warner Bros.


Contact details

For more info contact: or visit Drone photo SA

Words by Riaan Huysamen

Previous article
Next article

Share post:



More like this

The scoop on the world’s most unique ice cream

As we approach Ice Cream Day on 21 July,...

A cruise for every generation

Think the modern cruise ship promises nothing more than...

The Connected Traveller: Wandering in Windhoek 

Get trendy while travelling with the new Osmo Pocket...

An essential guide to Abidjan

Planning a trip to Abidjan, the bustling economic capital...