The Seattle skyline at sunset, photographed from a drone.

Adding a drone to my photography toolkit has been one of the best decisions I've made in my creative career, allowing me to take pictures and videos that I would not have been able to take otherwise. After three years of flying drones for both recreation and commercial projects, I've come to the realization that adding a drone to a photography kit may be essential for remaining relevant.

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In this article, I'll give you some examples of how drones have given me the ability to create new and unique perspectives, allowed me to tell more complete stories than I was able to in the past, and how I've been able to offer new products and services that keep me relevant in today's competitive market. This year, in fact, I've delivered a wide range of aerial media projects, including aerial flights for five weddings, two automotive commercials, and a 360 degree aerial panorama. My first drone was the DJI Phantom 3 Pro, and I currently fly with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, and the newly released DJI Spark.

A big factor in the growth of my wedding photography business has been the ability to differentiate my work through the use of unique compositions that only a drone can provide. Here's one example of an image I took at a wedding last summer.

This aerial photo allowed me to create a sense of place for the wedding, and would have been impossible without a drone.

For this wedding, the couple had specifically requested that I capture a sweeping image of the wedding party as they left the ceremony. I set my drone up for the shot, then sent it up in the sky for the composition that you see below. I captured the moment from a unique perspective, and gave the couple an unforgettable image that they will enjoy for a lifetime. It's pretty cool that it was all made possible by my trusty drone, a tool that has opened up new and exciting opportunities for my photography.

The bride and groom asked me to capture an image of the entire wedding party as they left the ceremony, which was easy to accomplish with a drone.

Drones have also opened up new categories of products that I can offer to my commercial clients. For example, I was recently contacted by a real estate firm looking to showcase a large parcel of land for development. They wanted something really unique to show the mayor of the city, high level banking executives, and other brokers that were coming to watch the presentation.

By using a drone I was able to create the video below, which made it possible to envision the project and how it fit into the surrounding area. Adding a few motion graphics made it even easier for viewers to understand what they were looking at in any particular clip. Quite simply, I could not have created this asset for my client by shooting at ground level.

Additionally, I had recently been researching the use of drones to create 360-degree aerial panoramas, which are basically VR images that can be viewed while wearing a VR headset, such as a Samsung GearVR or Google Cardboard. I decided to make one of these as well in order to provide my client with a more interactive view of the proposed project.

To create the VR image below, I shot 27 Raw images covering a 360-degree sphere using my Phantom 4 Pro, then stitched them together to create a single VR image. My client was able to see all the pertinent information about the surrounding environment, the amenities, and the specifics of the property itself, all in virtual reality from a bird's eye view.

After three years of flying drones, I still get excited about the creative images I can capture by taking my camera into the sky. I always look forward to scouting locations, and really enjoy creating unique compositions that tell a bigger picture than anything I can capture from the ground. Take the picture below of Vancouver, BC, for example.

I decided to go out on a cold and chilly day to visit Granville Island in Vancouver. There was so much to capture when I arrived that I was somewhat overwhelmed. The city was nestled by a gorgeous mountain range, skyscrapers hugging the coastline, and boats made their way under the bridge.

Trying to incorporate all those elements into a single image from the ground would not have been an easy task, but sending the Phantom up 300 feet allowed me to do just that; I captured a sweeping panorama that showcased all those elements in one scene. My drone was the perfect tool to fill in the big picture of what was happening on the ground. For me, this is a prime example of big picture storytelling with a drone.

I was able to create this panorama of Vancouver, BC, by shooting from 300 feet in the air.

Whether you fly your drone for fun or for business, the benefits you gain from adding a drone to your ensemble of photo gear can be creatively and professionally rewarding. I've shared just a couple examples of how I've been able to create unique perspectives for my wedding couples, offer cutting edge new products to my commercial clients, and am able to tell a bigger, and more complete story through the use of my drone, but the possibilities are endless.

As a photographer, one big issue that I still encounter every day is the general public's mixed feelings towards drones. It seems that drones are still viewed as toys, or rather, dangerous flying objects that aren't for serious photographers. If you really set aside those misconceptions, and look beyond the motors and remote controllers, you begin to see your drone as just another tool in your bag. A tool that opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your photography.

"As a photographer, one big issue that I still encounter every day is the general public's mixed feelings towards drones."

Drones can be beneficial to a wide range of photographers, including commercial, wedding, automotive, sports, racing, and beyond. Media is evolving every day, and adding a drone to your kit can keep you competitive, creative, and relevant in today's evolving media landscape. I’ve made the decision to treat my drone as I would any other part of my photography toolkit, and it's paid off in many ways, including financial gain, professional advancement, and expanded artistic growth.

Consider adding a drone to your photography kit as well. Doing so has the potential to open your eyes to new horizons, take your art to new heights, and open your business to new opportunities.