Everything You Need to Know About Hiring a Drone for Your Wedding
To drone, or not to drone—apparently, that's the question! Drone photography is rising in popularity, which is no surprise if you've seen the breathtaking shots these flying machines can capture. But if you're still puzzled or skeptical about aerial photography, and the pros and cons of having one shoot your wedding photos, read on. Here's everything you should know about hiring a drone to fly at your wedding.
We'll start with the less glamorous info, then get to the fun stuff. Safety is the most important thing to keep in mind if you plan to hire a drone. Drones are essentially mini-helicopters with cameras, so if the drone operator isn't a properly trained professional, you risk having any number of accidents on your hands (none of which you would ever want, but especially not on your wedding day).
Planning and Professionalism Required
Parker Gyokeres, owner of Propellerheads Aerial Photography and award-winning US Air Force photojournalist, says, "If the drone pilot doesn't have an established safety plan, insurance, extensive knowledge of how to operate the vehicle or close coordination with the venue managers, wedding photographers and the couple, he can be a risk to the wedding party." Make sure your ground photographer collaborates with the drone flyer, then sit down with them and go over their plans. Everyone should be on the same page.
Get Drone Insurance
Gyokeres says every drone operator needs personal property and liability insurance for commercial UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). That way, if something or someone gets hit (which is extremely rare, but still), the operator is covered and the damaged object will be repaired. Don't take the easy way out on this. Double-check that your drone pro's taken the maximum safety precautions. Better safe than sorry.
The New Way to Capture Memories
Josh Rogers of Atmosphere Aerial says hiring a pro drone pilot to shoot your wedding is a no-brainer. “You hire a professional drone operator for the same reasons you hire a photographer: You want to make sure that the photos come out the best they can. After all, weddings only happen once; there are no reshoots." But unlike a ground-based photographer, drones provide a whole new way to document your nuptials. "It elevates your normal, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to a memory that will never ever be forgotten," Gyokeres says.
Take Advantage of Your Venue
Drone shots can capture dynamic, illustrative videos and images that display the scope and scenic context of your event. "Drones offer unique and grand perspectives of the beautiful locations where people choose to wed," Rogers says. Are you tying the knot on a mountainside, vast valley or other stunning location? Imagine looking through your wedding album on your 20th anniversary and having a sweeping aerial snapshot of your venue. So cool! It's an amazing way to take full advantage of the gorgeous space you chose.
Impossible Made Possible
Since drones are so versatile, you'll be able to get creative with your wedding shots. Gather your guests on the lawn to spell out words or organize them in other fun ways. Gyokeres says he's caught several incredible, emotional moments that wouldn't have been possible to get from the ground, like the bride and her father hiding on one side of the house while the groom waits to see her at the altar—all in one shot. (We get choked up just thinking about it!) Rogers tells us some of the best photos end up being a couple's ceremony exit, surrounded by the sprawling landscape or cityscape. The contrast between the intimacy of those moments and the epic grandeur of the vista makes these shots so spectacular.
Minding the Elements
Drones are pretty tough, but they're still electronic devices, so that means no flying in heavy rain or crazy winds (over 25 miles per hour). The good news is that cold weather won't deter them. Gyokeres says his drones have insulated batteries, and his crew keeps everything in the car with a battery warmer, right up until they're ready to fly. Plus, once the drone starts discharging, it'll generate its own heat. "The drone likes cold air because it's denser so you get more lift. You can actually get a couple more minutes of flight time in winter because the aircraft flies more efficiently," Gyokeres says. Who knew? Plus, if your nuptials are taking place in a chilly climate, you might not get many shots of your guests outdoors anyway.
Outside Is Best
Drone pilots can fly vehicles inside, but it's much more risky, so proceed with caution. "We can do aerial shots inside as long as the ceiling is high enough to ensure the drone isn't in danger of hitting anything," Rogers tells us. Having enough space isn't the only issue, though: Rogers suggests avoiding drone use at an indoor ceremony because of the noise. Overall, outside will probably be your best bet. "If you're having an outdoor wedding and you're not thinking about using a drone, you should. Especially if it's on a piece of family property where it's timeless, beautiful and special. Or if you're doing a wedding on a boat, for example, how else are you going to get a shot unless you have a drone?" says Gyokeres, who's flown everywhere from inside factories to above cathedrals and rolling farmlands.
Drones should always augment and never interfere, so definitely stay away from close-ups. Not only is it very unsafe, but it's also obnoxious, intrusive and loud. If you'd hoped to capture your vows with a drone camera, you're out of luck—there's no audio from the drone. "You don't need to capture the vows to capture the scene," Gyokeres says. "What you can do is film the walk and the couple meeting the officiant at the altar, and then land the vehicle. You still get the shot you need without interrupting anything."
Atmosphere Aerial packages range from $500 to $3,500. Propellerheads offers services with a day rate, with raw, unedited footage at $2,500 (including a full assembly team: cinematographer, pilot and technician). Both provide their services individually or in collaboration with your hired, ground-based wedding photographer.