Everything You Need to Know About Drone Wedding Photography
To drone, or not to drone—apparently, that's the question! You may have seen drones, or unmanned aircrafts, used for light shows to replace fireworks or to deliver packages. But did you know that drone wedding photography and videography are rising in popularity? If you've seen the breathtaking aerial shots of newlyweds walking hand in hand on the beach or couples sharing their first kiss in front of a picturesque mountain backdrop, you may be thinking of using a drone to capture your very own unforgettable wedding footage. Before you add hiring a drone photographer to your wedding planning checklist, here's everything you should know if you want to take your wedding photos to the next level (literally).
Benefits of Drone Wedding Photography and Videography
You can show off your wedding venue.
You chose a gorgeous venue to celebrate your wedding, so why not showcase it? According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, drone operators can fly the device up to 400 feet, so you don't have to feel limited to ground-level shots. Talk with your wedding drone operator about creative ways you can take advantage of the unique and dynamic aerial shots a drone can capture.
Drone photography will complement your ground photography.
Certain shots are best taken by a drone camera and some by a traditional camera, so have the best of both worlds in your wedding album. Your drone photographer or videographer can take wide sweeping shots while your ground photographer captures close-ups and intimate moments. Make sure your ground photographer collaborates with the drone pilot, then sit down with them and go over their plans. Everyone should be on the same page.
Drones are perfect for outdoor weddings.
Without the risk of hitting any ceilings, drones can take beautiful idyllic pictures and videos at outdoor weddings. Unlike cameras on the ground, a drone can capture aerial video of you walking down the aisle, then ascend to show a stunning panoramic view of your wedding venue.
It's great for group shots.
Don't worry about your guests crouching or craning their necks to get a group photo. A drone camera can get a wide overhead picture without the hassle of using a ladder to make sure everyone fits in the frame. The aerial view gives you the chance to have fun with your wedding guests by creating the shape of a heart or spelling out your and your partner's first initials.
What to Keep in Mind About Drone Wedding Photography
Make sure your wedding venue is FAA approved.
The FAA has strict rules and regulations in place for the usage of drones and one of them is a "No Drone Zone"; these are areas that the administration determines drones are not allowed to take off, fly or land in no matter the circumstances. Some "No Drone Zones" include: flying near airports or military bases and flying within 15 miles of the Washington, D.C. area. There are non-FAA no-fly zones as well like national parks or some national landmarks. The restrictions may feel overwhelming, but the FAA has a helpful mobile app (and website) called B4UFLY with an interactive map for drone users to see which airspaces are restricted.
Hire an experienced drone operator.
Drones are difficult to maneuver and can be dangerous if not controlled by a professional. 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."
Before signing a contract, ask these necessary questions to your potential drone wedding photographer or videographer:
Do you have examples of your previous work?: Owning a drone camera doesn't mean someone is a professional photographer. Look at examples of their photography or videography and their drone work. You want to make sure the drone operator has the experience to accomplish the tasks you require, while also coordinating with your wedding style.
Do you have your FAA Part 107 license?: FAA legally requires people operating drones that are 55 pounds or less for commercial use to have their FAA part 107 Certification. You and the drone pilot can be fined and face other legal complications if they don't have their certification, so always ask for a copy.
Do you have liability insurance?: Gyokeres says every drone operator needs personal property and liability insurance for a commercial 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 has taken the maximum safety precautions.
If you are satisfied with the drone pilot's answers, discuss the costs of their services. Based on The Knot Real Weddings Study, a study involving over 15,000 couples that were married in 2021, the average cost of wedding videography is $1,900 while the average cost of wedding photography is $2,500. Drone photography and videography may be more expensive (prices will vary based on the packages offered by the vendor).
Schedule additional time for the drone during the wedding.
It takes drones about 30 minutes to take off and adjust in the air before they are ready to snap photos, so to ensure no memories are left out, remember to designate a time on your wedding itinerary to take pictures and videos. Also, drones make a noticeable humming noise when in flight, so it is best to avoid using the drone during quiet moments like the vow exchange.
Don't do close-ups.
Drones can be a fun attraction at a wedding but don't get too close when admiring it. When in action, a drone's high-speed propellers are dangerous and can injure anyone who doesn't keep their distance.
Check the weather.
Drones are sturdy machines, but they're still electronic devices, so that means no flying in inclement weather (rain, snow, high winds, etc.) Speak with your drone photographer about what your options are if bad weather arises.