Hi, my name is Pierce Gainey and aerial photography has been a passion of mine for several years now. Over the years I’ve picked up some helpful drone tips for shooting over water that I would love to share with all of you!
Before we get into some helpful tips I’d like to share a little about myself and the main subject that I photograph, the ocean.
I am a native South Floridian and the ocean is where I spend most of my time. From swimming and snorkeling to photographing above and below, it’s safe to say that the ocean is my home.
Today I would like to discuss the proper methods for shooting photography and videography with your drone while flying over water. It always is a little difficult to get the right photo or angle so that you can have a beautiful scene so follow along to hopefully help you capture some wonderful photos and videos from above!
My first tip is Location. Location is so critical and can make or break a photo. In this shot, I am photographing a well-known place here in Singer Island, FL. I have grown up around this area so I was familiar with the area and knew there was some good potential here for some great shots. I am constantly scouring Google Maps on my phone so I can see cool locations along the coast of Florida and other coastlines. There are many beautiful spots and you will be surprised at what you will be able to find from above when you research your location. Having a general sense of the area before arriving at a brand new location will help tremendously with making your flying more smooth and accurate.
Once you have the location picked, do a little more extensive research on the area. Find it on social media, look at the tides and the weather and look for any obstacles that may hinder your flight.
For this specific location, through my research I found that it is a popular scuba diving location. Scuba divers migrate here to explore the beautiful blue water along with the vast sea life and shipwrecks. It’s definitely a hotspot and I knew that I had to fly the drone here.
Having a proper subject while photographing over water is another crucial aspect to this. If you are just taking photos of the water, it’s not going to be very interesting as people’s eyes naturally gravitate to something in the photo (i.e. subject).
Once you have a subject that you see, you are going to want to frame your shot. I personally have the grids turned on for my Mavic 2 Pro so I can align the shot perfectly from my screen. This will help you visualize your final shot and make sure that it is visually appealing.
A subject can be anything from a boat in the water, to a school of fish or a surfer. Whatever is going to be able to capture the viewer’s attention to a point on your photo.
Always fly safely! This is the number one cause of drone crashes, backlashes and fights. For us here in the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposes rules on all drone pilots that we must adhere to. One of the big rules is Line of Sight flying which means you must always fly within your line of sight. This is a big one as there are people that will fly it very far away from them and not maintain line of sight. I know it’s easy to fly somewhere far away for that perfect shot but it is crucial to obey the laws.
Another safety feature that I would recommend is to make sure you are connected to the satellites before you takeoff. Especially when we are flying over a body of water. If anything were to happen, we are going to want that “Return to Home” feature to come in handy and bring our precious drone back to safety. This will help you avoid any issues and make sure your drone flies safely back to us!
My final tip might be the most crucial for anyone flying a drone over the ocean or water in general and that’s Polarization. Without it, you are going to get a photo like the one on the left. You will have bright, reflected water that will not look proper. With polarization, you will get a photo similar to the one on the right. More color, soft water, and no reflective spots. This will drastically change the look of your photos while flying over the water.
I personally fly with polarized filters on my drone always as it helps in many aspects besides just shooting photography over water. It drastically helps your video quality too as you are able to reduce the shutter speed while keeping a low aperture so you can get that cinematic-like video with the drone.
Out of all the polarized filters and gear for your drone, there is one company that does it the best and that is PolarPro. This is no way sponsored but just love this company and what they stand for. Plus they have the best drone accessories and polarization for your drone and your camera.
The last tip that I have is editing. With proper editing of your photos or videos, you can make the feel of your video that much better. I always film in D-LOG and in combination with your polarized filters and the right settings, you can create magical videos and photos from your drone of the water.
In the video below, you can see how LUTS will help make your videos pop and look even better.
In this video below, I am using @Boyanoo’s custom LUTS that he created. With these, you are able to make the scene look more of what it looked like when you were there. When filming on your drone in D-LOG, it is like shooting RAW on a DSLR. It allows the camera sensor on the drone to pull as much dynamic information from the scene as it can to record a low contrast image so that highlights aren’t blown out and shadows aren’t pure black. This allows you to pull much more color information out of the video while editing it.
Using all the tips above, you should have some really great videos or photos of the ocean or a body of water.
You can purchase Boyan’s LUTS here.
I hope that these tips were helpful and hopefully you can use them in the future while flying your drone over a body of water. If you would like to ask any more questions. please reach out to me and I would be glad to help.
You can check out my latest work @piercegainey on Instagram.
My website is www.piercegainey.com so feel free to check it out and reach out to me on any platform!
Want to learn more? Check out our video on how to capture cinematic footage with your drone.