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Why a photographer should buy a drone.

Updated: May 6

Are you a photographer without a drone? Considering one but not sure? Let me tell you that you my story.

Like most professional photographers that predominately shoot DSLR or Mirrorless, I was always curious about drone photography. For a few years I sat back contemplating drones and watching the technology evolve. Of course when I started getting serious about purchasing a drone, many photographers that had purchased the drones of yesteryear told me don't waste your time, you cant fly them anywhere decent and people always complain about them, the cameras suck, they crash easily etc. To be honest it worked! They put me off buying a drone for another 12 months.

I had seen some fantastic shots by other photographers and I admit, I was a little envious. I then thought maybe a new DSLR lens might quell my urge. After all I make money from photography, so surely a new lens was the more practical solution?

After some soul searching, I came to the realisation a new lens was not what I needed.

"What I needed was another perspective".

One day on a landscape shoot I found myself in a familiar situation of not quite having the elevation I wanted to take the shot I knew I could see if I just had another 20 meters height. I knew that changing my perspective vantage point would give me the shot I was after.

Going home a little frustrated, it was after seeing a few more shots on Facebook and Instagram, I decided to ignore the negativity and went out and purchased the DJI Mini 3 Pro and Fly More Combo Kit. It was the right decision. I now own two drones, both the Mini 3 Pro and Mavic 3 Pro.

In the image below at Makara Beach, New Zealand, I was at the beach below and could see the sun setting behind the hills and the colour of the sky but because I was at ground level I had no chance of capturing the shot. So I pulled out my drone and flew to 100 meters height and got the shot I was after.

I wonder why the heck I took so long getting one. Maybe it was the fear of crashing it, dropping it in the ocean, people complaining and having the police knock on my door or maybe its just an expensive toy. Oh how wrong as I was just living in fear.

One of the advantages of having a drone also means you can possibly make some money. I took a few shots, advertised Drone Photography and suddenly I had my first drone photography client assignment which paid a nice sum of $2500. All my apprehension about my investment disappeared as the drone had paid for itself with just one job!

Having a drone expands your photographic opportunities and allows a full range of flexibility when trying to get that magic shot. Its another tool in your arsenal/camera bag. Its also a great option to offer clients.

A drone also expands the possibilities whether you photograph landscapes, weddings, portraits, commercial or event photography.

As you can see from the image below of Days Bay Wharf, New Zealand, a drone enabled me to get above normal ground level line of sight and capture the sunset which would have been obscured by the wharf.

Sunset at Days Bay Wharf
Days Bay Wharf in Eastbourne, Wellington, New Zealand

Often its not about going to maximum height and taking the shot. In many instances I have found the extra 10 to 60 meters from where I launch from often gives me the perfect mix of height and perspective.

Drone Certification in New Zealand

In New Zealand we have certain laws that must be followed. You can get certification to go outside the normal boundaries such as closer to Airports and flying over populated areas. There are the 101 rules and the 102. I am no expert but however am a qualified 101 pilot so I will summarise what I know of the rules and regulations in New Zealand.

I would recommend at least sitting your 101 course via a certified training institution as this does teach you valuable skills like flying in Atti Mode. Having your 101 also enables you to fly near airports, if certain conditions are met. Make sure you read up on the rules.

Please note sitting your 101 via Airshare does not qualify you to fly near airports and other areas. These areas are only available to certified 101 pilots that have completed a proper drone training course via a certified provider.

Drone Laws and regulations in New Zealand

In New Zealand the drone laws prohibit you flying over 120 meters or 400 feet. This may sound quite restrictive but 120 meters is actually so high you wont be able to see your drone with your eyes which is actually a legal requirement. 120 meters allows you the perspective of looking straight down on your subject of interest as seen in the image of the Paremata Boat Sheds.

To be honest I rarely find the need to go any higher. You can always elevate yourself to a higher starting point as the law states its from the ground level. So if you are 200 meters up on a peak of a hill, then that's your starting point for 120 meters.

Take a few minutes to read the laws regarding drone operation in New Zealand and watch the videos.

Please note that you can not fly in National Parks in New Zealand without written consent of the Department Of Conservation.

In Summary the rules are as follows,

  • Fly no higher than 120m (400ft) above the ground

  • Stay a safe and considerate distance away from people and buildings

  • Don't fly over private land, such as farms or houses, unless the owner says it's OK

  • Keep your drone in sight at all times

  • Stay 4 km away from anywhere aircraft are landing or taking off

  • It's dangerous to fly drones anywhere other aircraft are operating

Each country has their own laws and regulations for drone flying or what is commonly called UAV. Please check out the laws relevant to your country or where you may intend to visit.


So if you are still sitting on the fence about purchasing a drone, its time you got off the fence and as Nike say "Just Do It" You will not regret it and like me, wonder why you took so long.

Word of advice is don't try and be a hero when you get your drone and try and be the next great movie director or epic photographic drone pilot. Start slowly. Take your drone to the local park and learn to fly there first before you venture out into the big wide landscapes of nature. Take your time to get to know your drone and the local laws and regulations. Get qualified as well as this does give you some peace of mind when out flying in case you come across that "certain member of the public" that says you cant fly here etc. By being qualified and knowing the rules, you can promptly tell them to go away.

My recommendation as a starting drone would be the DJI Mini 3 Pro or Mini 4 Pro. I have seen some epic images and video captured with these drones.

Most of all, get out there and have some fun.

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