Drones take wedding photography to new heights
Dreaming of wedding footage looking down from the sky? Five years ago, that would have required a helicopter fly-by. But with the emergence of unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, those shots are within reach.
Photos and videos taken with drones are “a great way to capture a scene or tell a story using awe-inspiring views that were previously only available with big Hollywood budgets,” said Jeff Becker of Milford-based Dragonfly Aerial Media, one of a handful of providers to the Connecticut area. Drones can now “create photos and videos that stand up to the expectations of professionals,” Becker said.
Drone footage offers a cinematic feel, said Ryan Casey, CEO of Skyward Film, based in Cranston, R.I. He founded the business in 2015 after having visited San Diego and seeing “everyone” using drones there. Popular in real estate marketing, drones are now of growing interest for outdoor weddings.
“We’ll get the beginning of the ceremony — we’ll fly low and people can wave to the camera,” Casey explained. “Then we’ll get the ceremony itself, and maybe a nice sunset.”
Videography business Digital Video Productions of Brookfield has even flown its drone inside catering facilities during set-up time, said founder and partner Paul Ayoub.
Here are things couples considering a wedding day drone should know.
1. Professional drones far surpass off-the-shelf drones.
“While a hobby-grade drone is usually equipped with some type of camera, the image quality it produces is usually far inferior to a professional aerial rig,” said Becker. Not to mention, a high-quality drone can be operated longer, provide live video feedback, and hold its position in high winds.
2. Drones aren’t silent.
In other words, it could overtake the minister’s voice if flown too low. “We’ll meet with the groom and bride and fly the drone with them, so they can see what it’s like, including how loud it is,” Casey said, adding that he never wants it to be a distraction. Ayoub’s business primarily uses drones for aerial shots of the church or reception before the wedding begins. “Flying during the ceremony or reception is just not worth the risk,” he said. (Google “drone hits groom in head.”)
3. Still, drones needn’t steal the show.
Skyward will start flying at 60 or 100 feet up to capture some footage and then take it up to about 300 or 400 feet when the ceremony begins. “We’re never really directly above the ceremony. We’ll loop around it,” said Casey, adding that when the bride is walking down the aisle, “we don’t really want people looking up at the drone.”
4. Location is key.
While drone dreams aren’t driving wedding venue selections, there is an inherent limitation as to where and when they can operate. “They are more suited for capturing sprawling views and dramatic angles unobtainable by traditional methods,” said Becker. In some cases, a drone could be used in a city. Venues close to airports, meanwhile, may have regulation limitations built in. And bad weather will be a definite bummer. The drone can still fly, but ceremonies get moved indoors.
5. Drones can’t replace traditional photography and videography.
Becker calls it complementary footage. Files are usually passed off to the “normal” wedding photographer or videographer to be incorporated into the main photos and video, said Casey. Yet some traditional videographers, such as Digital Video Productions, are starting to offer in-house drone add-ons.
6. Costs will vary.
The online database at Droners.io, which helps connect people to drone pilots for their event, reports typical charges of $75 to $175 per hour. Digital Video Productions charges a flat $500 as an add-on for drone footage, while Skyward clients receiving a few basic videos generally pay about $600, Casey said. Production and editing is usually handled by the main videographer, said Becker, adding that most of his wedding clients are billed for three to five hours of work.
7. You get what you pay for.
Casey recommends that couples sit down with a potential vendor and “make sure it’s not some guy who bought the drone a couple days ago.” Drones usually require two people to run, he said—a pilot to control the zone/location, and a partner to control the camera. The Federal Aviation Administration is regulating drones, requiring an exemption form and insurance to operate them. When Skyward is hired for a wedding anywhere near an airport, he’ll stay in contact with the state aviation inspector to give a heads up about the drone use.
8. It may not be the first vendor you’ll book, but it shouldn’t be a last detail.
“While we are sometimes available last minute, there is a lot of preparation and coordination required to operate a drone safely and within regulation,” said Becker. In Casey’s experience, couples are calling at a minimum of a month in advance, with some messaging him a few seasons ahead of the big day when some stunning wedding coverage is their big desire.
Up, up and away
Calling on a drone? Try these local vendors: