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Chances are, if you’ve got a pet, you take photos of them. We know you do, what else is the internet used for?!? We think some of the best action shots of an animal are from the sky, and so, here are some of the best drones for pet photography.As the title suggests, we will cover the basics of capturing any animal, but we imagine that dogs are the key demographic for drone photos. I mean, if you run your cat in the park and take photos, please share, that’s pretty cool.
There will be a few of you with horses or livestock that you wish to photograph. We’ll approach this from a ‘business of farming’ type perspective another day, for now, let’s mostly focus on, what do they call them, oh yes, man’s best friend. Everyone loves a cute dog photo, right?!?
Best drones for pet photography
Before anything else, you should get to know your animal. Make sure they are comfortable around noisy things, like a vacuum. Make sure they are not scared of things that fly, like birds. I think you get the idea, drones and animals do not exactly mix.
My own personal experience, there is a dog in my life that is a bird hunting dog. He’s prey driven and loves the chase. I have more than a few aerial photos of this pooch, I also have a photo taken just moments before the pup flew through the air and took down a drone from about seven feet up. He’s an athlete.
Unfortunately, my drone was mistaken for a bird. Even more unfortunate, this was a larger drone with powerful motors. The pup nearly required stitches.
That was the last time I flew around that pup, which is too bad, he’s quite photogenic.
Do not learn the hard way. Also, I suspect more animals will be afraid of a drone than not, respect them, do not chase them, do not make things worse. Your animal may never warm to drones, you may never get that awesome photo you have in mind, I’m sorry, no photo is worth scaring an animal.
From there, basic drone safety applies, such as:
Drone legal and safety
We spoke with the team at SoundGuys on their podcast:
Plan your shots
When it comes to photography, children and animals are wildly unpredictable. They are especially sensitive to changes in their routine. For best results, try to film your animals doing the things they do normally each day. In the case of a dog, chasing a ball or frisbee in the park is about as good as dog photos get from a drone. Actually, you’ll probably want video, please understand that I mean either video or still photography when I say things like ‘photos’ today.
The most important thing I don’t want you to learn the hard way, please do not try to fly your drone and throw the ball for your pup at the same time. Enlist help, either a pilot or an animal handler.
As animals can be unpredictable, do what you can to predict their actions. If throwing a ball in the park, that’s pretty easy to guess at. Consider the position of the sun, where you want the drone and more before you take off. If shooting horses, maybe close that gate that leads into the wooded area of your fields – drones and trees seem to be attracted to each other,
Once you know what shots you’re looking for and have at least a rough idea how you’re going to get them, charge up those batteries and hit the road.
Before we move on to the list, here are a few ideas for shots that we think look great.
Fly high, look straight down: The important thing with creating compelling video looking straight down is to have a line, and follow it. Perhaps there is a row of trees at the edge of the park, line them up with the left or right third of the frame, then fly the drone and throw the ball parallel to the hedges. Try going in the same direction as the running pup, then the opposite direction.
From the side: We all have seen a side scrolling video game, I’m sure. The likes of Mario and others create a 2D world that is, actually, pretty fun to watch unfold. You have in your hands the controls to the camera for a side scrolling world. You won’t be able to fly at eye level to your animal, but get your drone safely low and fly sideways parallel to your animal running. Even better if you have a straight-line obstacle course for your, probably four-legged, friend to navigate.
What DJI calls the Rocket: Starting fairly low, directly over your subject with the camera facing straight down, simply fly straight up. This is not as dramatic if you have just a single animal, but if you have many animals, so that you can only see one or two when low, but reveal more of your fantastic beasts as the camera rises… That’s the money shot.
Chase cam: I hesitate to suggest this one, but the concept is simple, if your animal is game. Either have the drone directly follow your animal, or have the animal chase the drone. In the first you will be flying forward, in the second you will be flying backward. If you can safely fly low with the animal chasing the drone, you will get to see them in their full running glory. Again, that’s a Hollywood shot, please don’t strain or stress your animal to get it if they don’t appear to want to participate.
In all these cases, we think it is better if you can capture your animal in action. A photo of a cow chowing down on grass is not as compelling as a video of 8 horses galloping in the wind.
Do not chase wild animals – They may chase back!
Can I say that again? Stay away from wildlife. Not only are you needlessly disturbing the peace of a living thing and risking your drone on unexpected animal behavior, you’re also risking fines in many places of the world. To this end, a good zoom lens on your camera will let you get your shots without getting too close.
Zoom lenses: I may say this a few times before we’re through, the best animal photographers use crazy zoom lenses on their cameras. Not all of our drones today have zoom, sorry, you might have to ignore the ones that do not have zoom, depending on your animal. You can sometimes cheat your way through if you have a 4K camera and are producing 1080p video, for example, but digital zoom still hasn’t outdone optical zoom.
That’s enough, let’s look at some drones.
DJI Inspire 2
November 2016Release Date
The original DJI Inspire may have set a tone for what a professional drone should look like, but the newer DJI Inspire 2 set the tone for what it should be able to accomplish. At launch, the Inspire 2 was equipped with the Zenmuse X5, a 5.2K camera with interchangeable lenses, ready to take on tasks in Hollywood. Since then, DJI has added the Zenmuse X7 camera, a 6K shooter even more capable of professional filming tasks.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
August 2018Release Date
Introduced in August of 2018, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro instantly became the best consumer-class folding drone that DJI had to offer. A marked upgrade over the original Mavic Pro, the Mavic 2 Pro rocks a 1-inch camera sensor for 4K video capture at 100Mbps, multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors for some of the safest drone flight possible, and much more. OcuSync 2.0 enhances connectivity to the remote control and other accessories, now able to transmit 1080p live stream video well beyond the legal line-of-sight.
With an initial launch price of $1449, plus another $319 to get the Fly More kit with extra batteries, there is a barrier to entry with this machine, but if the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is within your budget, we think you will not be disappointed.
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
August 2018Release Date
If you run down the spec sheet, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro are the same machine, with one major exception, the camera. The folding quadcopter design offers great portability, the multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors assist in safe flight and the new capabilities of OcuSync 2.0 add versatility for control and accessories. That is true for both of the drones, the Mavic 2 Zoom, on the other hand, rocks a 2x optical zoom lens on top of a 12MP camera. It shoots 4K video at 100Mbps and can digitally double that zoom for an impressive close-up.
Yuneec Typhoon H Plus
July 2018Release Date
The hexacopter design of Yuneec's Typhoon line of drones has been quite popular, if not successful. The design has become an icon in the industry and the safety of having extra propellers has been well accepted in the commercial market. The Yuneec Typhoon H Plus is a second generation model of their consumer focus. The Typhoon H Plus lands somewhere in between the DJI Phantom and DJI Inspire line of drones in terms of specs and price. Packing a 20MP 4K camera on a 3-axis gimbal, folding design and market average flight times and speeds, the Intel RealSense obstacle avoidance sensor may a leading reason to consider this drone over others.
You'll be able able to check out the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus for about $1899 from a few retailers.
Fun drones for beginners:
October 2016Release Date
The term "drone" encompasses a number of machines. Some drones are ground based robots, most are quadcopters, but some are a more traditional fixed-wing design. The Parrot Disco is a fixed-wing craft, which you might consider to be a RC airplane. This style of drone takes a bit more practice to get the hang of, mainly because the craft does not hover, it must be in constant motion to avoid stalling, and at a top speed of 50mph, it can get away from you fairly quick.
The Parrot Disco is officially discontinued, but do not fret, there are many fixed-wing draft out there for you to enjoy.
The Parrot Disco often sold for around $500, but is now more than that, and often sold used.
DJI Mavic Pro
November 2016Release Date
The DJI Mavic Pro is a compact, folding drone that was a pioneer for portability. This quadcopter folds down to fit easily in a backpack, or large pocket, while opening up to take 4K video to over 40mph in the sky. The 3-axis stabilized gimbal offers very smooth footage and OcuSync enables long range and HD live video streaming. The Phantom line of drones may have established DJI as a leader in the consumer drone market, but the Mavic Pro made high-quality aerial photography fun and highly accessible.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
May 2018Release Date
The DJI Phantom series of drones are some of the best machines on the market, every iteration makes improvements on the previous and in the case of the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, we're talking about improved motors, more efficient propellers and the first Phantom drone to rock OcuSync connectivity.
The Phantom 4 Pro series was DJI's best drone at launch for object avoidance technology, a trend that continues and is improved upon with the V2.0 series, adding radar and more obstacle avoidance goodness. The newer drone comes with the same 20MP 4K camera as previous, still one of the best camera drones on the market.
The difference between the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 for around $1,499 and the Phantom 4 Pro+ V2.0 for $1,749 is the inclusion of a 5.5-inch built-in display on the remote of the Pro+. The bright, Android powered display is the only difference between the two machines.
July 2018Release Date
The Parrot Anafi is one of the best entries from Parrot for the consumer camera drone market. Recognizing the power of an articulating gimbal, the new 21MP, 4K camera is able to point all the way down and rotate to pointing all the way up. This is extremely powerful for inspection services on commercial drones, but is built into a consumer friendly folding quadcopter design.
The drone itself is a step up from Parrot's usual mostly-foam build. Foam is great for building size without adding much weight, instead the Anafi is a much sleeker package with a plastic body.
Look for the now-common set of features in the Anafi, such as folding propeller arms, folding propellers, a compact size and a stabilized 4K camera. The remote control uses your phone as a display and you can swap batteries to expand your flight day. The Parrot Anafi sells for $699, but you can often find deals to save a few dollars.
Additional drone options:
Commercial drones and professional drones
We wanted to keep the list on the shorter side today, but most any of the higher-end commercial and professional drones on the market will capture great shots of your animals. The key thing here is that you’ll be better off with a zoom lens. Flying low and close to you animal is not ideal, a zoom lens gets the shot you’re hoping for while keeping some distance between expensive machine and beloved living creature.
Best camera drones
I don’t want to repeat what I just said above, but zoom lenses really are the key to great animal shots. Ask any bird watcher how close they can get to a flying ball of feathers. Regardless their answer, they’re almost certainly using a zoom lens. Some of the best camera drones allow you to pack on your own DSLR or have a powerful manufacturer option, check them out for more details.
I understand the appeal of capturing your little creatures, and big creatures, on film. Their best years are fewer than we’d all like them to be, but the memories last a lifetime. Help those memories stay fresh and share them with family and friends from a new perspective, from the sky.
It is almost guaranteed that this won’t be easy. Take the time, introduce your animal to this noisy flying machine before you force it on them. The great thing about digital cameras, like the one in your drone, you can capture way more footage and photos than you’ll ever need, but at least you have options and can choose the look and feel from there.
Please, again I beg you, use best practices to ensure the safety and comfort of your animal. Then use best practices to ensure the safety of your drone. This can be a great experience, but it can easily go bad, don’t let it.
Anyone willing to share their animal photos or videos with us? Ping us in the comments below.