The colour, texture and clever composition of these images prompted us to reach out to Drew to find out more about his process and his top tips for those looking to capture captivating aerial shots using a drone.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Drew, and I live in Perth, Western Australia. I’m employed full time as a Paramedic, and in my spare time, I dabble in photography—particularly drone photography. I don’t have any fancy photography or image editing qualifications; I’m completely self-taught.
How long have you been into photography, and what attracted you to aerial photography in particular?
I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember, though until quite recently, I never took it too seriously.
Over the years, I have had a few different cameras and experimented with various techniques, such as long-exposure and night-time photography. I’ve always preferred to produce something unique, so I think that’s why I became drawn to drone photography.
“I’ve always preferred to produce something unique, so I think that’s why I became drawn to drone photography.”
I first became interested in drone photography after coming across some photos that were taken by a drone on Instagram.
In late 2017, I bought my first drone and began experimenting. Over the next few years, I took the drone on holidays, and just took lazy/uninspired shots. At the time, just having that different perspective was enough as it was still quite new. I was having fun, so I believe that’s all that mattered.
In 2020 I took a 12 month break from photography (and Instagram)—life was busy, and I didn’t find myself enjoying it. It wasn’t until I was forced into a short covid lockdown in late January 2021 that I found myself going through some old photos. I then started watching some editing tutorials and stumbled across Affinity Photo. I quickly decided my old iPad would need an upgrade, and after the lockdown ended, I picked up a shiny new iPad Air which was far more capable, and that was it, I guess. I was hooked! That’s when I started taking it all a bit more seriously.
Is there much planning that goes into an aerial shoot?
Yes and no. I always have a look on Google Maps to see if I can find any interesting colours or shapes, but you never know what you’ll get until you’re flying.
It’s often just a great excuse to jump in the car and go for a drive (or a holiday).
What gear do you use?
I currently have a DJI Mavic 2 Pro, though I’m hoping to upgrade to the Mavic 3 ASAP.
What inspired you to start using Affinity Photo to post-process your images?
Before I discovered Affinity Photo, I was definitely a photographer who would take a bunch of shots (JPEGS), download them to my phone, put a filter over them, and upload them to Instagram.
After dabbling with editing programs in the past, I’d never put the effort in that was required to use them to their full potential. But in January 2021, I found Affinity Photo, and I immediately felt that it was an amazing app. It enabled me to really start learning how to create what I saw in my mind and to develop my unique style. It’s so easy to use, and after a relatively short period of time, I could see so much improvement in my work.
“It’s so easy to use, and after a relatively short period of time, I could see so much improvement in my work.”
I like to keep my paramedic and photography life separate, but I definitely use one to help the other. I discovered a very long time ago that photography was an amazing outlet—it allowed me to go out and be creative and have a bit of an escape from everything else going on. After I started using Affinity, that ‘time out’ extended to the editing process as well.
What are your typical post-production steps for retouching your photographs?
Post-production, for me, is quite fluid. I start off by going through the photos I’ve taken to choose which ones I want to work on. Then I decide what I want to turn them into.
When I’m working on a photo, I break it down into its different elements. For example, if I’ve got a top-down shot that shows someone walking along the beach with a wave crashing, I want the sand to be quite smooth with warm tones. I want the person to be sharp and in focus; I want the person’s shadow to be quite pronounced; I want the water to be smooth with cooler tones, but the crashing wave needs to be sharp and textured so you can see its power.
As a result, we end up with several different layers of that photo that need to be approached differently and then put back together before the final corrections can be made. Putting it all back together before your final corrections is a really important step because it brings the images together, and I believe it gives a much more natural final image.
Have you ever been surprised by how different a location has looked from above?
Yes! After stumbling across those images taken by a drone in 2017, I was instantly amazed at the brand-new perspective drone photography could give someone that would have in the past only been available to a person in a plane or helicopter. This new perspective opened up new colours, shapes, and textures that had, until now, been out of reach for the hobby photographer.
“I was instantly amazed at the brand-new perspective drone photography could give someone that would have in the past only been available to a person in a plane or helicopter. This new perspective opened up new colours, shapes, and textures that had, until now, been out of reach for the hobby photographer.”
Do you have a favourite photo, and if so, can you share the story behind it?
That’s a difficult one, as my answer is likely to change every week!
I’ve been experimenting with making split images recently, which I then made available as NFTs. I really enjoyed the process of creating them, and I was really happy with the final result.
What locations are next on your list, and is there a dream location you would like to shoot someday?
Broome, WA is next on my list—the colours there are just amazing.
My dream location would be Iceland. Hopefully, I’ll get there one day!
Finally, do you have any tips for photographers looking to capture captivating aerial shots?
Plenty! But I’ll try to keep it short.
Perhaps the most important tip would be to understand the rule of thirds. This is a well known technique that I believe transfers very well into drone photography.
Make sure you frame your shot—drones are so manoeuvrable, so use this to your advantage. This will help with composition and can give an image some added depth.
Make the most of any lines, shapes, or contrasting colours you find. When used effectively, these can alter the way an image is viewed by drawing the eye to a specific focal point or providing balance.
Don’t fly too high (unless that’s the shot you want), as you’ll lose some of the colours and textures that make drone photography unique. By filling the frame, the viewers eye is less likely to be distracted, and you can then more effectively highlight your subject.
Learn how to edit! Making something uniquely yours is an amazing feeling. Unfortunately there’s no shortcut for this—believe me, I’ve tried. If you want to improve, and be proud of the images you produce, you’ll need to practice.
And finally, always have fun and never stop experimenting!