I only got married in 2018, but back then, no one would have thought of having a drone at their wedding.
Today, it’s as commonplace as a cake topper. I love that for the industry.
If you’re eager to break into drone wedding photography to capture all the action, there is one very important question to ask yourself.
This isn’t just a drone you’ll fly for fun. It’s for a wedding, one of the most important days in someone’s life.
The drone has to be perfect, with a good flight time, high-quality imagery, and quiet operation so it doesn’t drown out the tender words during the “I dos.”
That’s a tough list of criteria, but it’s by no means impossible to find a drone that fits the bill.
How would I know? I’ve found five of them!
I’ve tried and tested all these drones so you don’t have to. Read on for my expert opinions and insights so you can take your career aspirations to new heights.
1. DJI Mavic 3 Pro Cine
Here’s the rub when hiring a photographer to capture a wedding.
They will take up-close and wide-range shots, which may require them to change out telephoto lenses and tripods to get the perfect shot.
This is time-consuming, potentially distracting work. In the meantime, while they’re getting set up, the wedding is happening, and no one is shooting those precious moments.
That reason alone is why the DJI Mavic 3 Pro Cine is first on my list.
The Mavic 3 Pro Cine is like packing three drones with you at once because it has three cameras built into one drone.
The 16-millimeter ½-inch CMOS tele camera is a standout for wedding photography. It has 28x Hybrid Zoom and 7x Optical Zoom.
Its aperture is set at f/3.4. It’s a small depth of field, but should be sufficient for outdoor and indoor weddings alike.
The only word of caution I have is this: the tele camera only shoots in 12 MP.
Next is the 70-millimeter 1/1.3-inch CMOS medium tele camera. This one has a smaller depth of field, with a non-togglable aperture at f/2.8.
However, it shoots in stunning 48 MP pixel quality and boasts 3x Optical Zoom.
Last but certainly not least is the 24-millimeter 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad camera. DJI and Hasselblad are a match made in heaven, as evidenced by this camera’s 20 MP image quality.
You can’t zoom with it, but you can set the aperture between f/2.8 and f/11.
If you’re photographing nuptials in a sun-washed ballroom or outside on a bright day, you’ll appreciate how you can configure the amount of light you let in on this camera.
Having access to three cameras at once when shooting with the Mavic 3 Pro Cine will change the game. You can zoom when needed, then fix the aperture, and maintain high quality without having to stop and change equipment.
Here are yet more exceptional features included with this Mavic edition:
- More storage space (a one-terabyte SSD card), a must when photographing weddings. You’ll want to take hundreds of pictures without stopping, and the Mavic 3 Pro Cine supports your aspirations.
- An improved 10-bit D-Log M. This richly detailed color mode has greater hue support than ever before, with DJI offering a rich palette of a million hues. You’ll see the rosy blush of the bride’s cheeks and the vivacity of the bouquet.
- An advertised flight time of 43 minutes, which I found to be a little under 40 minutes when testing. Still, that’s more than enough to capture every important moment of the ceremony. You can always exchange the battery to shoot photos during the reception.
- Some of the greatest obstacle sensing and avoidance in a DJI drone. APAS 5.0, omnidirectional obstacle detection, enhanced zoom precision, and multi-directional awareness keep your drone out of everyone’s way so they can enjoy the big day.
- Automatic Intelligent Flight Modes, such as Cruise Control and Waypoint Flights, for pulling off the cinematics and making wedding footage guests will delight in watching again and again.
- Lossless Panoramas in 100 MP quality to get the whole shot of the wedding chapel.
- The DJI LightCut app for editing photos on the go. Use One-Tap Edits backed by AI to upload your wedding images before the reception even starts.
2. Autel EVO Lite+
The Autel EVO series is one of my favorites, especially the EVO II Pro. However, I recognize that drone isn’t the best choice for wedding photography.
Instead, its cousin, the EVO Lite+, has more of what you need to make your photos sparkle and shine.
May I recommend the premium bundle as you consider the EVO Lite+?
This full kit has everything you need to successfully photograph a wedding, including plenty of spare cords, extra batteries, a carrying case, a drone remote, ND filters, a charging cable, a power adapter, and extra props.
Okay, so let’s get into what you came here for: the drone camera!
The EVO Lite+ is more than suitable for wedding photography due to its one-inch CMOS RGGB camera. This camera shoots in impeccably clear 20 MP pixel quality.
I know we’re talking about photography here, but if you’re tempted to use the EVO Lite+’s camera for videography, you will not be disappointed one iota.
The video capabilities are 6K at 30 frames per second, so you can take high-res videos everyone will be asking for so they can relive the most special moments of the day.
Getting back to photography, although the EVO Lite+ only has one camera, you can configure its aperture by default. The base aperture is f/2.8, but you can let in plenty more light, setting the aperture to f/11.
Whether the big day gets rained out or it’s a bright, perfect day, you will have an aperture mode to accompany the weather.
Here are some other incredible features to keep your eyes peeled for as you consider this Autel drone for wedding photography.
- Auto color restoration and balance that resists under- and overexposure without your manual intervention. You can keep your trigger finger happy, taking shots of the happy couple and guests all day while your colors come out beautifully.
- HDR composites allow the EVO Lite+ to create a stitched-up image that includes the best traits of several shots. The result? A clearer dynamic range, appropriate exposure, and just the right amount of contrast. You won’t have to spend hours in post getting your photos in sharable condition.
- Dynamic Track 2.1 is perfect for weddings. There’s always tons going on during a wedding and reception, but Autel’s Dynamic Track can follow multiple subjects simultaneously, whether they’re stationary guests or active members of the wedding party.
- SkyPortrait is the perfect mode for the reception when everyone is ready to let loose and have fun. This mode sends the EVO Lite+ into the air to take a selfie of the guests.
- More fun shooting modes, like Orbit, Rocket, Flick, and Fade Away, for dramatic footage befitting such an important day. Autel even has a Sky app for adding filters and effects, an answer to DJI’s LightCut app.
- A staggeringly awesome battery life of 40 minutes, although that’s only the advertised time. I got more than 35 minutes of time whenever I tested this drone, so that’s enough to impress me!
- Top-line obstacle avoidance with ultra-wide-angle cameras. The EVO Lite+ can see 150 degrees in front of it, so it won’t be a nuisance or safety threat at the wedding.
- It’s available in a variety of colors, including bright orange. However, for a wedding, white is probably the best hue.
Autel Robotics Evo Lite+ Premium Bundle
1” CMOS Sensor with 6K HDR Camera, No Geo-Fencing, 3-Axis Gimbal, 3-Way Obstacle Avoidance, 40Min Flight Time, 7.4 Miles Transmission, Lite Plus More Combo.
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12/05/2023 09:51 pm GMT
3. DJI Mini 3 Pro
Although it’s not the newest Mini, the DJI Mini 3 Pro is largely regarded as the best in the series. I’m hard-pressed to disagree.
This drone has it all: a great weight, obstacle sensing, social-media-friendly shots, and Intelligent Flight Modes.
Equipped with a 1/1.3-inch sensor, the foldable Mini 3 Pro takes 48 MP images.
You can see now why drone pilots have been so reluctant to hang this one up, even in exchange for other incredible drones like the Mini 4 Pro.
Of course, any DJI drone can achieve great image quality, and many do. The Mini 3 Pro goes so much deeper than that.
For example, it has larger pixels, so even though its default aperture is f/1.7, you get enough light that your wedding photos will be drenched in the natural glow of the day.
Every shot will have that romantic vibe you remembered in the moment.
Dual-native ISO comes naturally to this drone camera, which has an incredibly rich range of detail.
I’m talking shadows looking crisp, highlights captivating your attention, and a dynamic range that’s incredible all across the board.
Are you still debating whether the Mini 3 Pro is the right choice for drone wedding photography? This DJI masterpiece also boasts D-Cinelike Color, restoring the most beautiful, dazzling depth of hues to your footage that perhaps you’ve ever seen.
You will wow everyone when you show off your photos, and you won’t have to spend nearly as much time tinkering with color saturation and contrast in post.
What else makes the Mini 3 Pro a winner? I’m so glad you asked!
It all comes down to features like:
- A tidy weight of under 250 grams. While you’ll have to register your drone for commercial wedding photography anyway, this drone is light enough that you can carry it without breaking a sweat.
- An extended battery life compared to most Mini drones. With the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus, you can fly the Mini 3 Pro for an advertised 47 minutes. I logged under 45 minutes each time, but that’s still great.
- The inclusion of tri-directional obstacle sensing. I can’t stress enough how huge this is, as many Mini drones have only obstacle detection but no means of avoidance. However, due to APAS 4.0, the Mini 3 Pro can avoid obstacles it notices. While this isn’t the latest edition of APAS, it’s still excellent technology to this day.
- A rotatable three-axis mechanical gimbal that can alternate from Portrait to Landscape mode instantly. You’ll have so many shots for social media stories you’ll hardly know what to do with them all!
- Four times the Panorama modes for capturing the atmosphere of the festive celebration. You can choose between 180 Degrees, Sphere, Wide-Angle, and Vertical panos.
- More Intelligent Flight Modes than you can shake a stick at, such as FocusTrack (with Point of Interest 3.0, ActiveTrack 4.0, and Spotlight 2.0), Hyperlapses, and MasterShots for achieving cinematic greatness.
- A built-in digital zoom that can get 4x closer than you physically have to.
4. DJI Mini 4 Pro
But why stop at the Mini 3 Pro when you can have its successor, the Mini 4 Pro?
The best traits of the Mini line live on in this edition, such as a great weight under 249 grams, an enviable battery life, and an impeccably dreamy camera.
The Mini 4 Pro has a 1.1/3-inch CMOS camera like the Mini 3 Pro before it, but DJI has stepped the ISO up a notch with Dual Native ISO Fusion.
The four-in-one pixels are bigger, better, and more plentiful than ever, and the f/1.7 aperture especially plays nicely with the new and improved ISO.
You’ll shoot in 48 MP image quality like the Mini 3 Pro, but with one distinct difference: RAW files.
You can say hello to detail, detail, and more detail, from the lace of the bride’s dress to the shine on the groom’s shoes.
Okay, so technically, it’s two things, as the Mini 4 Pro also has SmartPhoto.
This high-end DJI feature has built-in scene recognition to determine which details to prioritize and which to minimize. It also uses HDR for crisp shots that sing.
The 10-bit D-Log M color profile supports more hues, now 1.07 billion colors.
That goes deeper than you can ever imagine, but you’ll love the beauty of the world as seen from the Mini 4 Pro’s camera, especially when shooting such a special occasion as a wedding.
Let’s go deeper into why the Mini 4 Pro is such a top-notch choice for weddings:
- A default battery life of 34 minutes, with the option to increase it to 45 minutes with the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus. In my experiments with the Mini 4 Pro, I got to a little over 40 minutes before the battery died out. You can take your time capturing the right moments during the wedding without stressing about a dead battery.
- Built-in HLG to keep brightness and colors in-check. Everything looks natural and attention-grabbing without being garish.
- True Vertical Shooting, now with a 60-degree tilt for taking even more dynamic photos that everyone will be talking about.
- 2x digital zoom for standing a good distance away but still feeling right in the middle of the reception on the dance floor.
- Five-star obstacle avoidance, as the Mini 4 Pro has APAS, two downward vision sensors, and four wide-angle sensors.
- Handy modes for keeping your drone stable while you focus on cinematography include Smart RTH, Waypoint Flights, and Cruise Control. Putting the power of automation in your hands has never felt so good.
- Intelligent Flight Modes galore, including a new and improved ActiveTrack with 360-degree tracking, Point of Interest, and Spotlight. You can focus on the bridal or groom’s parties at just the right moments. You can also use fun modes like Panorama, MasterShots, Hyperlapse, and QuickShots.
5. DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
Although it may not be the newest drone, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V.20 remains a powerhouse that cannot be denied.
It’s far beyond the size and scope of the DJI Mini drones, but once you get past that, you’ll see what an absolute beast this drone is as far as wedding photography potential goes.
Its one-inch CMOS sensor takes 20 MP images. This is a pro-level camera intended for filmmakers, so of course, it suits wedding photography.
The Phantom 4 Pro’s camera is so good you almost won’t believe it’s attached to a drone. The mechanical shutter prevents distortions you sometimes see in other drones from rolling shutters.
A wide-angle lens with a fixed aperture of f/2.8 lets in just the right amount of light, naturally increasing the color spectrum and improving the level and crispness of the detail in all your shots.
Utilize burst mode when a big moment happens, such as the first kiss or the tossing of the bouquet. Even though the Phantom 4 Pro takes many photos at once, it maintains 20 MP image quality at 14 fps.
But wait, there’s more!
- An impressive collection of Intelligent Flight Modes, including standards like ActiveTrack and RTH and some you don’t see in as many DJI drones anymore. For instance, Gesture Mode will center the photo or take a selfie automatically according to how you move your body, Draw Mode is a cousin of Waypoints, and TapFly is also related.
- A truly stunning obstacle avoidance system. The Phantom 4 Pro builds a 3D map of its surroundings, with compasses and IMUs determining what may be obstacles in five different directions. You can take heed with an obstacle avoidance system like this!
- An advertised flight time of 30 minutes. I never quite reached that time, so granted, you have to be faster when shooting with the Phantom 4 Pro. However, you can always check the battery life in the DJI GO 4 app.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro Plus V2.0
The DJI Phantom 4 Pro has many advanced features and specs. The flight modes are for drone pilots at all levels and are easy to use. It’s an excellent choice for travel drones and works best for aerial photography.
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12/06/2023 12:47 am GMT
What to look for when buying a wedding photography drone
With so many A+ options on the horizon, you can’t choose wrong if you add one of the above drones to your cart for your next wedding photography gig.
Just triple-check that the drone in question has these features.
The last thing you want is to get your drone caught on the bride’s veil or crash-land into the wedding cake. Weddings are astronomically expensive, and as the drone photographer, your job is to be seen but not heard.
That means minimizing your presence and flying under the radar, which is only achievable with a strong obstacle avoidance system in your drone.
Autel and DJI are the leaders in drone safety, at least based on my flight experience, with steady, reliable obstacle detection and avoidance.
You want to get the moment the tears dribble down the bride’s face or the joy of the couple during their first dance, but you can’t be up in everyone’s faces.
This is when a drone that can zoom will make all the difference.
Even 2x zoom is better than nothing, but 4x, 8x, or even 16x zoom is way better. Be aware that image quality usually decreases the more you zoom, so don’t go too heavy-handed.
Good CMOS sensor size
A CMOS sensor is a sign of quality in a digital camera, and that goes double for drone cameras. While sensor sizes vary, a good sensor should be at least an inch.
That will let in a decent amount of natural light.
Of course, a smaller CMOS sensor with an adjustable aperture compensates for the smaller sensor size. A bigger sensor with aperture options is still good if available, but not the end of the world if it isn’t.
It’s impossible to get much done when your drone battery dies every 20 minutes.
Recharging will take too long, even with the best drones, so you either have to pack a lot of spares (which means owning a lot of spare batteries, which isn’t exactly cheap), or you need a drone with a good battery life right off the bat.
A drone that’s right for wedding photography should be able to fly for at least 30 minutes, but the more time you can milk out of the drone per flight, the better.
You can work more relaxed and take more photos.
Size and weight
If traveling from gig to gig, it behooves you to have a lightweight drone. It doesn’t have to be DJI Mini-light, but a few hundred grams is best.
You can easily reach Point B from Point A with your drone, and setup should be a breeze.
Remember, as a drone photographer, you should be seen but not heard. If your drone buzzes loudly over the vows or the moment when the crowd hears, “you may now kiss the bride,” you won’t get future gigs.