Previously I have written about drone photography and what kind of images you can shoot with your expensive flying toy. Today I want to show you how a drone can actually help you lighting your subject.

When I had the drone for jsut a few weeks, I went out one evening to test the low-light capabilities. At take-off I was surprised: The drone has two strong LEDs on its underside, which automatically light up when it is dark and the drone is close to the ground. Makes perfect sense, as you should be able to see the landing spot before touchdown. These LEDs are super bright and sparked the idea of lighting you subject with a drone.

And here we are! In this case the drone provides the light only and the photo is taken by a regular DSLR, but it is impressive how much light it provides. Note that there are addon lights for the drone, but these images were solely taken with the onboard light.

I have to admit that the image above is composed of several shots. I moved the drone to the left and the right on every shot to illuminate a wider area and get rid of hard shadows (the handlebar cast a harsh shadow on the side of the tank, as you can see on the following image, which is a single image).

But that’s not all you can do with the onboard lighting. When I photographed an Aprilia RSV4 a few months later, I tested how the light works when the camera is facing downward.

For this shot the drone hovered directly above the bike with the landing lights switched on. There are no flashes or other lights (except the ambient light). By the way, I would be super excited if there was a way to trigger my flashes with the drone. Hello, DJI, are you listening?

I do not have much behind the scenes video material from the shoot, but here are the few scraps the biker sent me after the shoot via WhatsApp.

What I find the most interesting about the image: The light is coming from the same direction the camera is looking. It’s like a flash on the hotshoe on your camera, facing the direction of the lens. Usually that is a big nono, will look crappy and flat. But in this usecase it works – perhaps also because also ambient light was involved in the photo (the flourescent light of the warehouse).

Bottom line: Lighting your subject with a drone is an exciting way to work. You can have light from above in virtually any location, and sometime even the onboard camera of the drone can make use of the lights to illuminate the scene.

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