Hiring a drone for your wedding can add that extra special dimension and help keep the memories, of your special day, with you forever. Drones can capture still images and video footage from a perspective that traditional photography can only dream of. Drones can get in closer than helicopters and are capable of providing better footage at a fraction of the cost. Drones at weddings are becoming ever more popular as technology rapidly evolves. 2017 is the year of the wedding drone.
However, when choosing a drone photographer, it is not just as simple as someone turning up on the day and pressing record. There are many serious factors to consider. This guide provides a list of things to review before having a drone at your wedding.
Drones are not toys and, in the wrong hands, they can lead to accidents, damage and injury. As of today, hobbyist drone operators do not require a licence or insurance to fly. In essence, anyone can buy and then fly. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they are safe. In my experience, most casual operators are unaware of the laws and simply assume that they are capable.
Make sure anyone you contact has a valid Permission for Commercial Operation from the Civil Aviation Authority and is fully insured with a minimum of £1,000,000 public liability insurance. Drone Scotland Limited meets all these criteria.
You wouldn’t pay someone to drive you to your wedding if they didn’t have a driving licence or insurance. Don’t risk employing an unqualified, uninsured drone operator or you could find your special day being ruined by a visit from the Police or worse, a trip to hospital.
A professional operator will have completed a CAA approved training including ground school and a flight test. In addition, they will follow a strict operations manual that clearly defines what they can and can’t do. The number one priority of a drone operator is safety.
Before taking to the air, your professional drone operator ought to have taken a clear briefing from you and conducted a pre-flight assessment to ascertain both flight feasibility and legality.
Ask your drone operator what quality of picture you will be receiving. Most drones have cameras but the quality can vary from low-res to cinema quality. In our opinion, 1080 FHD is a minimum and 4K UHD is more than sufficient to future proof your still images and videos. Avoid going for anything below this standard as the quality of your image may disappoint. At the same time be cautious of operators promoting more than 4K – Its overkill unless you plan to watch the video in a cinema. You will also end up paying a premium fee to cover the costs of the unnecessary equipment hire.
As before, make sure anyone you hire is qualified to a basic industry minimum. After that, you have to decide what level of experience you are after. It’s worth bearing in mind that aerial drone photography is new tech so you are not going to find many people with more than a few years experience. Those with more experience are likely to charge more than those new to the game. Just remember that experience may not necessarily mean better.
We would recommend talking it over with your chosen operator. Ask them for input about what they can and, just as importantly, can’t do. You may find that newer companies will be more flexible and may even meet you in advance to demonstrate some shots and manoeuvres. Remember they will want to use your wedding as a showcase so it’s in their interests to shoot a great wedding.
Drones won’t replace traditional photography or traditional wedding photos. Drones add that extra magic to your day. They can capture the setting and some spectacular shots that are, otherwise, impossible to obtain. Imagine a video capturing the bride arriving in her car with the venue behind in full 4K. Picture amazing fly by scenes and unique aerial group shots.
Drones probably won’t be used indoors. Even if you are getting married in a huge venue, you probably won’t appreciate the noise of the rotors spinning whilst you take your vows. We therefore recommend that you agree, in advance, when the drone will be flown. Drone Scotland recommends that the Drone is flown before the ceremony, between the ceremony and the meal, during any outdoor photoshoots and possibly afterwards to capture ad-hoc moments.
Don’t expect close ups. Not only are they unsafe but they can be intrusive. Best to let the traditional photographer handle those. A good operator will liaise with the photographer and take aerial footage of the traditional photos being taken – this can produce some amazing footage.
What’s it like having a drone at your wedding?
Apart from the amazing pictures and videos, having a drone at your wedding is something that you won’t forget. A few points worth highlighting:
- Your guests will certainly notice the drone. Whenever we fly an operation, people always take notice. This can be used in your favour as your guests are likely to be facing towards the camera when pictures and videos are being recorded.
- The drone does not record sound. Your video ought to have music added to it when edited but it is worth pointing out that drones don’t record sound. There is no point as the noise of the rotors would either wipe out any sound or, make the sound useless.
- Drones make a noise. This is unavoidable but, when outside, the noise ought not interfere with your day. Again watch out for drones that are too big as the size, hence weight, influences the noise.
- Be patient and be prepared to get in position. The drone has to take off, get in position and then complete it’s manoeuvre. Most drones won’t be in the air for more than 20 minutes without a battery change so it’s important that you are ready for it when it launches. A great shot can be captured in seconds once the drone is ready. Also be prepared to do a re-take of any video shots just like they do in the movies. At the end of the day, you are paying for an everlasting memory so make sure you get it right.
- The pilot needs to be able to operate uninterrupted. In other words, guests should not approach the pilot when the drone is in use. If interrupted, the pilot may be forced to land the drone for safety reasons or even stop the operation.
Will the venue allow a drone?
If you are interested in drone footage, this is a question you will need to ask the venue. Venues normally say yes but there are times when they have a no drone policy or they may have set stipulations such as insurance requirements.
Should your venue accept drones, it is then the operator’s responsibility to conduct assessments to ensure a flight can be conducted both safely and legally. The drone operator may come back to you with limitations of the proposed flight. These limitations may not interfere with your plans or they may be so complex that you chose not to proceed. Examples could be cables, livestock and other air users.
Make sure you have all of this finalised before the big day to avoid disappointment.
What about the weather?
If there is one thing that would stop the drone even taking off, on your big day, it’s the weather. Drones don’t like rain, wind and lack of daylight. In addition, the camera won’t get good shots unless the weather is acceptable to fly. Whilst we all dream about wedding photos in the sun, drones can fly perfectly well in days where the sun is hidden behind clouds.
Make sure your drone operator documents exactly when they will and won’t charge for their services. If the operator cancels because of the weather, they ought not charge you for the day (note, other pre-arranged costs could still be chargeable such as travel costs for site visits etc). The operator will invoice you a partial or whole fee if you insist they attend when the weather forecast is unfavourable. Make sure you get this arranged in a contract in advance.
Expect between £300 and £2,000 for a drone operator and drone. Be prepared to negotiate and understand how any costs are broken down, what the cancellation policy is and what other services are included. e.g edited, non edited footage.
Bjorn Aaen, Drone Scotland