Jani's Top 10 Items to Get Started with Drone Photography

Jani's Top 10 Items to Get Started with Drone Photography

'As a professional photographer and filmmaker, I'm constantly amazed by how modern technology evolves and what new opportunities it brings to all of us. Two decades ago, none of us could have even dreamed about the possibility of taking some aerial photos taken during our holidays with a tiny drone that fits in our pockets. 

Thanks to these developments in drone technologies, it is today easier than ever for anyone to get started with drone photography. Below you can find my recommendations on what kind of gear or equipment you might like to consider getting to begin observing the world from a new perspective.'

Drone photography is here and it is here to stay. As a hobby that you can grow with and master, learning how to use drones, and more importantly, how to use them to enhance your photography, is an extremely rewarding process. Thanks to seasoned drone photographer Jani, you can find the best starter gear that suits your needs and budget. 

All of Jani's recommendations are easily bought from Amazon, JDI and eBay! Have a peruse through his top 10 items to begin your long and prosperous journey into the world? No, skies - of drone photography.

Creator Image
Jani Ahonen
Photographer and Filmmaker
  • Dji
    Mini 2

    Jani Ahonen

    One of the first things you will learn when you get into drone photography is that the weight of the actual drone itself matters a lot. Generally speaking, if a drone weighs more than 250 grams, it can be a lot trickier to fly legally in more populated areas.

    This is why this DJI Mini 2 has a weight of 249 grams which means you get to use it in more places than its big brother, the DJI Mavic Air 2. So, for this reason alone, the DJI Mini 2 might be a better purchase than the Mavic Air 2 for most people unless you aren't aspiring to become a full-time drone pilot. There are two ways you can buy DJI Mini 2. 

    The first way is to buy just the drone itself without any extra accessories or batteries. If your goal is to take just a few quick photos or videos once in a while or during a vacation, then you will be fine by going with this standard DJI Mini 2 package. 

    However, if you plan to take more videos or photos from a birds-eye view even more than few times a month, then you should consider going with DJI Mini 2 Fly More Combo.
  • Dji
    Mini 2

    Jani Ahonen

    If you feel that you will be filming a lot of footage with your first drone, you should choose to purchase this DJI Mini 2 Fly More Combo instead of the standard version that comes only with the drone itself. The main benefits of these Fly More Combos are that you get two spare batteries, an extra set of propellers, a multi-battery charger and a shoulder bag. 

    If you were to buy all of these accessories separately, you would pay a lot more for them than buying them as part of this Fly More Combo deal. My suggestion is that if you can afford to buy the Fly More Combo, then definitely go with it, as you can never have too many batteries on standby. Without my Fly More Combo's extra batteries, I would have missed so many great shots in the past, but luckily I didn't.
  • Dji
    Mini 2 360° Propeller Guard

    Jani Ahonen

    As a general rule of thumb, you don't really need a propeller guard for your drone if you only fly it outdoors. This is because by adding a propeller guard for your drone, you are increasing the weight of your drone, which could then potentially change how the drone behaves in the wind. Not to mention the heavier the drone is, the faster the batteries will drain. 

    However, there are some instances when you could consider getting a propeller guard as a safety feature for your precious new drone. One of those is if you plan to fly it indoors. Based on my experience, it doesn't matter how good you are controlling your drone. 

    Accidents are more prone to happen in tight places, such as flying indoors. I have crashed my drone once to a wall, and if I had had a propeller guard on that day, it would have saved me some money. Luckily my drone itself survived undamaged from that crash, and the only thing I needed to replace was one set of propellers. 

    But it could have been a lot worse. Hence a propeller guard could make sense for some drone users but not necessarily for all. Only you know is it right for you.
  • SanDisk
    microSDXC Memory Card

    Jani Ahonen

    Unless you choose to purchase a more expensive drone such as Mavic Air 2 or Mavic Air 2S, your only way to store your new aerial footage is to on a MicroSD card. I use these SanDisk Extreme cards myself, and a good rule of thumb for a high quality 4K footage is that you need a fast performing MicroSD card.

    If you go below 90MB/s writing speed or U-Class 3 specification, your drone might struggle to write the data on that card, especially if you plan to film 4k footage with 60fps. I recommend investing in multiple 32GB or 64GB MicroSDXC cards instead of buying just one larger one. 

    This way, if anything were to happen to your drone (like it gets lost), you won't instantly lose all of the content you have previously taken. The benefits of these SanDisk Extreme cards are that they come with an SD adapter, making it very easy to transfer the images to any computer.
  • Western Digital
    Portable Hard Drive With Password Protection

    Jani Ahonen

    Once you start taking videos with your drone, you will soon realise those video files can eat up a lot of space from your computer. Hence the best way to store them is on an external hard drive such as Western Digital Passport drives. 

    These tiny hard drives get their power directly from the USB port, which means you can take them anywhere. Western Digital Passports can store up to five terabytes of data, which means you can hold on to all of the footage you film without ever having to worry about running out of free space.

    I have used Western Passport hard drives for almost a decade now, and they are my favourite pocket-sized hard drives out there! They even come with free Western Digital software that allows you to keep track of the health of your hard drive, which can prevent incidents such as hard drive failures.
  • Seagate

    Jani Ahonen

    As your drone photography library grows in size, it becomes crucial that you take the necessary steps to ensure you don't accidentally lose all of that content in the snap of a finger. 

    Remember, all hard drives will fail one day, and you want to have a backup plan in place! For this reason, you should have an external hard drive dedicated for backups only, and this Seagate Desktop drive here is one of those drives I have personally used in the past.

    Combine this external hard drive with the backup software of your choice, and you will guarantee that your most precious memories won't just disappear one day.
  • Dji
    Mini 2 Intelligent Flight Battery

    Jani Ahonen

    Here's the thing you should know about the drone batteries, they really don't last that long. Most of the time you get will be between 15-25 minutes of actual flight time, and in bad weather conditions, it can be even less. This is why I always carry some spare batteries wherever I go. 

    These extra batteries guarantee that I will never miss a shot simply because I don't have enough battery life left to continue flying. If you go with Fly More Combo from the beginning, you will automatically have two extra batteries, which should be enough for 90% of the regular users of these drones. 

    However, if you go with the standard drone edition, it might be a good idea to purchase at least one extra battery for your drone. You never know when you might need it!
  • Osolee
    Drone Landing Pad

    Jani Ahonen

    There will be situations when you might have difficulty finding a good spot to take off and land your drone. A drone landing pad becomes very useful in those situations as it allows you to start and finish your flight from nearly anywhere, even from a dirty forest floor or sandy beach.

    You will need to keep in mind that propellers on these tiny drones stand barely an inch or two above the ground, which means they can easily get tangled with high grass or cause a nasty dust storm when landing. For these reasons, you should never try to send off your drone without knowing exactly where you will also land it. 

    Owning a landing pad is an excellent investment for those aspiring drone pilots who wish to use their drone in more rural areas where the ground isn't always ideal for landing.
  • Dji
    Mavic Air 2

    Jani Ahonen

    DJI Mavic Air 2 is today the most popular drone after DJI Mini 2. It's like the big brother for DJI Mini 2 that knows more and is more skilled with its tricks. Mavic Air 2 is about twice the weight of DJI Mini 2 which means you might be required to pass drone operator tests to even fly it depending on the country you live in. 

    Mavic Air 2 has a built-in memory of 8 GB which means that if you forget your MicroSD card at home, you can still film a little bit of footage as long as you have some battery left. One of the best features of Mavic Air 2 is its ability to take stunning 48mpx images, but for most regular consumers, even DJI Mini 2's 12mpx photos will be more than sufficient.

    There is, however, one big reason why you might like to go with Mavic Air 2 over a DJI Mini 2, and that is the operating temperature. If you live where temperatures can go below 0, you can forget about using the DJI Mini 2 there. 

    Mavic Air 2, on the other hand, can handle even handle down to -10 Celcius. This means that you can use it during the winter, which instantly expands the types of content you can create with your first drone. Like with DJI Mini 2, Mavic Air 2 is available as a standalone drone and a Fly More Combo that comes with two extra batteries and other useful accessories.
  • Dji
    Air 2S

    Jani Ahonen

    In early 2021, DJI announced an updated version of Mavic Air 2 that carried the name Mavic Air 2S. The main upgrades over the previous version were primarily camera related, and the propellers got some colouring added to them. 

    Otherwise, it was the same drone except that DJI decided to take away few key features that made Mavic Air 2 such a wonderful drone. One of those features was the ability to take 48mpx photos and the possibility to operate the drone down to -10. Just like the DJI Mini 2, the Mavic Air 2S can only be operated in warmer environments where temperatures stay above 0 degrees. 

    This is a massive loss for those who come from countries with colder climates, like me, wishing to take pictures and videos during winter. But if you don't care about the 48-megapixel photos and live in a warm country anyway, then it is no brainer to go with Mavic Air 2S over Mavic Air 2.

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