Pro filmmakers and beginners alike can use drones to capture dynamic moments and engaging storylines. With the best drone shots for dramatic footage in mind, you can create smooth, powerful cinematic shots that leave a lasting impression.
Let’s break down everything you need to know to set up the right shots to achieve professional-grade drone footage.
Cinematic Drone Shots: The Basics
The best drone shots for dramatic and cinematic footage vary, depending on your intended effect, but they all have something in common: a strong foundation. Before you settle on the perfect shot, make sure to practice with your drone and review the basics.
Take It Slow
The best advice for anyone looking to create a polished, professional shot is to go slow. Whether you’re going for dark and creepy or uplifting and heroic, slow is always more cinematic. It creates the impression that you’re shooting from something much larger than a drone — a helicopter, for example. The shot instantly looks more controlled and professional.
This also means taking all your movements slowly too. Go easy on the control sticks, keep your movements gradual, and accelerate slowly to avoid distortion.
Adjust the Frame Rate
The frame rate can change the look of any footage. Reality TV, for example, is usually 30 frames per second. Something more cinematic and grand, like a Hollywood feature, is typically 24 fps.
Set it to 24 fps for a more dramatic look. For any kind of action shot, try 60 or even 120 fps to slow down the footage.
Use the Light
One of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal as a filmmaker is all around you — light. The right lighting can transform any shot from ordinary to captivating.
Try shooting right at “golden hour,” before sunset or just after dawn. The colors will be warmer and more vivid while also creating a dramatic contrast with visible shadows.
Reverse the Shot
It happens to everyone. You’re setting up the perfect, cinematic shot, but the drone tilts too far to the side, and you catch the spinning blades in the frame. But changing the angle of the drone will fundamentally change the shot, ruining the vision you had in mind.
If you’re going for a tricky shot, fly it in reverse. Start where you want the shot to end — say right in front of your subject. Then, fly the drone backward, up, and away. Once you’ve got your footage, you can reverse the shot in post-production. Played back this way, your camera zooms in on your subject and stops right in front of it.
This trick works great for some shots, but keep in mind that reverse-editing won’t work if you have moving objects like people, cars, or birds.
Use Two Axes of Movement
It’s a small detail, but using two axes of movement can have a huge impact. Most blockbuster movies use this technique in examples like flying backward and downward simultaneously — all while keeping it smooth and steady.
Imitating this technique is an easy way to make your footage instantly look more professional.
Practice, Practice, Practice
No matter what shots you decide to try, you need to practice before the big filming day. In the days leading up to your shoot, take your time rehearsing the moves to ensure you have total command over the controls.
By the time you get to the shoot, you should know what to do — and muscle memory will take it from there.
8 Best Cinematic Drone Shots
From slow-motion action shots to sweeping landscapes, a drone can capture it all. To get the right cinematic look, however, you need to have some powerful shots in mind.
These well-documented shots are “go-tos” for professional filmmakers — and they’re an easy way to elevate the look of any drone footage. Here are a few cinematic drone moves to master.
1. The Side-Follow
The side-follow shot is essential for following movement. It works great for:
- Tracking a moving vehicle as it enters the frame
- Taking a shot of somebody walking or running to add depth
- Following bikes or cars as they go down the open road
- Tracking a boat close to the water
The best part about this shot is that it's not too hard to pull off. Many newer drones will have a feature that allows you to track specific people or objects. Even without this feature, you can manually move the drone parallel to your main subject.
To create an even more dynamic effect, try lifting into the air as you move further away from the subject.
2. The Pull-Away
The pull-away shot is easy to capture and always looks cinematic. Start by hovering your drone in front of the subject — a person or an object. Then gradually move back and up.
Practice slow and controlled stick movements for smoother and more cinematic footage.
3. The Tilt Reveal
This move might be basic, but the results can be incredible. The shot starts with a bird’s-eye view, looking straight down at your subject. As you’re moving overhead, slowly tilt the camera up to reveal something else like another subject or even just an incredible landscape.
4. The Unveiling
Similar to the tilt reveal, this shot is all about slowly unveiling something for dramatic effect. The unveiling shot makes for a powerful way to introduce your subject or setting.
Instead of starting high up, begin low, traveling first over the foreground. Then, fly over the foreground and slowly pan up to reveal the landscape in all of its glory. For maximum effect, try shooting at sunset or sunrise so that you catch the flare as your drone climbs up.
5. The Orbit
The orbit shot is all about rotation. First, pick an object of interest. The object should also be something that makes some sort of impact — something important to the story or physically stunning.
Then, rotate the drone while sliding left or right, keeping the drone camera facing the object of interest. The drone essentially launches into a smooth orbit around this object. While it can be tricky to do manually, some drones offer a smart mode option that will let you select a distance and automatically fly a circle around that point.
6. The Bird’s-Eye
A standard photography angle, the bird’s-eye view is often overlooked for videography. It can set up a unique shot, showing an artistic perspective that people don’t often see.
Mastering the bird’s-eye shot is pretty simple. Just fly your drone up to your desired height, and with the camera tilted down, fly in any direction. If movement is happening below, you can keep the camera still and let the action speak for itself.
7. The Fly-Through
Fly-through shots might be cinematic, but they can also be quite risky. You’ll have to fly your drone through a gap or a hole, like through a rock formation or beneath a highway overpass.
While it can be dangerous, the shot itself isn’t too complicated. With some practice, a small enough drone, and some prop guards, you can capture this incredible shot while avoiding a catastrophic result.
8. The Tracking Tilt
The tracking tilt can be a powerful storytelling shot. Instead of starting low and then tilting up to reveal something, you’re starting with a broad, high-up shot showing the whole environment. Then, slowly focus on a specific object, getting closer and closer.
This is a great way to set the scene and then establish the essential part of the shot — something the viewer should be paying attention to. It can also set up another shot from a camera on the ground.
Best Drone Shots for Dramatic Footage
The world of drone videography is becoming more accessible than ever. Even the most challenging drone shots are well within reach for anyone willing to put in the time and practice to master them. These cinematic drone shots, executed smoothly, can take your videos to a whole new level.
Once you’ve got the perfect shot, it’s time to back your footage with the right music. Whether you want to create drama, highlight the action, or trigger an emotional response, the right stock music can make your cinematic drone shots pop.
Take a look at our dramatic music, or try something a little more adventurous. Still haven’t found the perfect fit? Browse the rest of our royalty free stock music and narrow it down by mood, genre, keyword, and more to find the perfect cinematic soundtrack for your new footage.