Video: Learn How to Pull Off These 5 Classic Drone Shots

Using drones to capture beautiful images has become pretty standard these days, so chances are you'll eventually want to learn the ins and outs of aerial cinematography.

In this helpful tutorial from Story & Heart, the folks at Saint West Filmworks teach us not only how to pull off some of the most killer drone shots, but when and where to use them to better tell your story.

If you don't have time to watch, here's a breakdown of each shot listed in the video:

The Fly-by

Though this shot includes flying by a subject while panning, it's relatively simple to accomplish. You'll want to set up your framing before you try to pull it off, which means knowing how fast/slow your subject is moving, as well as how fast/slow you fly your drone over it. This will help you set your pan/tilt speed. Essentially -- fast fly-by = fast pan/tilt; slow fly-by = slow pan/tilt. This move is great for transitions, quick cuts, or jazzing up a b-roll sequence.

The Reveal

This shot is pretty straightforward: fly straight and slowly tilt up to reveal your subject -- the mouth of a river, a waterfall, a humongous mountain range. You can even try this move in reverse; instead of tilting up as you fly toward your subject, you can fly "backward" and tilt down to reveal your subject. (This works for smaller subjects -- typically people or objects, as opposed to landscapes.) This shot helps reveal a location in a "grand, majestic" way.

The Chase

If you're looking for a great closing shot or "action punch", this shot is perfect. However according to Saint West, this is one of the most coordinated and dangerous drone shots because you'll have to get your timing just right to capture your fast-moving subjects. So, pulling it off will take a little finesse. A couple of tips they offer in order to capture this shot are:

  • Give yourself (or your operator) some space to get your speed and direction in order. They recommend 20 feet or so from your first target.
  • Find the right timing for your "starting line" and subject. Try to line them up so that the starting line, the beginning of the camera move, begins at the precise point of where your subject is. (This is particularly difficult when your subject is moving at high speeds.)

The High Pan

A classic shot: a simple pan -- only super high in the air. This shot is great if you want to display the beauty of a location. Getting this shot is rather simple. Find a launch point, fly your drone to your preferred altitude, and slowly pan your camera to capture the surroundings. Saint West makes a couple of suggestions just to make sure you have options later when you enter post:

  • Pan a whole 360°
  • Capture the shot panning both from right to left and left to right

The Explorer

These are the shots you pick up after you've finished capturing everything on your shot list. There's no specific move or technique -- essentially you fly around looking for some great images, and use your piloting skills and keen eye to get creative. Drones offer a spectacular point of view -- The Explorer makes sure that it doesn't go to waste.

What are some of your favorite drone shots? Share links to videos that demonstrate them in the comments below!     

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Your Comment


I mean, you can't really call it a list of "5 Classic Drone Shots" when number 5 is literally "Just fly around getting whatever!" Come on now. . . .

October 23, 2015 at 6:24PM, Edited October 23, 6:24PM

Joshua Bowen

Pretty good food for thought! Never really named my shots in my youtube videos , but hey! I did a fly by, a chase and a pan! NICE!

October 23, 2015 at 7:47PM

Alexander Lozano
Hobbyist Filmmaker

"The Crane Shot". Up or down in elevation while tilting the camera to keep the subject in the center.

October 23, 2015 at 10:43PM

Luke Neumann

They forgot The Pirate Key and the Slippery Nipple.

October 24, 2015 at 6:39PM


2013: Here's what a drone is.
2015: Five classic drone shots.

Man, the good ol' days.

October 25, 2015 at 12:14PM


Center your subject, fly sideways while applying just enough yaw to keep the subject centered. Works great at close distances for individual "Hero Shots" or farther out to establish a location while keeping things moving. I find it gets used most in the edit second only to the crane shot Luke mentioned above.

October 26, 2015 at 10:46AM, Edited October 26, 10:46AM


Circling a "point of interest" seems like it should be in the list, too. Especially easy now that the Phantom 3 (and others) has an automated way to do it.

November 17, 2015 at 8:16AM


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