What does the future hold for drone photography? These 8 pro photographers share their expectations and hopes for the growing art form.

Drone photography is here to stay. Whether it’s in the real estate sector or the Instagram community, drone pilots continue to dominate the industry. In 2016, the Shutterstock Creative Trends Report indicated a huge uptick in searches for the word “drone,” and drone registrations in the United States alone broke 770,000 last year. The hashtag #drone on Instagram currently has well over 7 million posts. Other popular hashtags include #dronestagram, #dronefly, and #droneoftheday.

Drones have forever changed the landscape of aerial photography. The field has become more democratic; photographers no longer need to afford a helicopter to get a taste of the sky. Drones were also among the most popular holiday gifts this past season, appealing to professionals, hobbyists, and everyone in between. We asked eight drone pilots from the Shutterstock and Offset collections to predict the future of the genre.

The verdict? Drones will get better in terms of the technology, but it will be harder to fly as more policies and restrictions are imposed. Read on to learn why.

1. “World governments see that the number of drones is increasing rapidly, and for this reason, they must control it carefully.”

Piotr Krzeslak

8 Expert Predictions for the Future of Drone Photography — Drone Registration

Image by Piotr Krzeslak. Gear: Phantom 4 Pro. Settings: Focal length 8.8mm; exposure 1/100 sec; f4; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This photo shows a natural pond deep in the forest somewhere in Poland. I found it accidentally. I was flying and photographing another pond, and I saw this heart-shaped one about two to three kilometers away. So, I decided to go there instantly. It was not easy since the area was pretty wet and overgrown, but I did reach the spot, and it was worth it.

8 Expert Predictions for the Future of Drone Photography — Expect Local Restrictions

Image by Piotr Krzeslak. Gear: Phantom 4 Pro. Settings: Focal length 8.8mm; exposure 1/50 sec; f3.5; ISO 100.

What are your predictions for the future of drone photography?

I think that in the near future, drone photography will be much more difficult because of potential changes in the law. World governments see that the number of drones is increasing rapidly, and for this reason, they must control it carefully. Of course, there are restrictions already, but not as much as I think there will be. I think governments could decide to make drones like cars in the sense that you’d need license plates, insurance, and other kinds of permissions to fly.

2. “In the near future, I think the gear will become even more reliable, and the quality will also increase.”

Karolis Janulis

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Image by Karolis Janulis. Gear: DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ (FC200) with its factory photography gear. Settings: Focal length 5mm; exposure 1/570 sec; f2.8; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

Golden hour is not only beautiful on the ground. From above, you can notice and capture endless shadows during this time. This photo was taken in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Pictured: [1] Karolis Janulis [2] Karolis Janulis

What are your predictions for the future of drone photography?

These days, drone photography can be seen in all types of media. I have been flying since the very beginning, and in the last four years, the gear has improved significantly. In the near future, I think the gear will become even more reliable, and the quality will also increase. Brand new drones are smart enough to fly around obstacles and perform different actions. Artificial intelligence will continue to develop, and I think it will be widely used for aerial photography. The human element will have less and less of an impact on the process.

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3. “I think that as the industry continues to grow and evolve, more drones will be used for artistic photography, commercial work, and other fields.”

Alison Etcheverry

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Image by Alison Etcheverry. Gear: DJI Mavic Pro drone, 26.3mm ƒ/2.2 lens. Settings: Focal length 26mm; exposure 1/1250 sec; f2.2; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I took this shot on the last day of our family ski vacation in beautiful Megeve, France. The weather had been bad for a couple of days. I was able to do some still photography with my camera, but I hadn’t been able to fly my drone. The minute it stopped snowing and started to clear, I launched my DJI Mavic Pro drone, which is small and portable, especially for traveling, and I aimed for the woods because the trees were covered with thick, new snow. It was freezing, which made the treetops look like snowflakes! It took me a moment to find the right altitude and composition for this photo, and I was able to take a couple of different shots before I had to land it again due to weather conditions.

Pictured: [1] Alison Etcheverry [2] Alison Etcheverry

What are your predictions for the future of drone photography?

I’m a private pilot, and I do a lot of aerial photography, but it’s cheaper and easier to use a drone. Drones also allow me to access many places that I wouldn’t be able to photograph otherwise. I think that as the industry continues to grow and evolve, more drones will be used for artistic photography, commercial work, and other fields. I believe that in the near future, drones will have an even better quality, more power, and better performance at a more accessible price for consumers. On the other hand, more regulations and investments will be needed regarding privacy and drone safety.

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4. “Although the sensors are not all that great right now, they could match the sensor of a DSLR in a few years.”

Radu Bercan

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Image by Radu Bercan. Gear: DJI Mavic Pro. Settings: Exposure 1/100 sec; f2.2; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

After buying my first drone, aerial perspectives became a priority. I was fascinated by the Algarve coast in Portugal, where I took several top view shots. Although all the photographs with waves crashing on the rocks are breathtaking, the most appealing to me were the ones where a human presence changes our perception of how small we really are compared to the ocean’s infinity.

Pictured: [1] Radu Bercan [2] Radu Bercan

What are your predictions for the future of drone photography?

Although the sensors are not all that great right now, they could match the sensor of a DSLR in a few years. On the other hand, the fact that drones will become more and more accessible will inevitably lead to stricter regulations. For that reason, fewer spaces will be available for ordinary people to fly without a proper license.

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5. “Soon, we will be able to shoot long-exposure night shots at high ISO and get usable images from it.”

Dewald Kirsten

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Image by Dewald Kirsten. Gear: DJI Phantom 4 Pro. Settings: Focal length 8.8mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f11; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I took this photo on a recent trip to the Northern Cape here in South Africa. The place we visited lies on this plateau, and you have to drive up a steep mountain pass to get to the top. The elevation is about 1000 meters above sea level. I knew it would make for an epic image. My drone was 1200 meters above the valley floor, yet I was still at a safe height from my takeoff point.

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Image by Dewald Kirsten.

What are your predictions for the future of drone photography?

The way the tech is evolving, I believe we will see cameras that are able to shoot better quality images with higher megapixels and better low light performance. Soon, we will be able to shoot long-exposure night shots at high ISO and get usable images from it.

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6. “…I think that we will see better and better cameras with the option of using different lenses, along with better battery life for professional drones.”

invisiblepower (Amund Meier)

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Image by invisiblepower (Amund Meier). Gear: DJI Phantom 4. Settings: Focal length 20mm; exposure 1/13 sec; f2.8; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I drove up to a small lake at sunset with the hope of getting a shot with the beautiful light. After flying around for a bit, I couldn’t find an interesting composition. Instead, I was inspired by Abstract Aerial Art (@abstractaerialart), and I tried shooting this small beach from a top-down perspective. I couldn’t see if it turned out well from looking at the little phone screen, but after reviewing it on my Mac, I was blown away. I was able to photograph a beach at the beginning of May in Norway and make it look like a dried up desert, and that’s why I love drone photography!

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Image by invisiblepower (Amund Meier).

What are your predictions for the future of drone photography?

I think the drone industry is heavily dependent on future and current regulations. In Sweden last year, they banned drones, and if something like that happens again, professional drone photographers will be gone. Some countries have stricter rules than others, but there is a trend towards imposing more and more regulations for amateurs and professionals alike. Apart from regulations and safety concerns, I think that we will see better and better cameras with the option of using different lenses, along with better battery life for professional drones.

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7. “In terms of drone technology, the next step will be making them smarter and stronger.”

Kevin Krautgartner

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Image by Kevin Krautgartner. Gear: DJI Phantom 4 pro. Settings: Focal length 24mm; exposure 1/320 sec; f6.3; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This photo, titled “Surfer’s Bay,” comes from Esperance, Australia. The fine details of water and waves always fascinate me when it comes to aerial photography. I also love the enormous scale indicated by the small surfers in the ocean. Due to different currents, the depths in the water give the photo an additional dynamic. In general, this spot in southern Australia is very versatile. A family of dolphins was swimming along the coast just a few meters away from the surfers.

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Image by Kevin Krautgartner.

What are your predictions for the future of drone photography?

I think that drone photography is just in its starting position. As the gear slowly becomes more accessible for mainstream society, the possibilities of taking a great photo from a new angle are endless. There will be a whole new market both for fine art photographers and documentary photographers. On the other hand, we will see more and more regulations because the sales figures of drones are constantly increasing. In terms of drone technology, the next step will be making them smarter and stronger. This is already happening; drones can now track certain objects, and they also have sensors to avoid obstacles.

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8. “Within five years, I believe, there will be a kind of revolution when it comes to flight time and drone batteries.”

mzabarovsky (Maxim Zabarovsky)

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Image by mzabarovsky (Maxim Zabarovsky). Gear: DJI Phantom 4 Pro. Settings: Focal length 8.8mm; exposure 1/120 sec; f4; ISO 100. This is a panoramic shot stitched horizontally from three photos.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I wanted to achieve a decent composition by capturing the entire bend of the Huangpu River in Shanghai with the nicely centered Lujiazui financial district. I was lucky to take this photograph without the well-known Chinese smog.

Pictured: [1] mzabarovsky (Maxim Zabarovsky) [2] mzabarovsky (Maxim Zabarovsky)

What are your predictions for the future of drone photography?

I think it will be possible to use interchangeable lenses on prosumer or even consumer systems (like DJI Phantom 4 Pro or even DJI Mavic Pro) in the near future. I’m pretty excited about that. Within five years, I believe, there will be a kind of revolution when it comes to flight time and drone batteries. Sensor sizes will be larger, and something like APSC-sized sensors will be considered normal in consumer drone models.

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Top Image by invisiblepower (Amund Meier).