Secrets to Successful Drone Photography in Scotland

By Connor Mollison

So, you’ve bought a drone and you’ve mastered the craft of taking off without giving the people around you an unwanted haircut.

What’s next?

You presumably want to know how to create incredible images. Right?

Although on the surface, shooting with a drone can simplify the photography process, it’s only when you dive a bit deeper that you can truly unlock the secrets to taking jaw-dropping photos.

In this article, I’m going to cover what you need to know to get you started with taking better drone pictures. We’ll look at things like settings (yes, it’s not just ‘aim and shoot’), the right tools for the job, and composition.

Then, I’m going to show you some of my favourite places in Scotland to photograph with the drone.

Which Drone Should I Buy? (Beginners and Hobbyists)

Rather than give you the easy answer – ‘it depends’, let’s take a look at some of the considerations.

Firstly, you’ve got to think about why you want a drone. For the majority of people, myself included, we’re in the hobbyist market. Simply put, we just want to be able to take nice photos to share on social media.

In this case, you likely won’t need something at the high end of the market. Since the majority of your images will end up on Instagram, you should consider a compact and affordable drone.

For the ultra-budget-conscious beginner or kid, the Tello from DJI is a great starting point. At only £69.95, it shoots in 720p HD and the camera resolution is 5MP. This is a nifty wee drone if you’re just looking for a bit of flying fun and not super serious about image quality.

Another great beginner drone is the DJI Spark, which will set you back around £400. It is super compact and you can launch it from the palm of your hand. It shoots video at 1080p HD and the camera resolution is 12MP.

If you’re someone who’s after high-quality imagery and video whilst maintaining ease of travel, then I’d recommend taking a look at the Mavic Pro (£899) or the Mavic 2 Pro (£1349).

I got the Phantom 3 Advanced a few years ago now but if I was to buy a drone today, one of the Mavic Pro drones is what I’d go for. You’ll notice a greater depth of colour in the images, improved sharpness, and greater overall quality.

How to Take Better Drone Shots

Just like handheld cameras, drones are equipped with the ability to manipulate various settings to help you get the perfect shot. As a beginner, it can be near-impossible to know where to start.

Most beginners will avoid looking at the settings. Spend the short time it takes to know what your drone is capable of if you want to take better pictures.

Important Drone Camera Settings

Shoot in RAW:

Most drones will be JPEG by default.

Shooting in RAW is going to help you massively when it comes to editing as RAW files retain far more information than JPEG and ultimately will give you more control over the editing process.


Auto Exposure Bracketing is a useful setting for daytime photography.

Essentially, your drone will capture 3-5 shots of the same image but with different exposures. Later, you can merge these in Photoshop to get the best of the highlights and shadows. This way, you’ll achieve a much better dynamic range.

Shoot in Manual:

Shooting in manual, if you’ve never done it, will take some getting used to. However, you’ll achieve much greater flexibility over the settings and ultimately a much better shot. For example, you’ll have complete control over things like the ISO which can help you to prevent a super noisy shot in low light.

Shutter Speed:

Ideally you want a fast shutter speed to capture a sharp photo. There’s always a balance to be had between shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. If you can keep your shutter speed fast and your ISO low, you’re onto a winner.

In low light, you’re either going to need to bump up your ISO or lower your shutter speed. If lowering your shutter speed comes at the cost of a blurry image, then you should tweak your ISO to compensate.

How to Nail the Perfect Shot – Composition and Framing

I often get asked how to take better photos.

In my mind, you can have all the right equipment, the best settings, and the perfect location but if you don’t know how to frame or line up your shot then you’ll struggle to get a nice picture.

Here are some practical and actionable tips I always focus on:

The Rule of Thirds

You’ve likely heard of it.

It’s one of the most fundamental principles to photography but easy to forget about. The rule of thirds is essentially about breaking your image into thirds horizontally and vertically. Your drone might actually have a setting to help you visualise this.

The sections of the image defined by the grid can help you in composing your shot. Think about where you want the focus of your image to be, where a leading line should start and end, or even if you want to try to break the rule of thirds entirely.

Find a Leading Line

Aerial photography can take a simple ‘leading line’ shot from nice to jaw-dropping.

The highlands in Scotland are full of winding roads against rolling hills. Additionally, Scotland’s beautiful coastlines can also provide the ultimate leading line, especially the white sands of the west coast beaches.

Why not combine the rule of thirds with a leading line to create some stunning shots?

Turn the Drone Around

Are you committing the crime of forgetting to scan the entire area?

Don’t worry, I forget too.

Not getting fixated on what you see in front of you is really critical when it comes to getting something a wee bit different. Fly the drone around, look behind you, test different heights. You’ll often be surprised how much of a difference height or angles can make when you’re in the sky.

Best Places in Scotland to Fly Your Drone

I want to preface this with a reminder about the rules and etiquette of drone flying. Do your reading on the rules and regulations around flying drones. For example, the are certain no-go zones, like near airports or busy areas. There are also restrictions on the height you can fly.

Dunnottar Castle

Here, there are signs stating that you can operate a drone outside of opening hours. This makes it the ideal place for a sunrise mission. One of my most popular ever drone shots was taken from here, at an angle that hadn’t really been captured before.

dunnottar castle by drone

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Back when I took a sunrise shot of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, there weren’t any rules. However, there are now signs in place stating that you need to call a number for permission. This involves a small donation for the visitor centre and monument.

The viaduct is a spectacular place to capture a leading line at all sorts of angles. I’d recommend going in the morning for sunrise – there will likely be nobody there and you’ll hopefully be rewarded with a stunning glow.


There’s no shortage of opportunity for photos in Glencoe. With mountains, twisty roads, and rivers, you are really spoiled for choice here. Try to capture the dynamic lighting the valleys offer.

Often, there’s different lighting bouncing off the hills and sneaking through the clouds which can provide you with a unique shot. One of my favourite times of year to snap with a drone here is Autumn and along Glen Etive. The trees are an amazing colour and really help to make the landscape appealing to the eye.

Old Man of Storr

The Old Man of Storr provides unique textures and detail that few other places manage. This, combined with a view from above, will help you to come away with some great shots.

Here, avoid going for a bird’s-eye-view. Instead, take the drone slightly lower and face the rocks so that you can get a true sense of scale. If you can get someone in the shot, this can really help to take your picture from cool to mind-boggling.

connor mollison



If you know me through Instagram, you’ll likely not know a huge amount about me. That’s mostly because I’ve done a pretty bad job at telling you. So, here it is. I’m a 25-year-old freelance photographer, website designer, digital marketing consultant and SEO based in Glasgow.