Charley caught our eye as a candidate drone photographer for High Flyers with his unique approach to aerial editing: simply put, he takes a very different approach to populating his Instagram gallery @thedronebooth, by using a range of iPhone apps. This low-fi attitude gives Charley standout appeal – so we just had to interview him to find out more about how he came to this method of aerial photography editing, and what else about drones flies his kite.
Hi Charley, can you please tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you do?
I co-founded a marketing agency based in Newport Beach, CA called The Brand Amp. Almost two years ago, we got a drone client. I wanted to demonstrate that we knew how to create amazing content with their product, so I started an Instagram account dedicated to capturing life from the skies of Southern California. As the account started to gain steam, so did my love for aerial photography.
You claim to edit all of your photos on iPhone. How do you do that, and why?
There are a lot of amazing aerial accounts on Instagram, so I wanted to find a way to differentiate myself. I’ve always been fascinated with the power of iPhone applications, and I’ve used @thedronebooth as a way to get a better understanding of video and photo apps. There are some incredible apps for photo and video editing. Since I state that I only edit on the iPhone in my profile, it’s the number one reason people have reached out to me about and it’s been a big conversation starter.
Example using Plotograph App
Example using Vortex App
Example using Cinemagraph App
Example using Enlight App
What steps did you take to become a skilled drone pilot and photographer?
My favorite aerial account on Instagram is @fromwhereidrone, an aerial account that shares some of the most inspiring photos from around the world. Dirk Dallas created and curates this inspiring account, but he also has a website that shares a number of tips and tricks. I’ve paid close attention to the resources shared on that site. Outside of that, my approach has just been to go out and shoot. I plan out the locations I shoot at, but try not to over plan what and how I am going to shoot when I get there.
What do you look for in a great aerial capture?
Framing the shot is key. If I am shooting at a popular location, I try capturing a different take on it. Lighting is critical. I try to fly around sunrise or sunset, to ensure I capitalize on natural light. Everything looks better during golden hour. Symmetry is also important. Most of my shots are look downs, so I am always looking for patterns and textures. I focus heavily on storytelling for my day job, and that is critical in content capture. You want your shots to tell a story whenever you can.
You have a substantial instagram following. What has been your most successful image? Why?
My most successful images have been ones that get featured on photography feature accounts. Big accounts like Hypebeast, IG Color, Visuals of Earth, Fromwhereidrone, Moodygrams, Airvuz and DroneMultimedia have exposed my work to millions more people and have led to thousands of new followers.
Much of your work features the beauty of California. What’s your favourite “off the beaten track “ location? Why?
So many of my shots are coastal beach shots, from San Diego to Huntington Beach. I have a recent obsession with heading out to sea (miles away from land) via private charter. I recently captured a humpback whale 11 miles off the coast of Newport Beach, CA and it was easily my coolest aerial experience to-date. I have also captured a number of dolphin pods. It’s a truly magical experience to see wildlife from above in their natural habitat.
Where would you fly next?
My dream is to go to Iceland one day. Some of the most epic captures I have seen come from there. I am also blown away with the stuff my friends in Australia get too.
How do you see the drone technology expanding or changing in the next 5 years?
I think there will continue to be scrutiny and regulation on consumer usage that will keep growth stunted, but I believe that the commercial usage of drones is poised to make an immediate impact on a number of industries. There are a number of situations where drones have already been used in search and rescue, law enforcement, inspection and construction. I believe that consumer deliveries may begin in the next 5 years, but there are still a number of hurdles keeping that from becoming a reality.
The next 20 years?
I honestly have a hard time wrapping my head around this. I sure hope that drones continue to gain mainstream acceptance. Education surrounding the benefits of drones and drone safety are both still under-served and will need to improve to ensure continued growth.
Where can readers find out more about what you do?
My Instagram account, www.instagram.com/thedronebooth
About Charley Fitzwilliam
Charley Fitzwilliam is an aerial photographer capturing life from the skies of Southern California.