Jeff LaZazzara – Drone Photographer

Jeff LaZazzara – Drone Photographer

Hey Holyoke!

There seems to be an emerging trend of drone photography happening in the Western Mass area! It’s an intriguing hobby for some and for others, it’s their job, their bread, and butter. I had been admiring Jeff’s work for some time, but after seeing his series of shots done in downtown Holyoke, it was time to reach out.

We hope that you will enjoy these series highlighting interesting people, doing cool things in and around our fine city of Holyoke. This interview with Jeff LaZazzera will highlight Jeff’s perspective and experiences as a Commercial Drone Operator.

You can find Commercial Drone Photographer, Jeff LaZazzera on Instagram @jlazzmedia or email him at [email protected]
:camera_with_flash:: @jlazz447 #bestofholyoke_jlazz447

👤What attracted you to drone photography?

🗣The first drone I purchased was one of those cheap $30 drones. It didn’t have a camera, I just learned how to fly with it. One day when It took off into a rainstorm and it didn’t come back, I knew it was time to invest in one with a camera. The thought of taking photos from a perspective that others couldn’t easily get to was what intrigued me.

👤How long have you been doing drone photography?

🗣I have been flying camera drones for about 5 or 6 years now.

👤Is flying a drone difficult to master?

🗣Yes & no! Almost all camera drones have the same controls. The left stick controls elevation and turning (Up & down/ Turning left and right like in a car). The right stick controls movement forward/ backward/ left and right. Once you understand those basic controls you can pretty much fly any gps drone.

👤How did you choose your camera?

🗣My first camera was a Canon Rebel T3. I purchased it from my neighbor who was selling it. I learned the basics of photography through trial and error and youtube videos. After a few years of pushing this camera to its limits I decided to purchase a Sony a7rii. I really liked the features of Sony’s and mirrorless cameras were really starting to take off. For drones, DJI was the number 1 seller at the time (and probably still is). I purchased an entry-level camera drone (Phantom 3 Standard) because it fit my budget and had enough features to get me started into taking professional drone photos and videos. I now own 2 drones, a Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian and the Mavic Air. The P4P is a more professional-grade (bigger sensor, more adjustability with camera functions and more stable). The Mavic Air can fit in my pocket and is great for traveling.

👤How long did it take until you were comfortable with your equipment?

🗣I will say I am definitely still learning but was fairly comfortable almost immediately. I did the research prior to purchasing my equipment, although I wasn’t confident in selling my work until a few years after starting.

👤What would you suggest to a “beginner” who wants to purchase a drone for photography?

🗣As silly as it sounds I would recommend buying a $30 drone that you can learn how to fly with in your house. No camera, just learn to fly. It takes a lot of coordination to fly with 2 hands and think about what each hand’s movements mean in 3D space. In 2020 you can buy a pretty decent camera drone for $250-400. The mavic mini would be a great starting point because it is so compact and also has features like GPS and stabilization. 

👤Favorite time of day to shoot?

🗣Probably sunsets or sunrise. Trees blocking your view? Fly above them! With a drone you can almost prolong the sunset by flying higher. 

👤Favorite place to shoot?

🗣Vacations! I always bring a drone with me on vacation. I’ve flown in the bahamas, Italy, Dominican, Vermont, Florida, Colorado… you name it!

👤How do you pick your subjects?

🗣For drone photography you have to think outside of the box. I try to think of what things might look when I’m just driving on my daily commutes. Other times I get on google earth and just scroll around.

👤Any advice you’d give to beginners?

🗣ALWAYS CHECK YOUR SURROUNDINGS BEFORE FLYING!

With drones you need to be aware of FAA regulations and airspace. The best way to do this is get online and do some research on your area or where you plan on traveling before you bring your drone and fly. Also know you need a Part 107 Commercial drone license in order to sell any kind of drone services.

👤Favorite editing tools?

🗣I use Lightroom for photos and Final Cut Pro X for video editing.

👤What would be your ultimate camera if money were no object?

🗣I would have to go with an Inspire 2 drone, fully kitted with Pro-Res software, thermal imagining capabilities, and a hand full of interchangeable lenses. For a handheld, I think I would stick with the Sony Cinema Cameras. I really like what they pack in such small packages. I would probably new a new MacBook to be able to edit all of this Hi-Res media, so add an iMac to my shopping list as well.

👤What is your favorite shoot to date?

🗣I would say bringing my drone to Italy to visit my brother. I flew and shot all over Florence, Rome & Sorrento. Those are my favorite photos to look through.

👤Who is your favorite drone shooter?

🗣TBH I don’t have one. So many people are creating unreal content with drones these days it’s hard to pick just one.

👤What was your biggest challenge in learning how to fly the drone for photography?

🗣Multitasking. Not only do you need to be aware of where the drone is flying but you also need to look at your screen to make sure your camera is getting the shot you want it to get. Even though the drones have Stabilization you still need smooth movements in order to make your photos and video look professional.

👤Tell me about the first time you crashed?

🗣Let’s get this straight… It will happen! The first big crash I has was with my Phantom 3S. I was in Vermont with my friends at their cabin and I forgot to tighten 1 of the propellers all the way. The drone went up about 150′ and when I turned it the prop flew off and my drone came tumbling down onto the snow-covered roof of the cabin. It must’ve taken us over an hour to climb up there and get it. When we finally got it, my drone was completely mangled and I had to send it out for repair.