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  • Writer's pictureIshveena Singh

Pilot Spotlight: Interview with Petra Leary

Petra Leary

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Tell us about yourself.

I'm an Auckland-based aerial photographer, I've been working in aerial photography for about 4 years now. It's my job and my hobby. I like to create very graphic images as I come from a graphic design background. And I like shooting courts and skateboarding the most as they are also things I really enjoy doing.

What inspired you to begin flying drones, and what made you want to enter the industry as a drone pilot?

I've always loved video games, and previous to owning a drone I spent a lot of time scaling very high buildings or cranes in order to get a birds-eye composition with cameras.

Drone photo by Petra Leary

What were you doing before you started flying drones, and what made you make the transition? I studied and worked in graphic design and video editing previous to drones. I love photography and was hooked to drones as soon as I tried one.

What drone(s) are you currently flying, and what drone accessories do you love? DJI Mavic Pro 2 x Hasselblad and DJI Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian.

I love the DJI Smart Controller for the Mavic as it makes the workflow much easier and faster and the screen quality is amazing. I also recently started playing with the Lume Cubes for the Phantom 4 Pro. This is a really interesting accessory and is something I am planning on working with a lot more this year.

Drone photo by Petra Leary

What is your favorite feature on your drone and why?

My favorite is a bit of a tie between two features really. First is the Tripod mode (Smart Feature). This is really helpful for a lot of my work as one of the main elements I focus on when shooting is having everything very perfectly straight and aligned. With tripod mode, I'm able to hover very close to objects without a lot of movement of the aircraft and can make slight positioning movements without jolting the drone.

The second favorite is the Multiple shot Feature / Burst Mode. This is also something I use very often. A large majority of my work focuses on sports (Basketball, Tennis, Skateboarding, etc.), so having the ability to shoot multiple frames per second allows me to capture the motion of the subject and select the best frame to represent what is happening in the final photograph.

What drone images are you most proud of and why? One of my favorite photos is the image of the yellow basketball thrown up mid-air. I think it was the fact it was pretty difficult to capture this and have the placement and basketball graphic captured at the right time. And I like that the overall work has a really nice balance and color pallet to it.

Drone photo by Petra Leary

Have you learned any valuable lessons from being in the drone industry that you can share with our female drone community? The thing I see a lot is people trying to follow trends on social media. While it is easy to do that, it can really kill your own creativity. Finding your own style and look is really important and is what makes you stand out from others.

Whether it's from a creative, commercial, or humanitarian perspective, tell us about the most memorable drone flight you have piloted thus far. I was on a trip to South Australia shooting some photos and video of a vehicle for Ford AU and we had gone to my uncle's farm and spent the day driving across hundreds of kilometers. We drove into a paddock of sheep to take some photos and they all began to follow the car and formed this huge line behind us. It was so cool to see and made for such a crazy photo.

What excites you most about more women joining the drone industry? I feel that women/girls bring a very different and fresh eye to the industry. Generally, it has been a male-dominated industry, and seeing the work that women produce is super cool and so different from the normal.

What's the best way for our readers to get in touch with you? I'm available on Instagram. And my website is


Petra Leary is an award-winning New Zealand born aerial photographer. Her ability to capture her subjects from unique perspectives is striking and groundbreaking.

She has an innate design sensibility, reflected in her unique process all the way from conception to post-production. An intrepid world traveler she hunts out unusual landscapes, captures them from unforeseen angles such as her signature bird’s eye angle from above, and manipulates and accentuates colors in post-production to create her final work.

Her work is simple yet bold in arrangement and composition. Belying this effortlessness are deeply honed technical skills, and a knowing iconoclastic eye for pop culture.


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