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Aerial views provide a unique perspective on landscapes and cities. With the proliferation of drones there are more opportunities than ever to get out and take photos from above ground. While the image quality from drones has increased, most of the popular drones such as the DJI Mavic Pro 2 and Phantom 4 series, still don’t measure up to what you get from your DSLR. As such, it is important to take a few steps to take better photos. Let’s talk about some tips on how to take and edit drone photos.
Taking Drone Photos:
There are a number of ways to improve the quality of the images that you take with your drone. Some of these are settings within the camera and others are external factors. Here are my top 5 tips to improve how to take drone photos.
Bracket Photos. Also referred to as AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing). The more AEB images you capture in RAW the more varied exposure you can capture without adjusting any other settings of your photos. A 5 Bracket AEB (recommended for drone photography) will take 1 photo at the settings you select and 2 different under exposed images and 2 over exposed images. Note that using the HDR shot function in DJI GO 4 will create a JPEG and thus is not a recommended option as you won’t have the ability to bring out detail in the shadows or highlights like with RAW photos. For DJI drones, head to your “Settings”, click the “Camera Icon”, then “Photos”, “AEB”, and lastly “5”.
Image Size. 4:3 is the preferred ratio that I use when shooting with my drone as it is a more natural ratio for landscape photographs than 16:9. 4:3 is the native aspect ratio and will allow you to make the most of the photographs that you take. For DJI drones, head to your “Settings”, click the “Camera Icon”, then “Image Size”, then “4:3”.
Shoot in Manual. Manual mode gives you the most control over your drone and the photos you take. New drones like the DJI Mavic Pro 2 give you the option to control your aperture. My go to starting point for daytime shots is f/8.0, ISO 100, and then adjust the shutter speed accordingly. All of these settings will vary depending on the light and subject that I am shooting.
Bonus Tip – Photograph early in the morning or late in the day. The light is much softer and you’ll get better results whether the sun is behind you, off to the side, or if you are shooting straight into it.
Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch captured in early morning light.
Editing Drone Photos:
Ok, so you captured that epic shot using the 5 tips above. Now what? Here are my 5 top tips for editing your drone photos.
Global Adjustments. Adjust your exposure first as necessary. Then lower your highlights and increase your shadows as you see fit. Lastly, hold “option” (Mac) or “alt” (PC) while moving the white and black sliders so you can see where you will begin to lose shadow detail or blow out your highlights. This now should provide you a more property exposed image as well as an image with good contrast. On the left is the original photo and the right is the final edited version (sky and light beam added in Photoshop).
When he isn't clicking away on his camera, Michael can be found quoting every Will Ferrell movie, cruising up and down the beach in his Jeep, or just spending some quality with his family and dog, Daisy. As the Marketing Communications Manager at Tiffen, Michael oversees our social media, our ambassador team as well as this very blog! Michael is also an accomplished and Award Winning Wedding Photographer from Long Island.