What do I need for Drone Photography?

Before you take any photos, you need the right tools to do so. Starting from ground level, let’s go through what you need and why it’s important.

A Drone with a Camera

You of course need a drone with a camera. There are various types of drones to choose from and they range from affordable to expensive. Most if not all drones come with a controller that would use your screen as the drone’s view finder. The quality of your image won’t be accurately depicted on your phone screen. You’ll have to wait till you get to your computer to see the true quality of your image.

Micro SD Card

A place to store all the pictures you take is mandatory. There is a specific type of SD card that you will need if you plan to do video too. I use a 256GB micro-SD card that is U3 A1 grade. Here’s a link if you need one (cheaper than other brands with good quality): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09TQS634Y/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1.

Neutral Density (ND) and Polarizing (CPL) Filters

Taking pictures without a filter is fine, but those photos will turn out a lot better with a filter. ND filters prevent glare in your images so you’re less likely to get lens flare. A CPL filter will reduce or even eliminate reflections in your images. An example would be a car window. Without a polarizing filter you’ll see reflections of the sky, with a polarizing filter that reflection will be gone in your image. There are polarizing ND filters as well.

A Subject

The last thing you need for drone photography is something to take a picture of. I personally enjoy taking pictures of nature and abandoned structures. Having an idea of what you want to shoot will help you plan your trip to what that subject is. As a drone photographer, planning is essential to capturing the aerial photos you want.

Drone Camera Settings for Crisp Photos

Drone camera settings will be similar to the settings you find on a normal camera. If you’re new to photography in general, I’ll explain the basic aspects of camera settings.

Aperture

This sets the amount of light the sensor in your lens will absorb. The lower the aperture, the more background blur from your subject called bokeh. The higher the aperture the sharper the background will turn out. Depending on the drone you have, the aperture might be fixed.

Shutter speed

This is the speed or the amount of exposure at which a photo is taken. The settings will always be fractions to the second. The higher your shutter speed, the less exposure your image with get making it darker.

ISO

ISO (“International Organization for Standardization”) dictates the sensitivity of your camera sensor to light. The higher your ISO the more sensitive the sensor is to light which in turn makes your images brighter. Higher ISO also means grainier images, so you have to be careful when using it. I try to keep my ISO as low as possible to help keep my images crisp. Try experimenting with adjusting your ISO in conjunction with adjusting your shutter speed and compare the results.

White Balance

White balance dictates the temperature of your image. Cooling your image, keeping it neutral, or making it warm. There are different setting presets for white balance, but you can also manually set it. You can also change your white balance within photo editing software in case the temperature of your photo isn’t quite where you want it.

Shoot in JPG + RAW

There are different files your images can come out as. JPG is the most common file format, but most professionals have their photos shot in RAW file format. This is because RAW files provide more information in the image to work with as opposed to JPG files. If you’re shooting just for the memories, I’d recommend just shooting in JPG to save space on your SD card. Else, shoot in both file formats, so you have one file ready to share and one file ready for editing.

Photo Composition and Grids

There are different methods of getting the best shot of your subject.

Types of Grids

  • Rule of thirds – This sections your screen off into 9 different boxes. You can line up your subject using the rule of thirds to add more visual appeal. If your subject is a person, they can look off in the distance while you line them up on one of the intersections for more depth in your photo.
  • Cross – This a big ol x across your screen sectioning it off into fourths. The intersection of the lines will be the center of your screen.
  • Cross hair – This isn’t really much a grid, but a small plus sign smack dab in the middle of your view finder. Cross hairs mark the center of your shot. A good option if you plan of centering your subject for photos.

Metering

What is metering? Welp, there’s a little composition meter typically in the bottom right of your view finder. It will either show Above or below zero. This will help you with getting proper exposure in your shots. My shots are typically taken at -0.3 because I like to under expose my shots a bit. That way it’s not too dark and can be edited in post to brighten up the image.

Summary

Drone photography can be tricky. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be taking breath taking drone photos in no time. First, you have to make sure you have the tools for it. Second, you have to learn about photography basics. Lastly, you’ll need to position and expose your subject properly.

I hope this helps you capture unforgettable drone photos. Have fun and stay safe!

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