Join Jim Heid for an in-depth discussion in this video Tips for still photography, part of DJI Mavic Pro: Tips, Tricks, & Techniques.
- The two most important tips for getting better still photos from a Mavic Pro, are the basic tips that apply to any modern digital camera. Shoot in raw format and keep the ISO down. That's it. End of video. Nah, I'm kidding, it's not the end. But it is true that raw plus a low ISO should be at the core of your photo strategy. When you shoot in raw format, you save every bit of data that the camera sensor records. In comparison, when you shoot in the popular JPEG format, the drone's camera throws away at least a third of the data and that gives you a narrower range of color and exposure adjustments.
You're more likely to see weird artifacts in the image after adjusting, like visible bands in areas that should have subtle gradations. We cover raw format shooting in a lot of our courses, including one devoted entirely to it. So I won't spend anymore time here, talking about the joys of raw, instead, let's look at how to change the Mavic Pro's camera settings to shoot in raw format. With the drone turned on and connected to the remote controller, be sure you're in still photo mode and not video mode. Tap the little camera icon here, to switch if you need to.
Next, tap the camera settings button and you'll see options for still photography. Tap image format, and then tap raw. You can also choose raw plus JPEG, to have the drone save images in both formats. I'll talk about this in a minute and you'll find a lot more details on it elsewhere in our library. Now while we're in the camera settings area, let's quickly tour a couple of other options. The image size option, let's you choose an aspect ratio for your photos.
The default is 16:9, the same ratio as high definition video, it's what I like to use. If you prefer proportions that match what many non-flying digital cameras use, you can also choose, 4:3. You can always crop the image to a 16:9 ratio later on. As for white balance, well, we talked about that in a previous movie, and if you're shooting in raw mode, this setting is a lot less important than if you're shooting JPEGs or video. That's because the raw format, let's you change the white balance after the fact, with no real loss in image quality.
That's definitely not the case with JPEG or with video. So if you're shooting raw, sure, go ahead and choose the white balance setting or leave it on auto, but don't sweat this one too much for still photos. The same applies to the style and color options. These options let you choose different sharpness settings and add filters that create special color or black and white effects. Something that will be familiar to anyone who uses, say, Instagram. These settings apply only to JPEGs though, and not to raw format images. Again, it's better to capture full color images with as much as data as you can and make your adjustments later, when you're on the ground, using a program like, Lightroon.
If you want to experiment with those filters, you might consider shooting in raw plus JPEG mode, then you'll get the filtered JPEGs, but also have the original raw images to experiment with. So it's that easy to switch the drone into raw mode, that's half the equation. The other half is knowing how to use manual exposure to keep the ISO down. Why is this important? Well, you experienced photographers out there know why. But briefly, to keep your images as free from digital noise as possible. The higher the ISO, the more likely it is that your photos or video, will have digital noise.
The Mavic tends to get noisy up around ISO 400 or 800. Now, for still photography, you're likely to only need ISO settings that high when you're shooting in low light or you're shooting fast moving action and you want to freeze it. For video shooting, it's a different story and we'll cover that in a later video. For now, let's focus on the process of getting into manual exposure mode and adjusting the ISO setting. To do that, tap the camera settings button, then tap the little aperture icon, then tap the M, for manual.
You can see that I now have controls that let me adjust the ISO and the shutter speed. The EV readout here at the bottom, shows the setting from the exposure adjustment dial on the remote controller and as you can see, as I move the dial, I'm changing the shutter speed. Getting a proper exposure involves the combination of ISO and shutter speed that yield that sweet spot of darks, lights and mid tones that we looked at in the previous movie.
Again, you experienced photographers out there are probably saying, "hey, what about the aperture setting?" well, on the Mavic Pro, there isn't one. The drone's lens is always at a fixed f2.2 aperture. The Phantom 4 Pro has an adjustable aperture, but the Mavic Pro and other Phantom 4 models, do not. It boils down to this, if you want an image that doesn't have a lot of digital noise, stick with an ISO setting of 100 or 200. Go into manual exposure mode, set the ISO to one of those values and then adjust the shutter speed to get a good exposure.
Use the tools that we looked at in the previous movie, the zebra stripes and the histogram, if you need to. Now, fine tuning all these stuff while you're keeping an eye on your airborne drone can be a challenge, and here again, is why shooting in raw mode is such a good idea. Raw gives you much more flexibility in making exposure and color adjustments later on. Just be sure to avoid completely blown up highlights, use those zebra stripes if it helps and you'll be fine. Another feature that can help, is putting the drone's camera into bracketing mode.
When bracketing is on, the drone takes either three or five shots when you press the shutter button, using a slightly different exposure for each one. When you get back to the computer and transfer the shots, you could pick the best of the bunch. You can even bring more than one into Photoshop and use layers and masks to use the best part of each shot. To turn on bracketing, again, venture into camera settings, tap the camera and tap photo and then tap the AEB button and choose either three or five, depending on how many you want.
Now if your goal is to keep the ISO down, what does that mean for low light photography? When you often need a higher ISO. Well, the Mavic Pro does such an incredible job of hovering in place. Here's a shot I took, half an hour after sunset at ISO 100. The exposure time was 1.6 seconds, yeah, the drone was able to hover, in the kind of wind you'd expect at the ocean, for a second and a half and still deliver an image this sharp. Now you can't always expect this kind of tripod in the sky.
It's going to depend on the wind, on the strength of the GPS connection, on whether the drone's optical sensors can pick up details on the ground. If you're finding you're getting blur in low light situations, then bump up the ISO to the lowest setting you can get away with. In other words, a setting that allows for a shutter speed fast enough to avoid blur. If the resulting photos are too noisy, you can always apply a little bit of noise reduction using a program like, Lightroom. Here's another tip for low light photography, the front of the Mavic, has lights on it and if you're shooting in low light and there's a little bit of moisture or mist in the air, you could see a reddish color cast in your photos.
The solution to this problem, is to have the Mavic shut off its front lights, when taking a photo. Go into camera settings, tap the gear and then, turn on the feature called, front LEDs auto turn off. Now, the Mavic's lights will go off during the exposure and then come right back on. And finally, I've mentioned Lightroom a couple of times in this video and the latest versions of Lightroom have a feature that you may want to take advantage of. It's a lens correction profile that removes some of the distortion inherent in the Mavic Pro's camera.
You'll find this option in the Lightroom's develop module in the lens correction area. If you toggle it on and off, you'll see some changes to the image. Mostly around its edge, which is where lens often have some distortion. This feature also exists in the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw. You don't have to use it, but there's no harm in using it either and you maybe find it improves photos that have straight edges that run right up to the edges of the frame.
- Safety checks
- App settings
- Startup, takeoff, and landing
- In-flight data displays
- DJI GO tips
- Flight modes
- Streaming live
- Adjusting focus
- Exposure and white balance
- Still photography and panoramas
- Shutter speed
- Aerial video
- Using the gimbal
- Using the remote controller