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3 Months, 2 Drones, and Countless Experiences
575 1 2018-6-8
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First Officer
Flight distance : 784265 ft
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United States

I am a new aerial photographer, having not really having any expeience prior to getting my first Spark and Mavic Air. Heres what I have learned.


Okay, this is a cliche, but its true. Find some scenic areas near you, get every detail about the area, such as airspace restrictions and laws. I am fortunate enough to live near so many forests which I thought I could fly at, only to find that the land is a state park which meant I needed to contact the appropriate people to then fly in these areas. If its ok to go, take your drone with you and scout out every detail, such as weather conditions, nearby obstructions, people, wildlife and, most importantly, wifi interference. If everything looks good to go, the next step is

Pre Flight Checks

With both of my drones, I always look for a good spot launch from. If you can, handlaunching/landing is an invaluable skill to learn. Not all enviornments are safe for drones, including wet ground, uneven ground, sand, metal and other hazards. This will save you from heartbreak, as I have several times almost had happen. With your landing zone secured, be sure to check your props, ensure your battery is adequatly charged and fastened, remove any gimbal guards and clean the lens. A few minutes checking your hardware ensures your safety as well as your drones. Turn on your controller and aircraft, checking the wifi, gps and sensors. Move your aircraft to find the best gps signal if you are not getting adequate signal. Once your signal is secured, all lights are green and you are ready, you get to

Takeoff, and flight tips

Takeoff your drone by whatever means you want, by controller or app. Once in the air, fly to about 12 feet above the landing site and set your home point. In my experience, this helps improve accuracy in case your return to home is triggered. ALWAYS maintain line of sight. If you cant see your drone, move yourself or the drone so you can regain line of sight, as it violates most drone laws as well as creates a lot of risk for your aircraft as well as others. If the wind becomes to high, return your drone to home or land ASAP as it will it prevents loss of drone. These may seem like common sense, but when you try to frame a shot it is very easy for this to happen. Your DJI drone may be different than the ones I operate, which can provide different options for photography and cinematography. Here are a few examples of several camera modes that I have used.

Spherical Panoramas

This is some of the most common photos seen online when it comes to aerial photography and a personal favorite of mine. This combines a variety of images to create a "tiny planet". What seems to work best is finding a pattern or object that is close to the drone that makes the image pop. Height is also an important factor as it can create depth in the image rather than making it look flat, I find for most open areas around 100 to 350 feet works well while if theres a ring of trees I tend to fly around the top of the trees as it provides a good position for the panorama to form. I also use Theta + as it is a way to further edit my photos after I download it from my drone to my phone, and allows it to be save as a static sphere image. The following are a few examples:

It takes a bit of practice and I have taken many shots at the same location but dont give up! Even though these tend to be more time consuming while in the air, you can get some really cool shots when you find the right height and angle.


HDR, or high dynamic range is common on most tvs now a days, but there is a good reason for this. Instead of having a super dark foreground and an over exposed background, HDR mode helps to find the best ratio by taking multiple shots at different exposures and compiling them together to then allow proper exposure of both the fore and background. AEB is esentially the same as HDR, but requires you to complie in post. This works as well, since sometimes the HDR can have difficulty, and in AEB you can take up to 5 images vs the 3 in HDR, thus allowing more samples. An example is a photo I set up before AEB and a photo that was taken with AEB.

Without AEB

With AEB

Now at first there doesnt seem to be a difference between the two, but if you notice with the AEB, the sky is a lot clearer, bringing more detail to cloads as well as the shadows being more detailed.

Further tips for photography

DJI designed the app with a Histogram, which has proven invaluable since different devices may display the image differently while in flight. This histogram provides the information from the image into a meaningful format, that being where roughly all the light tends to be. For most photos, you will want all of the information to be about center, with some pointing towards the right, which is pure white, and the left, which is the shadows, allowing a dynamic range for the colors to appear more natural and preventing loss of detail in the shadows. Always expose for the brightest part of the image since in post processing it is possible to save the darker parts of the image, or use the aforementioned AEB/HDR option, in bright circumstances, like at sunset or sunrise. Exposure is done with a combination of aperture, displayed as a Fstop, ISO and shutterspeed, though some drones only include the ISO and shutter speed as variable values. In the advanced options, I also set the sharpness and contrast to -1 to allow the image to be flat, which seems counter intuitive but allows for more color correction in post, much in the same way there are different color profiles for when you take video. Tripod mode can assist with holding your aircraft more steady in windy conditions but keep in mind that the sensitivity of your controls are a lot lower, so fly carefully. Recently, I have incorporated ND filters into the mix as it allows the image to be blurred by rapid motion of the drone. This allows certain parts of the image to be in focused but conveys the sense of speed without a video. Polarizers also help to prevent refelections from water and metal as well as increase the saturation of the sky and landscape, with even some filters allowing smooth shots of waterfalls by blurring the water.

Post processing and final thoughts

You have all your images from your flight, now what? This is where post production comes in. While the cameras on DJI drones capture a lot of detail, I find that sometimes the color isnt as I remember it. Using programs like Photoshop, I can take images into the program and bring back some of the color and sharpness of the image, greatly improving the quality of the image. While there are other programs more suited to this task, photoshop is pretty easy to use and is not as expensive as other programs such as lightroom, though any program able to show you a histogram as well as allowing basic photo manipulation will work just fine.

This is a lot of information to take in, isnt it? I will leave this saga off with this final tip that I think alot of people look over. Be unique. Really, its that simple. It helps to look at other peoples work and try to replicate it, but at the end of the day, isnt it more meaningful to create something new. A great example is that when I was learning photography, I always took photos of flowers, since they genrally easy subjects. What I have found is that I always took a photo at the same angle with every one of my photos, but it was by experimenting and trying out new ideas that I was able to get awesome photos. This guide isnt going to teach you to become a better photographer, it is a guide for giving you ideas on how to improve your shots, because at the end of the day, YOU are the one who is taking the photo. So take that freedom, and take thousands and thousands of photos, find the best ones, tweak them however you want, and share them to the world. Your drone is your brush by which you can change the world. Have fun, and fly safe my friends


Use props
DJI Grace
Flight distance : 405039 ft

thank you for your sharing! seems you have a really good time ! happy flying
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