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Aug 3

Drone still shot settings recommendations

4 comments

My husband and I just bought a Mavic 2 Pro drone and are looking forward to taking it on an upcoming trip to Utah and Colorado. I prefer still images to video so I am wondering if you have any recommendations for camera settings for drone still photography. In Utah, we will be camping in the Capitol Reef area, so I particularly want to focus on the colorful and dramatic badlands. Thanks for any recommendations you may have.

Hi Paula, thanks so much for your question! Ian is en route back from Greenland but I'll ask him to respond to your question as soon as he can!

Hi Paula, sorry, just had two full days of travel getting back from Greenland. I did a lot of Mavic 2 pro shooting there! Here are a few recommendations:

 

1. The drone sensor can get pretty noisy if you use high ISOs or underexpose. I do my best to avoid ISOs over 400 - and aim for 100 when I can. Also, I set my drone to automatically take a bracket of 3 exposures for each shot. That way, I ensure that I end up with an optimal exposure pushed as far to the right of the histogram as possible without overexposing the highlights. This makes the image files much less noisy, and improves overall image quality.

 

2. The lens performs a little bit better in the corners and edges of the image frame when stopped down a bit, so I usually try to shoot at f/4 or f/5.6 just to improve overall image sharpness. I do a lot of shooting at f/2.8 in low light conditions, and although the edges of the image frame are a little bit softer then, it isn't that big of a deal, I'd rather had slightly soft edges rather than reduce overall image quality by introducing noise when using a higher ISO.

 

3. You typically don't need a lot of depth of field when shooting with the drone, as you are often far away from your subject, so don't feel the need to stop down to small apertures like f/8 or f/11 to ensure sharpness throughout the scene. In fact, most of the time you have all the depth of field that you need even at f/2.8, but I avoid that aperture if I can for reasons stated above.

 

That's about it! The Mavic 2 Pro is a remarkable flying machine, and I absolutely love using it for photography. Just make sure to check on local flight restrictions before flying (obviously, National Parks are off limits, but most of the BLM land outside of Capitol Reef NP is okay to fly). Good luck!

Thanks, Ian, for giving such a detailed response! I especially appreciate your suggestion on bracketing each exposure, that will definitely help in reducing the risk of blowing out the highlights. Since I will be sharing drone usage with my husband, I'm trying to get up to speed fairly quickly with camera settings, so my "battery time" is not wasted while we are out photographing :-) I also enjoyed your instructional video shot at Leprechaun Canyon, definitely a place we want to visit on our trip to Utah.

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