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How to Get the Best Photos with the DJI Mini 2 (Guide)

The ability to shoot photographs from the perspective of a bird is one of the most popular reasons to enter the fascinating world of drones. Seeing the globe from above is a truly remarkable experience.

In this guide, I will give you a few pointers to approach drone photography with your DJI Mini 2 like a pro. I will teach you how to get the most out of your sensor, why shooting in RAW is so crucial, how to master light, and walk you through some step-by-step instructions so you can pick up a few of these essential skills as quickly as possible.

Are you ready? Let’s get right into it!

Table of contents:

Learn to fly your drone

Many people overlook the fact that you should learn how to operate your drone before attempting any photography. This will save your expensive tool from crashing, and it will also allow you to record those incredible moments faster and more accurately.

Obtaining your drone certification is the best method to learn not only how to fly your drone, but also the rules that govern where and under what conditions you may legally fly.

» MORE: Recommended Droneblog certification courses

If you do not require certification for your drone operations, it is recommended to read our guide ‘How to Fly a Drone: Ultimate Beginner Guide’.

Make the most of your sensor

We have discussed how a larger sensor collects more light and, as a result, produces higher-quality photographs in previous posts.

What I haven’t yet addressed with you is how the sensor’s cropping impacts your photographs.

» MORE: Which ND Filters Are Best for DJI Mini 2?

By default, the DJI Mini 2 takes photos in a 16:9 aspect ratio. This indicates that the horizontal component of the picture is greater than the vertical portion (check the image below). As a result, we get the outcome that we are accustomed to seeing on television.

The horizontal line in the 4:3 aspect ratio is somewhat bigger than the vertical line, but only marginally.

Furthermore, because you will capture more information in this aspect ratio, it is advised that you photograph in this format and crop the image afterward if required.

Comparison of 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios. Image credit: Daniel Cepeda

Here’s how you change your image aspect ratio:

  1. While your drone is connected to the DJI Fly app, go to the camera view.
  2. Tap on the ellipsis (three dots) located in the top right corner of the screen.
  3. Tap on the camera tab.
  4. In size, select the 4:3 option.

This is how you shoot in RAW

In today’s drone audiovisual market, there is a lot of competition. Often, simply capturing a lovely moment is insufficient; we must enhance it in postproduction.

Whether you use Photoshop or another program to edit your photos, they must be of the greatest possible quality. Shooting in RAW is the only method to do this.

RAW photos, unlike JPEG photographs, give uncompressed results, allowing you to capture more details, with accurate colors, and further improve your image with your preferred software.

Unlike the Mavic Mini and the Mini SE, the Mini 2 supports RAW, a format that lets you save images in your microSD card as DNG (digital negative), a kind of RAW file in digital photography that is often used in DJI drones.

You may need to convert the DNG files to RAW, depending on the post-production software that you are using. This can be easily accomplished with this free Adobe program. It works on both Mac and Windows PCs.

Image credit: Petapixel

To switch from JPEG to RAW mode on your DJI drone, follow these steps:

  1. While your drone is connected to the DJI Fly app, go to the camera view.
  2. Tap on the camera settings, next to the camera icon.
  3. In format, change JPEG for RAW.

Why you should avoid Automatic mode

Have you ever thought that you took a fantastic photograph only to realize afterward that it was underexposed or subexposed? I believe we have all been there, as sometimes it is difficult to view the image on our phone, and/or a rush forces us to shoot the picture without taking the time necessary to obtain the desired outcomes.

Shooting photographs with your drone camera in manual mode takes more time, but the results are well worth the effort. Manually adjusting the parameters while looking at the image on the screen as well as the histogram can help you get the desired result.

The ISO setting, which controls your camera’s sensitivity to light, is one of the most important aspects of photography.

As a general rule, the ISO should be set as low as possible, as the higher the ISO, the more noise the image will have.

This noise appears as grains in the picture, which reduces the quality of the image. Another issue with photographs produced in auto mode is that the ISO is often higher than necessary.

Manual mode for the win

Using your camera’s manual mode, as we discussed in the last section, is the key to success. If you’re new to photography, it’ll take some time to figure out what each setting does and how to use them effectively. However, I can guarantee that spending the time to do so will be well worth it.

If you’re still unsure, here’s how to activate manual mode on your Mini 2 camera:

  1. While your drone is connected to the controller and the DJI Fly app, go to the camera view.
  2. Tap on the camera icon (should say auto).
  3. The camera icon should now read Pro.
  4. You are now able to tweak the camera settings.

High or low photos?

The unusual viewpoints that we can capture images from using drones are a huge benefit to photography. I used to fantasize about being able to fly across the world from the perspective of a bird, and now that dream has come true due to these little UAVs.

Nevertheless, just because you can does not mean that you should. Taking images from as high as possible is not always a good idea. It all depends on the area you want to capture.

Indeed, as I did in the image below, sometimes the only way to get the shot you want is to fly high and away from the subject.

After spending one battery flying around searching for different views, I took this image of Atienza Castle. Although I preferred the other side of the building, this one had better lighting.

That day, I took a lot more images. But I like this one since I worked hard to find the right angle and lighting (given the time).

When visiting a new site, it is a good idea to survey the area using one of your batteries.

What I do is write down, either mentally or on my tablet, what subjects I want to photograph in that region, the perspective from which I want to photograph them, the distances between them, etc. This type of organization has considerably helped me to achieve my professional objectives.

Atienza Castle using AEB mode. Image credit: Daniel Cepeda

Mastering lighting

Light is arguably the most crucial component in photography. As a result, it should come as no surprise that the time of day we shoot our photographs matters.

Natural light, which is supplied by the sun or the moon, will be used in the vast majority of your drone images.

Artificial light, the one that does not come from the sun or the moon, will affect your image in specific situations, such as photographing a city at night.

These are a few aspects to consider about natural light:

  • It is affected by location, season, weather, and time of the day.
  • It is variable depending on the previous factors.
  • You have no control over it.
  • Sometimes it can be unpredictable.

The following parameters may be modified in the settings found in the bottom-right corner of your drone camera when in manual mode, to control the light in your Mini 2.

  • ISO: It determines how grainy your picture is by controlling the sensor’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more noise you add to your image.
  • Shutter Speed: This parameter controls how long the sensor captures the light. The higher this setting, the faster your shutter will close. Slower shutter speeds capture more motion, which creates blur.
  • Aperture: Determines how open the diaphragm of your camera is. A wide-open aperture allows the sensor to capture more light. However, on a very bright day, this would mean overexposing the image. Finding the balance is the key.

As we have seen, the time of the day greatly affects the lighting of your images. This is why you must choose the right time to do your job. These are the most important times of the day that you should know:

  • Blue hour: It lasts around 20 to 30 minutes, and happens right after sunset and right before sunrise. During this period, the sky overhead will take on a deep blue color. Perfect, for example, to take photographs of the moon.
  • Golden hour: This time of the day is the most important period in photography, generally speaking. It happens in the last hour before sunset, and the first hour after sunrise.
Image credit: Shredzone.org

Golden hour and blue hour vary depending on your location and the time of year. If you want to have these times under your absolute control, we recommend that you install Photopills.

With this app, you can plan your shootings like a pro, explore and manage locations, calculate the equivalent exposure with filters, and many other things. A must-have for every DJI Mini 2 photographer.

Image composition

Image composition is one of the most important aspects of photography. We can explain it as the way that all the individual subjects of an image combine inside the frame to create the final photograph. 

When it comes to image composition, there are several options. Certain tools will work better than others depending on the scenario you are attempting to capture, but if you want your image to stand out in the eyes of the viewer, think about it before pressing the shutter button.

Luckily, the DJI Fly app comes with some tools that help you improve your compositions in a fast and easy way.

Rule of Thirds

This tool works by splitting an image into nine equal rectangles by drawing two horizontal and two vertical lines across it. The most powerful areas to position your subjects are the intersections of these lines.

The rule of thirds is a terrific help for landscape photography, although no composition technique will work in every situation.

Rule of thirds in DJI Fly

Central cross

This tool is self-explanatory. The central cross will assist us to place the subject in the image’s center.

This guide comes in handy when the subject is moving and we need to maintain it exactly centered while taking many shots of it.

Central Cross in DJI Fly

Diagonal lines

These lines go diagonally across the screen from one corner to the next. They help in the creation of depth, dynamism, and tension. They are off-balance by definition, thus they grab the viewer’s attention right away.

When photographing roads or walkways, they are particularly useful since they help to make your shot more fascinating.

Diagonal lines in DJI Fly

To show any of these composition aids in your DJI Fly app, follow these steps:

  1. Open the DJI Fly app while your drone and controller are already connected.
  2. Tap on GoFly to enter camera view.
  3. Tap on the ellipsis (three dots) located in the top right corner of the screen.
  4. Tap on the camera tab.
  5. In gridlines, select the desired image composition tool: rule of thirds, central cross, or diagonal lines.
Image Credit: Daniel Cepeda

Overexposure warning

Another interesting tool to help us improve our images is the overexposure warning, commonly known as the zebra line warning.

This tool will display some zebra-like lines if a region of the image is being overexposed (hence its common name). If you frequently find yourself unable to tell if a photograph is overexposed or not on your screen, this tool can help.

This is how to activate the overexposure warning on your Mini 2:

  1. Open the DJI Fly app while your drone and controller are already connected.
  2. Tap on GoFly to enter camera view.
  3. Tap on the ellipsis (three dots) located in the top right corner of the screen.
  4. Tap on the camera tab.
  5. In the General section of the camera tab, enable ‘overexposure warning’.
Overexposure button in DJI Fly

ND Filters for DJI Mini 2

Because they restrict the amount of light that enters the sensor, ND filters are known as “the sunglasses for your drone.” ND is the abbreviation for neutral density. They are called neutral since they do not change the color of the shot.

ND filters allow you to alter the shutter speed to achieve specific effects and/or improve image quality. Are you unsure when to utilize them? Let us look at a chart to help you better understand them.

ND FilterF-StopWhen should I use it?
Polarizer1.6Use it in any scenario to reduce glare
ND42Dawn or dusk
ND83Cloudy days
ND164Partly cloudy or mostly sunny
ND325Sunny
ND646Extremely sunny, such as deserts

For a more detailed explanation about ND filters for your DJI Mini 2, read the article below.

» MORE: Which ND Filters Are Best for DJI Mini 2?

Auto Exposure Bracketing (HDR photos)

Without a doubt, the best images I have taken with my Mini 2 have been captured with AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) mode.

Because this mode consists of capturing three distinct shots, each with a different exposure, the final image has a larger dynamic range.

Once in the studio, we use our preferred program, such as Adobe Lightroom, to combine the three photographs into one HDR shot.

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If you haven’t tried this mode yet, I cannot suggest it enough; you will not be disappointed.

Do this to shot in AEB mode:

  1. Enter the camera view in the DJI Fly app while your drone is turned on and connected.  
  2. Tap on the mode selector located on the right side of the screen.
  3. Tap on photo.
  4. Tap on AEB.
Merging AEB photos in Lightroom. Image Credit: Daniel Cepeda

Taking Vertical Images with the Mini 2

I understand that the Mini 2 cannot incorporate all of the features seen in more costly drones; otherwise, no one would buy them. However, we can’t help but miss being able to snap vertical shots swiftly.

Don’t worry, you can still take vertical images manually despite the lack of a vertical photography function. Simply snap one shot with your gimbal slightly angled toward the ground, then take another one starting where the top border of the last photo ended.

After you have taken the pictures, you can stitch them together using your favorite photo editor.

Vertical images are useful for sharing on platforms such as Instagram, where the use of a 1:1 aspect ratio is standard. As we have seen, the AEB mode gives you a wider dynamic range, making your pictures pop, so make sure to use it also for your vertical snaps.

Panoramas

This photographic technique can produce stunning results. Simply said, these photos depict a vision that is similar to, or greater than what the human eye can perceive, which is around 160° by 75°.

Generally, these images have an aspect ratio of 2:1 or higher, although it varies depending on the type of image we are shooting.

Spheres, for example, capture an area in a spherical way, giving us a 360 ° view from the point at which the image was taken.

They all have one thing in common: they are all created by stitching numerous photos together in a photo editor, but it may also be done automatically in the app, as DJI Fly does.

Let us look at the options you have for your Mini 2.

360° Spheres

Everywhere I go I like taking at least one of these photos. They truly capture an area uniquely. Your Mini 2 will take 26 images to cover a 360° angle, and then stitch them together to create an amazing photosphere. For better results, capture the images in RAW format.

Wide-angle

This kind is made up of nine photos and gives a vast perspective of a region (both vertically and horizontally).

180°

Similar to the wide photo, but this one is made of 7 stitched images instead of 9. It is wider horizontally than vertically, offering a 180° viewing angle in a single row from left to right.

Here’s how you select any of the Panorama modes in the DJI Fly app with your Mini 2:

  1. With your drone and controller connected, open DJI Fly app.
  2. While in camera view, tap on the right options to select the shooting mode.
  3. Tap on Pano.
  4. Tap on any of the panorama modes: 360°, Wide, or 180°.

This is all for today, pilot. I hope you enjoyed reading this guide as much as I did writing it. Don’t forget that here at Droneblog we are obsessed with drones, so if you are hungry for more, just keep browsing!

Source:
Photo by Bruno Yamazaky on Unsplash (link)