One of the first things you’ll learn when flying drones is that you gain a whole new perspective on the world you see through your flying eye. Another thing you’ll pick up on is that camera can take really great pictures and video on its own in fully automatic mode.
What if you need better though? You’re looking for that award-winning shot to submit or you’re working in low light conditions.
You’ve taken the time to find the perfect setting/scene, you have gone through all of your planning, weather, airspace, etc.
You’ve picked the perfect afternoon golden hour moment, there’s some shadowing, with just enough rays of light to make the scene majestic.
That award-winning shot though is not going to be taken through the auto settings.
For that special shot in that special moment, you’ve planned so carefully for – no, you’ll want to be shooting that in manual and be able to adjust the settings for it to be perfect too.
That means you need to know how to change the camera settings and adjust them.
How to Access Camera Settings
The Mini 3 Pro uses the DJI Fly App. The Fly app is where you can access and change the camera settings.
Here’s one way:
- Looking at the camera view screen, tap the three dots in the upper left corner. This will open the System Setting page.
- From here scroll down to Camera and tap.
- This will open the camera setting page providing access to the Camera parameters Settings, General Settings, Storage location, Reset camera settings, USB mode, transmission, and about.
With the DJI Mini 3 Pro and the Fly App, most of the common setting adjustments you may need are presented right on the camera view screen.
These include settings such as the:
- Shooting modes
- Landscape/Portrait mode switch
- Shutter/Record button
- Focus button
- Camera mode switch
- Shooting parameters
This ease of access has made things a lot easier. Of course, to meaningfully adjust camera settings, we need to know more about what each one does.
Every photo ever taken relies on four basic principles:
- Color Balance
Photography is an art form, one that is also claimed as the world’s greatest hobby, besides drone piloting, I guess.
The word Photography is derived from the Greek words – photos (meaning light) and graphene (meaning to draw). Meaning that the word Photography or photography as we know it is drawing images with light.
A camera takes a photo by taking light and running it through a lens concentrating the rays on the image sensor. This is how all cameras work.
When we think of Exposure, we can think of it as a Triangle.
This triangle consists of:
- Shutter Speed
Aperture is placed at the bottom of our triangle as it is the base for any photography or videography. If we make a mistake here, the shot won’t be what we want.
The aperture is what allows the proper amount of light to reach the sensor.
As seen below, the smaller the F-number the larger the aperture, and the higher the F-number the smaller the aperture.
With the DJI Mini 3, we have a fixed aperture of F1.7. So, we won’t be able to change that, however, understanding how apertures work is still important.
Here you may be wondering why we would ever want less light to reach the sensor. The majority of the time the answer is that we want a larger depth of field.
Depth of field is a byproduct of aperture.
Small apertures (higher f-numbers) give a greater depth of field, which allows more of a scene to be in focus (Works really well for landscapes to have everything in detail).
Wide apertures (lower f-numbers) create a narrower depth of field, which isolates a subject and is one of the greatest compositional tools at your disposal.
This is how you can achieve portraiture with the blur backgrounds while the subject is in focus.
This is not adjustable on the Mini 3 Pro as it is equipped with a fixed aperture. I realize that.
It’s still good to understand how they all interact together to make that image though and even though you cannot change it, you can change what’s next.
Shutter Speed is what would be next in our triangle.
Shutter speed is the measurement of the time the shutter is open to let in light to the sensor when the shutter is depressed. As you can see, it’s all about the light.
Whereas the aperture controls how much light, shutter speed controls how long the sensor is exposed to it.
A faster shutter speed gives the sensor less time to collect light and thus, results in lower exposure.
The reverse of that is slower shutter speeds that allow more light to enter through the shutter and result in higher exposure.
When you photograph a fast-moving object, you should be looking to freeze that frame in time for a perfect crisp shot. This is accomplished by using a fast shutter speed.
You can have a shutter speed of 1/2,000th of a second all the way up to even 1/10,000th of a second depending on your lens capability and the type of motion you want to freeze.
Here again, you need to adjust your aperture and ISO accordingly to counter the increased shutter speed to get the correct exposure. We’ll cover a bit more about that next.
The final and third part of our triangle is ISO.
ISO is basically the measurement of the sensitivity of your camera sensor to light. Lowering the ISO will make your sensor less sensitive to light. The higher the ISO number the more sensitive your sensor will be to light.
The ISO increases in a multiple of two and the sensitivity of the sensor to light doubles itself with every increase. This means that even small adjustments might have big effects.
If that was hard to follow, I get it, it takes a little time. Once learned it does become second nature, I swear.
What it basically expresses is that the shutter speed and ISO respond numerically.
A change from ISO 200 to 400 is an increase of one stop; a change from a shutter speed of 1/30s to 1/120s is a decrease of two stops.
When you adjust one you should be adjusting the other accordingly.
2. White Balance/Color Balance
We’ve covered the all-important exposure triangle above. Next are color balance and white balance.
White balance is the key that decides the look of any image. Color balance is an adjustment that affects the overall mixture of colors in a photograph, mainly done in post to remove color cast.
Color Cast is a tint that affects the entire photo.
Although they both achieve the same thing and frankly are the same just different colors, White Balance itself only deals with the whites in a photograph and requires a white object as a point of reference and is typically done at the time of the photo being taken.
Beyond white balance and color balance, you can use natural balance and gray balance. With these two methods, you would use a neutral or gray object to guide color adjustments.
The object of balancing is of course to produce the most realistic, or possibly dramatic, image possible.
RAW vs. Jpeg
It is also here that the difference between shooting in RAW format or Jpeg format really comes into play. As in, camera color balance depends on the shooting format.
In comparing Jpeg or Raw, color balance is the most effective when shooting Jpegs, since the color balance settings affect the file that is saved to the camera.
When shooting in RAW, RAW files capture image data that isn’t processed or compressed, so you can make these adjustments in the editing stage as all the relevant data is present and you’re not limited on data in the image like a Jpeg.
RAW files capture a greater color range, a higher dynamic range, and more detail that allows for more that can be done with it in post-editing.
This makes it easier to correct the exposure and colors without losing the fine details within the image.
As described above, a camera takes a photo by taking light and running it through a lens, concentrating the rays on the image sensor.
The size of the hole through which the light travels is the aperture, which is fixed on the DJI Mini 3.
The smaller the aperture, the more focus you will have than with a larger more open aperture.
Here you will find the F-numbers which allow for the aperture size to be adjusted. In terms of the F-numbers, the higher the number is, the smaller the aperture opening will be.
I hope I haven’t lost you yet, as we’ve flown over a lot of ground so far. We’ve now reached the fourth and last of the basic principles of photography, each one just as important as the last.
Composition is no different. Making a mistake here can ruin a shot beyond repair and no amount of post-editing will help you.
There’s no class for this one either, no one will be able to teach this to you as it is unique to yourself and your vision. There are some things to keep in mind however to guide you.
Right out of the gate we have one that can make or break your shot. Light is the foundation upon which photography is built.
One of the easiest ways to work with your lighting in the field is to consider the subject matter as a light source.
Look at where the light is coming from, and make note if the subject is casting a shadow. If so, position the camera so that the shadow is falling away from the subject in the image.
One of the arts of composition is using shadows for more dynamic shots.
Rule of Thirds
Although basic, the rule of thirds is a guideline that can be applied to any composition.
The rule of thirds is a well-known technique for composing images and videos in a meaningful way.
The rule of thirds is a concept in photography and design that states, for any given image, the focal point should be placed along with one of the horizontal or vertical lines dividing the image into thirds.
Like I said, this one is pretty basic but is a foundation for a well-composed image.
By placing the subject matter along one of the third lines you will create a more dynamic composition that draws the eye in more than if the subject matter is in the center.
Now leading lines can be created or be natural in an image.
Leading lines are what draw the viewer’s eye to the subject matter. They can also be used to provide depth and motion to an image.
A photographer takes a three-dimensional scene and flattens it into a two-dimensional one.
The use of leading lines will give your image the appearance of depth, dimension, and shape. It’s also a good time to remember the rule of thirds here.
Mini 3 Pro Camera Settings
As we covered above, in the DJI Mini 3 the Fly app is where you can access the settings menu for the camera settings.
Many direct tabs are available right from the viewer screen, or by pressing the three dots in the upper corner. So you have two methods of accessing the camera settings.
We also covered some of the basics of photography. Now I know there is more, much, much more we could have covered.
With what we’ve covered, you should be able to have a basic idea as to what changing the shutter speed, the ISO, and white balance will do.
And although the DJI Mini 3 has a fixed F1.7 aperture, knowing how apertures work and their effect will help you when you use a system that offers a variable aperture.
Once within the camera menu, simply select the setting you wish to change, and that setting tab will open up. Make your adjustment, close it out and the change should take effect.
But more than anything else, enjoy flying!
Photo contests have been around since the very beginning days of photography and drone photography is not left out.
As a DJI user, you may have already heard of SkyPixel.
SkyPixel is recognized as the biggest worldwide contest there is for drone photography. There are others such as Dronestagram, and Drone Photo Awards by Siena, among others.
If interested in taking part in a photo contest, look into it!
Don’t forget to check locally as well, as there are many community-driven contests as well. You may even win, who knows?
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!