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Pixeldawg

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Hello one and all,

I am new here, so first, a bit of an intro... My name is Mark Lent and I have worked as a photojournalist for 40 years now, shooting images for several large media organizations and was a writer and moderator on the old Popular Photography & Imaging Magazine forums as well as the Adorama Learning Center. Now, I live and work in a university teaching photography in southern China in a city called "Zhuhai" (Juu-Hi), which is located between Hong Kong and Macau. A beautiful area and reminds me a lot of Hawaii.

So, this is me. I have been working on my drone for a few months now and have decided to write a book about drone photography specifically, This book will be about the drone technicals, and how to incorporate good photographic techniques within the working abilities of the drone itself to get the most from your images. This will include ND filters, perspective, angles and a few other things.

I would like to know, if you are willing to give NEW drone users some tips regarding your experiences with shooting images (again, not video) with your drone? I intend to give credit to the sight and individual who gives the tip, so you may be able to have your comment in this book. Sorry, I make no money from this project and it is strictly to foster a better understanding of the topics within drone photography, so no money in this, but will send you an e-copy when published so you can have some bragging rights. Best I can promise.

Very interested in reading your experiences, expertise and suggestions and thanks in advance for the interest.

Cordially,

Mark Lent
Assistant Professor
Beijing Normal University-
Hong Kong Baptist University
United International College
 

MAvic_South_Oz

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..
Hi Mark, I see you've had a few posts previously.

Interesting project, and I'm sure you will get some input.

My 2c.

ND filters are not generally needed for drone photography. (Very useful for some video situations though.)
Because a sharp shutter speed is needed, NDs just slow down the shot risking drone movement / blur.
Of course, in nil wind drones are reasonably stable, and you can get lucky, say using one for motion blur like moving water, waterfalls, ocean lapping rocks, night time car tail lights, etc.

So too PL filters are a pain I find.
Setting it up for one special shot might be ok, turn the drone, alter the gimbal angle, and you lose the glare reduction.

Mostly the larger sensor consumer drones take a reasonable shot, the older and smaller sensor models take nice social media type shots, but zoomed in or low light can be too pixelated / grainy to be called anything other than hobby photos.
The aperture settings on the M2P and more advanced cameras probably sets it in its own league.

In general, drones give a very unique perspective of a scene as seen from the ground, composition is probably the biggest benefit / attribute a drone photographer can have, the 'eye' for a shot.

All the best with the book.
 

slup

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I usually tell new drone pilots that making stills from a drone aren't in any way different than making them from a ground based camera ... everything that applies to shooting at ground level applies to picture making while airborne.
 

zaldy

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Keep in mind, drone can take photos/videos in such angle (or framing) that any ground based camera cannot.. so keep your composition, perspective, and framing "unique" different than handheld camera..

Other technical aspect such as ISO, aperture, etc is same as general photography.. it is the composition that makes drone photo/video feel unique
 
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Gagey52

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Looking forward to see how this pans out. There are a lot of talented operators on this forum.
Regards
 
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vindibona1

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I dunno Mark. Drone photography really isn't any different from ground bound photography except for the perspective. Much of the difference is researching the camera specs. How is the camera in low light? Does it have any zoom capability? Understanding that in drone PHOTOGRAPHY the drone is basically operating as a tripod, so how well will it stand up to wind? How good is the gimbal in stabilization? Are their any enhancement filters available besides ND (I have ND/Gradient filters which provide better exposure balance between ground and sky. Does the megapixel count really matter on a practical basis for the size enlargements the photographer envisions making (noting that web requires so much less resolution). How do local laws influence the selection of the purchase of the drone? Again, a drone is really nothing more than an aerial platform.
 

CanadaDrone

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In terms of exposure, resolution, dynamic range, etc. drone photography follows all the exact same 'rules' as traditional/ground photography.

The main differences are lack of a useful autofocus system for moving subjects or while the drone is moving (generally you don't want to use AF on a drone at all anyway), and huge working distances (generally people are flying high up in the air) make it so that depth of field is a non- issue 95% of the time. Other than that, it really is incredibly similar.

If I had to think of a couple things though, particularly for new pilots:

1) Don't shy away from slow shutter speeds for still images - ND filters can be very useful for still images and the gimbals can handle a pretty slow shutter speed while keeping the image steady. I took this photo at 1/13th of a second and the stationary parts of the image are very sharp:

i-wLR9Rtn-L.jpg



2) The other thing I would mention as it seems to come up a lot on these forums is the use of polarizers and graduated ND filters is much more difficult. How the filters work is of course exactly the same, but the ease of application is very different. Particularly with polarizers, lot of people don't understand how they work with regards to the angle of the sun, and think they can leave them on their drone all the time. This is not the case, assuming you want even footage. Both require very specific usage cases and a limited flight path. You also have to land the drone to adjust the filter - you obviously cannot just reach forward and adjust the PL like on a 'ground' camera. Furthermore, ND filter manufacturers often market ND/PL combos for drones as "vivid" filters, with no additional explanation, and that can be very misleading for less savvy customers.
 

LenSavage

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In order to make drone photos that will merge with the look, feel & depth of your 'camera-in-hand' DSLR type photos, it is usually best to shoot in RAW format to give the ability to adjust every aspect of the images in post.
More:
Drone photos in an overall photography environment can take the project to the next level - literally. Location establishment shots that help to draw the viewer into the process / journey. As you change locations, shoot additional establishing shots as the process / journey continues and maybe a broad-horizon sunset to close.
 
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Pixeldawg

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..
Hi Mark, I see you've had a few posts previously.

Interesting project, and I'm sure you will get some input.

My 2c.

ND filters are not generally needed for drone photography. (Very useful for some video situations though.)
Because a sharp shutter speed is needed, NDs just slow down the shot risking drone movement / blur.
Of course, in nil wind drones are reasonably stable, and you can get lucky, say using one for motion blur like moving water, waterfalls, ocean lapping rocks, night time car tail lights, etc.

So too PL filters are a pain I find.
Setting it up for one special shot might be ok, turn the drone, alter the gimbal angle, and you lose the glare reduction.

Mostly the larger sensor consumer drones take a reasonable shot, the older and smaller sensor models take nice social media type shots, but zoomed in or low light can be too pixelated / grainy to be called anything other than hobby photos.
The aperture settings on the M2P and more advanced cameras probably sets it in its own league.

In general, drones give a very unique perspective of a scene as seen from the ground, composition is probably the biggest benefit / attribute a drone photographer can have, the 'eye' for a shot.

All the best with the book.
Right. I completely agree with this. The book will be geared toward "noobs" who have zero idea where to start and also want to improve their image making and story telling abilities. I use a Mavic 2 Pro and at 20MP, it is a good fit for me because doing what I do, I demand a higher quality level. The Hasselblad camera, lens and larger one inch sensor make sense to me, but I can also see someone who may not be as serious about their work also wanting a lesser drone configuration as well, and that's OK. I think you're absolutely correct about the M2P as well. Thanks for the thoughtful input here. Much appreciated.

Cordially,

Mark
 
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Pixeldawg

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I usually tell new drone pilots that making stills from a drone aren't in any way different than making them from a rebased camera ... everything that applies to shooting at ground level applies to picture making while airborne.
Regarding this, I would have to say "it depends", and situational issues may require different approaches. I am of the philosophy that I approach each situation I photograph as a unique situation and that they generally require me to consider 1) what the goal of the shoot is 2) who the audience for the image is 3 )what technical considerations are required 4) All of the other "normal" things.

A good example of this is that last night, I went out and photographed these buildings near my home and they have flashing lights that I wanted to show at dusk. So, since they are flashing, and each at a slightly different time, I needed a slow shutter speed in order to catch each of them flashing. There was still ample daylight and with the drone limited to F11, not a short enough exposure to make the image I wanted, so I took a light reading with a meter and ended up figuring that the ND 16 filter would give me a 1 second exposure, which would allow enough time and the shortest interval needed to get the image that I wanted. The shot was successful. I consider this to be a special situation though, but a good example of why you should always consider ND filters as a part of your arsenal of tools. I use them regularly though and partly as a protective cover for the lens. A few weeks ago, I ended up with a big bug splatter on one of them, so would rather get it onto the ND filter rather than the lens.

Thank you very kindly for the response. Much appreciated.

Cordially,

Mark
 

Pixeldawg

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In terms of exposure, resolution, dynamic range, etc. drone photography follows all the exact same 'rules' as traditional/ground photography.

The main differences are lack of a useful autofocus system for moving subjects or while the drone is moving (generally you don't want to use AF on a drone at all anyway), and huge working distances (generally people are flying high up in the air) make it so that depth of field is a non- issue 95% of the time. Other than that, it really is incredibly similar.

If I had to think of a couple things though, particularly for new pilots:

1) Don't shy away from slow shutter speeds for still images - ND filters can be very useful for still images and the gimbals can handle a pretty slow shutter speed while keeping the image steady. I took this photo at 1/13th of a second and the stationary parts of the image are very sharp:

i-wLR9Rtn-L.jpg



2) The other thing I would mention as it seems to come up a lot on these forums is the use of polarizers and graduated ND filters is much more difficult. How the filters work is of course exactly the same, but the ease of application is very different. Particularly with polarizers, lot of people don't understand how they work with regards to the angle of the sun, and think they can leave them on their drone all the time. This is not the case, assuming you want even footage. Both require very specific usage cases and a limited flight path. You also have to land the drone to adjust the filter - you obviously cannot just reach forward and adjust the PL like on a 'ground' camera. Furthermore, ND filter manufacturers often market ND/PL combos for drones as "vivid" filters, with no additional explanation, and that can be very misleading for less savvy customers.
RIght, exactly correct and I mentioned the ND filters in my last response and one of the reasons for a longer exposre. There is a nice bridge near my home and I am wanting to go there about sunset to photograph it, and plan on using a full 8 second exposure to allow the vehicles to pan across the image area. Been a bit windy lately though, so waiting on a calmer day to do this.

Thanks for the excellent response, and I have to ask, where did you shoot these falls? Just breathtaking to see. Thank you for sharing the information and shot!

Cordially,

Mark
 

slup

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Regarding this, I would have to say "it depends", and situational issues may require different approaches. I am of the philosophy that I approach each situation I photograph as a unique situation and that they generally require me to consider 1) what the goal of the shoot is 2) who the audience for the image is 3 )what technical considerations are required 4) All of the other "normal" things.

A good example of this is that last night, I went out and photographed these buildings near my home and they have flashing lights that I wanted to show at dusk. So, since they are flashing, and each at a slightly different time, I needed a slow shutter speed in order to catch each of them flashing. There was still ample daylight and with the drone limited to F11, not a short enough exposure to make the image I wanted, so I took a light reading with a meter and ended up figuring that the ND 16 filter would give me a 1 second exposure, which would allow enough time and the shortest interval needed to get the image that I wanted. The shot was successful. I consider this to be a special situation though, but a good example of why you should always consider ND filters as a part of your arsenal of tools. I use them regularly though and partly as a protective cover for the lens. A few weeks ago, I ended up with a big bug splatter on one of them, so would rather get it onto the ND filter rather than the lens.

Thank you very kindly for the response. Much appreciated.

Cordially,

Mark
Really can't see in what way your philosophy ... or your example with the building with the flashing lights would be different weather you use a ground based camera or an airborne one on a drone?

It still boils down to exposure settings depending on situation ... & the tools you need in order to achieve it. Create the desired perspective ... & do this with a camera that are attached to a somewhat unsteady tripod.

If I in one scenario would take a handheld camera up on a mountain overlooking a city & took a picture there just of the city down below, not revealing any ground in the foreground ... and in another scenario did the same with a drone because the mountain didn't exist so a drone up high was the only way to get the same perspective ... those 2 pictures would look the same & require the same exposure settings.

In your first post you wrote "decided to write a book about drone photography specifically" and what specifically differ drone photography from land based is that:

-All camera equipment that's needed such as filters can't be reached for adjustments once airborne.
-The drone camera are attached to a unsteady platform ... shutter speeds longer than 2sec usually results in blury pics.
-Cameras on a drone usually are fixed focal.
-The depth of field are usually infinite due to the distance & short focal length.
 
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Pixeldawg

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Really can't see in what way your philosophy ... or your example with the building with the flashing lights would be different weather you use a ground based camera or an airborne one on a drone?

It still boils down to exposure settings depending on situation ... & the tools you need in order to achieve it. Create the desired perspective ... & do this with a camera that are attached to a somewhat unsteady tripod.

If I in one scenario would take a handheld camera up on a mountain overlooking a city & took a picture there just of the city down below, not revealing any ground in the foreground ... and in another scenario did the same with a drone because the mountain didn't exist so a drone up high was the only way to get the same perspective ... those 2 pictures would look the same & require the same exposure settings.

In your first post you wrote "decided to write a book about drone photography specifically" and what specifically differ drone photography from land based is that:

-All camera equipment that's needed such as filters can't be reached for adjustments once airborne.
-The drone camera are attached to a unsteady platform ... shutter speeds longer than 2sec usually results in blury pics.
-Cameras on a drone usually are fixed focal.
-The depth of field are usually infinite due to the distance & short focal length.
Because on a ground based camera, I have more options. I can lower my ISO far below 100, I can increase the aperture from a maximum of 11 to 22 to give me the (lack) of light needed to make a full 1 second exposure, which will be long enough to capture all of the lights in their lit position. Less than this and it will continually miss one of the sets. And I see several differences in approach to this. And quite honestly, many of the people here would not be the intended audience for this anyway. This is meant for the rank beginner who had never had a controller in their hand and is a novice photographer. Not common in this group, but outside of this, there are plenty of people who fit this description and could use a bit of coaching. And not sure what kind of drone you have, but I have seen magnificent shots made with drone gimbles of up to 8 seconds and they are rock solid. The shot I am attaching here of the buildings in my example was made at a full second and could have been longer. So, I think the comment about an unsteady platform is wrong. Also, more and more cameras are going to a zoom configuration, such as the M2Z and other non-DJI brands. So, I think there is significant room for discussion about this and particularly among the novices who may not be as adapt as you are and may not understand depth of field, focal length, exposure time, and being able to see light in a 360 degree dynamic. Plenty to discuss.
 

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slup

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Because on a ground based camera, I have more options. I can lower my ISO far below 100, I can increase the aperture from a maximum of 11 to 22 to give me the (lack) of light needed to make a full 1 second exposure, which will be long enough to capture all of the lights in their lit position. Less than this and it will continually miss one of the sets. And I see several differences in approach to this. And quite honestly, many of the people here would not be the intended audience for this anyway. This is meant for the rank beginner who had never had a controller in their hand and is a novice photographer. Not common in this group, but outside of this, there are plenty of people who fit this description and could use a bit of coaching. And not sure what kind of drone you have, but I have seen magnificent shots made with drone gimbles of up to 8 seconds and they are rock solid. The shot I am attaching here of the buildings in my example was made at a full second and could have been longer. So, I think the comment about an unsteady platform is wrong. Also, more and more cameras are going to a zoom configuration, such as the M2Z and other non-DJI brands. So, I think there is significant room for discussion about this and particularly among the novices who may not be as adapt as you are and may not understand depth of field, focal length, exposure time, and being able to see light in a 360 degree dynamic. Plenty to discuss.
Jepp ... exposure & camera setting is pretty common discussion subjects here at the forum. But it doesn't differ depending on if you use your ordinary camera or the one on a drone.

What you speak of is pure technical aspects with the cameras ... the ones on drones being less sophisticated & lack some of the features a DSLR have for instance ... but maybe we will see ISO far below 100 & aperture settings down to 22 on the upcomming Mavic 3 now in November ... then, what's the difference?
 

Pixeldawg

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Jepp ... exposure & camera setting is pretty common discussion subjects here at the forum. But it doesn't differ depending on if you use your ordinary camera or the one on a drone.

What you speak of is pure technical aspects with the cameras ... the ones on drones being less sophisticated & lack some of the features a DSLR have for instance ... but maybe we will see ISO far below 100 & aperture settings down to 22 on the upcomming Mavic 3 now in November ... then, what's the difference?
You are making the assumption that EVERYONE is at your level of proficiency, and they are not. And you are also assuming that EVERYONE will come here for discussions, and they will not. I have instructed photography classes in high school, colleges as well as adult education classes for dozens of years, and there are many, many people who do not have the understanding that many of you here have, which is why I am doing this book. Not everyone is at your level, ladies and gentlemen.
 
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slup

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You are making the assumption that EVERYONE is at your level of proficiency...
And you're assuming that I'm against your book idea ... but I'm not.

Just saying that exposure settings, various add on equipment & a few special handling issues is well worth a book as that is a common & repeated subject here on the forum... but these thing's aren't so very different comparing what's needed for a drone camera & what's needed for a ground based camera.
 
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The Fat Controller

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Once someone has the learnt the basics of how to use the camera (technical knowledge) they can then move on to what makes a good shot (creative). The biggest advantage of a drone is the ability to get an airborne, often unique, viewpoint. I've been taking photos since my teens and for many years I wanted to be able to take aerial photos. That's now possible, and relatively affordable for the ordinary person.
 

DoomMeister

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Once someone has the learnt the basics of how to use the camera (technical knowledge) they can then move on to what makes a good shot (creative). The biggest advantage of a drone is the ability to get an airborne, often unique, viewpoint. I've been taking photos since my teens and for many years I wanted to be able to take aerial photos. That's now possible, and relatively affordable for the ordinary person.
It is a lot cheaper than hiring a pilot and paying for gas Safer too!
 
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