Have you ever wondered how the drone images on DJI’s website always look so amazing? (And I’m referring to the sharpness and image clarity, not the subject matter.) From the Mavic series to the Phantom and all the way up to the Inspire — how do they always get the drone images so crisp?
Well, luckily for the average pilot, it is much easier that you might think.
In this tutorial, we will learn some on-location flying tips and Camera Raw post-processing methods that are sure to get better results. (Also, I’ve included the raw DNG image I used for this tutorial in the project file. So download that if you want to follow along!)
Ready? Let’s get started!
So, at its core, this tutorial is about how to process drone images in Adobe Camera Raw. However, there are a few things you can do when you’re on location that will result in better image quality.
1. Keep the Drone Idle When Taking Pictures
This may seem obvious enough, but when you’re flying in the moment (and on limited battery life), you may have the tendency to take photos while the drone is moving past the subject. Unfortunately, this will result in unwanted motion blur on your images. Often, you won’t notice this until you preview the images on a desktop at 100 percent quality.
2. Fly in GPS Mode
Most drone pilots recommend flying in Attitude mode, also known as ATTI mode, when filming aerial video clips. This is because the GPS can disrupt the smooth movement of the drone. The opposite is true if you are taking aerial photos because you want the GPS to keep the drone in the same location while it’s idle. (Otherwise, when you let off the control sticks, you may not notice that the drone is still drifting, which will result in motion blur.)
3. Use a High Shutter Speed
Using a high shutter speed will also drastically reduce the chance of unwanted motion blur on your aerial images. Even if the drone is idle, winds that may be unnoticeable from the ground can still sway the drone back and fourth up in the air.
4. Take Your Images in Manual Mode
I’ve never had much luck with any auto camera modes on drones. This is because of the stark contrast between the terrain and the sky. Often, one or the other ends up improperly exposed. It’s much better to find a nice balance manually. (Use the histogram in the DJI settings to help you with this.)
Raw vs. JPEG
In the past, more often than not, I would just work with the jpeg images directly from my DJI drones. The color temp and picture profile on the jpegs looked just how I wanted it to, and the file size was much smaller than the raw DNGs. However, I later discovered when comparing two versions of the same image just how much detail gets lost in the jpeg version of the drone image.
There is some debate as to why exactly this happens because, in theory, the image detail should look the same, but there are clear differences. The muddying of fine details in the jpeg versions of the images is likely a result of image compression and DJI applying a denoise filter to the image when saving.
Using Camera Raw
Finally, not only are the raw DNG images from DJI drones sharper, but you’ll also have many more settings options to help you refine your pictures. Using the settings subtly is the name of the game. Settings options like Clarity and Dehaze are ideal for aerial images. You’ll also have a host of lens profile options built right into Camera Raw for DJI drones. Use these to remove unwanted chromatic aberrations or optic distortions.