Too dark? Too light? Color is off? Whether your drone is using automatic or manual exposure, you’ll almost always have to use post-processing to get the right brightness, contrast, and color saturation. Setting EV to zero and using the histogram is great, but backlighting from the sun and bright horizons will turn the best landscape photos and videos into silhouettes.
Adjust Exposure With Photo/Video Editing Software
No worries though; most of your under- or over-exposed photos can be corrected in post-processing. There are a number of commercial software applications on the market that will assist you with this. Choose one and get familiar with exposure compensation. The results will be well worth the effort.
A simple but effective application known as Microsoft Picture Manager comes bundled with their Office Suite. Even for extreme cases of under/over exposure, adjustment will enable you to salvage images you thought were destined for the recycle bin. I like Picture Manager and Windows 10’s Movie Maker because they’re intuitive, quick and efficient.
For our commercial editing, we like Adobe’s Photoshop Elements for stills and Corel’s VideoStudio X10 for videos, but the same principles can be put to work with the more basic (but effective) Microsoft products.
Aerial Drone Camera Settings
Drone pilots, you already know that the best picture is the one that won’t take much post-processing. I’ve found that you can get great results letting the drone’s camera take stills using Automatic Exposure (AE) and tapping the screen where you want the exposure to be measured. The only lens filter that you should use is an ultra-violet haze (uv haze).
For videos that pop, the golden rule is to film with a shutter speed of at least double the frame rate. So, if you’re recording video at 30 frames per second, your shutter speed should be 1/60th of a second, or faster. ISO should also be low, in the range of 100 to 200. Look for an EV value near zero.
You can achieve the above video settings automatically or manually, but for drone cameras with a fixed F/stop you’ll need to use neutral density (ND) filters. Choose a filter, say ND4 or ND8, depending on how bright it is. I prefer AE for video as well, and use the ND filter that gets my drone’s camera closest to the above settings.
It’s a good day when your stills and videos come out perfect. The rest of the time (read most of the time) count on using photo and video editing software to get optimal results.
Michael – great article! I too struggle with post production adjustments as well. Just wanted to check if you meant Windows Movie Maker or the new app you linked to? It took me a while to look for the winmoviemaker.com version but this is the original file which works well for me. Cheers!