Oh the thrill of flying your Mavic Air on that crisp sunny day capturing the subject you think will bring a bevy of Facebook “Likes”, a future job opportunity, or maybe even the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. Problem is; you get home, load it into Adobe Lightroom and doggonit, if it doesn’t look like this!
All those thoughts about this picture changing the trajectory of your photography career, down the drain. Your anxiety turns into frustration, you feel inadequate as a drone pilot and you ask yourself; How did this happen? How can I avoid it next time? Most of all, is it salvageable in Post?
So, in an effort to quell your anxiety, and more importantly, encourage you to not give up on your dream of capturing those birds-eye images for a living, Lets address these questions one at a time:
First, how did this happen?
The lens on your Drone let too much light into the sensor, causing the images to over-expose. Just like that old Polaroid you took of your child flying that kite, where all you got was a blown-out white image. Yea that one! Well, when you take pictures directly into the sun, if your camera is not set to accept this much light, your images will be white, over-exposed, and completely useless. Much like mine is here.
Like the old Polaroid, the camera on your Drone works in similar fashion. In fact, it’s how your eye’s process light as well. If your eye is wide open when you look directly into the sun, what happens? Along with the obvious discomfort, it will over-expose your pupil, and cause brief blindness. But, if you squint and look into the sun, you can better control the amount of light you let in, and temporary blindness can be avoided.
So how do we control this on our Drones? It’s simple….By squinting the drones camera, of course.
In Aerial Photography; the amount of squinting can be controlled by a few things:
The lower the aperture, say F2.8, or F4 will allow more light to hit the camera’s sensor. The higher; F16, F22, will allow minimal light into the camera’s sensor. Higher aperture is the lens’ form of squinting.
Check out Dronezon for an in-depth explanation and some great tips for Aerial photography.
This represents the amount of time the camera’s sensor is exposed to light. 1/1000 is a very short period of time where your shutter is open, and exposed to light. Conversely, 1/16th is a very long period of time to expose light to. You could have a High Aperture (less light), but expose that light for a long period of time and most likely your image will still be over-exposed.
Shutter speed; in an artistic sense Shutter Speed allows for the creation of ‘Emotion’ in a photograph. A setting of 1/1000, will catch a dramatic and intense image. Whereas, A setting of 1/40th will appear softer, and more peaceful.
Interoscillating, Systematized, Oppotamus, in case you were wondering…
Commonly referred to as your camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO=more sensitivity=less light needed to create an ideal image. Lower the ISO…Well, you get the picture!
ISO, is often used to manipulate Shutter Speed or Aperture.
So, how do we prepare for this when we are getting ready to launch our Drone? For starters, power up your drone and set it outside on a sunny day. Now, turn on your remote. Go to the camera settings in your DJI Go App.
Here you can adjust the shutter speed, shown here at 1/800. Lowering the shutter speed will darken your view-finder. See how all those pin-stripes appear, its because those points on the image are over-exposed.
How to Avoid it next time
Before you take off, adjust your camera settings. To help guide you with determining how much light the image will portray, use your histogram, located under the manual camera settings. See how the right side of my histogram is spiking, that is representing an over-abundance of White. If the left side were to spike, and the right side were flat, the screen would be dark. The left side of the histogram represents the amount of Black in the image, and the middle represents Grays. An ideal Histogram would resemble a bell curve. For more detail on the use of histograms, check out this from capturelandscapes.com
How to adjust over-exposed images in Post?
Adobe Lightroom offers some great adjustments to help solve over-exposure. I was able to salvage this image by simply increasing the ‘exposure’, and the ‘contrast’. Then decreasing the ‘whites’, and increasing the ‘blacks’ minimally. For a more in depth article on adjusting over-exposed images in Lightroom, check out this great article by Cole’s Classroom.
I hope this helps you avoid over-exposing your drone images. Spare yourself the frustration of dealing with over-exposure by using your histogram, and adjusting your camera settings before you take off.