This article was updated on October 18th, 2020
Here’s how to shoot high dynamic range images using a DJI Mavic Drone.
Table of Contents
- The HDR basics: What is HDR?
- What Is Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB)?
- Your drone camera settings
- How to shoot for drone HDR?
- Enable Auto Exposure Bracketing
- Creating the Merged HDR Image in Aurora HDR 2019
- More HDR Edits
- Gear & Software
The HDR basics
What is HDR?
HDR, or high-dynamic range, is a photographic technique for being able to correctly take a photograph with proper highlights and shadows. Have you ever wondered how a photograph was able to have correct detail in both highlights and shadows while being strikingly high-contrast? It was very possible that the photographer took 3-5 or possibly more photographs of the exact scene with different exposures.
What Is Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB)?
This is a feature of many digital cameras and the Mavic Series of Drones is no exception. It allows you to instruct the drone to take 3-5 photos in series automatically for you!
Note: With the Mavic Mini this process will need to be done manually as DJI hasn’t added this function to that particular drone.
Mavic 2 Pro Auto Exposure Bracketing (Example)
- EV -1.3
- EV -0.7
- EV 0.0
- EV 0.7
- EV 1.3
What you have here is a collection of photographs of the same scene with images focusing on different exposures. The +1.3 overexposed image will most likely have a blown out sky, whereas the -1.3 underexposed image will have way more detail in the sky but the foreground elements will be quite dark.
By combining these files together, we are able to produce a greater range of exposure in our final resulting photograph.
Your Drone Camera Settings
You will want to make an exposure selection that will insure all 5 photos taken are properly sharp. If for instance you took this photograph with an F2.8 (above), you would end up with the follow bracketed photographs:
- F2.8 1/160 sec (EV -1.3)
- F2.8 1/100 sec (EV -.7)
- F2.8 1/60 sec (EV 0.0)
- F2.8 1/40 sec (EV +.7)
- F2.8 1/25 sec (EV +1.3)
You see that when it comes to taking the (EV +1.3) photo we are reaching 1/25th of a second for our shutter @F2.8. This photograph could turn out to be blurry so keep this in mind that when you are shooting this way and you might want to bump up the ISO up to ISO200 or ISO400.
How to shoot for drone HDR?
DJI GO has some awesome tricks up it’s sleeves for this photographic method but first let’s learn more about turning on (T) Tripod Mode in the next section.
Prerequisite for Tripod Mode
Android: In order to enable Tripod Mode you must have your device connected to your controller and your Mavic 2 Pro on as well. You basically need to be ready to takeoff.
IOS: It appears you can enable the extra modes without the controller OR drone turned on.
Setup Tripod Mode
- First off, you need to enable “Enable Intelligent Flight Modes” (on Android) OR “Multiple Flight Modes” (on IOS) on before trying to toggle on this feature with the controller. You can find this setting within the “Main Controller Settings” section within the DJI Go App, which is at the top and looks like a drone
- Then, you will want to slide the switch on the right side of the drone controller to the “T” option.
- Now, your drone will now slow down to around 1 meter per second (or 2.2 MPH) and will attempt to keep the camera very still. This worked well for me when I created a YouTube video recently where I encountered a roundabout that did not like Tesla Autopilot!
Switch on Tripod Mode (T)
Once you have flown your drone to the location of where you want to capture your HDR series, you are going to want to switch your flight mode (from the controller) from Program (P) to Tripod (T). This will help ensure the drone stays extra still while it captures five photographs for you.
Enable Auto Exposure Bracketing
1. First of all, we want to open up the photo settings menu in DJI GO.
2. Next, tap on the camera icon and tap on ‘Photo’, change from Single Shot to AEB (5).
Note: You will see an HDR option but that’s not what we are using in this guide.
I also changed from JPEG to RAW for higher quality output files.
3. Last you can tap on the shutter button on-screen or the camera button on your remote controller to start taking your series of 5 photos.
Creating the Merged HDR Image
- First, open up Aurora HDR 2019.
- You can now open a supported file format using any of these methods.
- At the startup screen, click the Open Image button.
- Choose File > Open… to navigate to multiple files, select them, and open them.
- You can also drag a series of photos directly onto the Aurora HDR 2019 application in the Mac OS Dock or Windows Taskbar.
- Your photos open in a new window where you’ll need to make a few selections.
- Click the Settings icon (gear) to choose from three options that affect the opened file.
- Ghost Reduction Ghosting is caused by subject movement, (such as clouds blowing, trees swaying, or people moving). If there is a long time delay between your brackets, you may notice areas of high movement appear to have multiple copies of image details that overlap. This option can remove these repeated details from your final photo.
- Color Denoise Turn this option on to remove lowlight color noise when merging brackets. This option is only visible if opening a raw file. It will also increase the processing time for the image due to the noise removal process.
- Chromatic Aberration Removal Use this option to remove purple or green fringe that can appear along the edges of an image (especially in areas of high contrast or backlight).
- Use the Auto Alignment option if shooting handheld or if you think that there might be slight camera movement between each shot.
- When ready, click Create HDR to merge the brackets together.
You may also want to try using Auto Alignment because your aircraft may have slightly shifted which might cause your photos in your HDR bracket to be slightly off. By using this option, Aurora HDR 2019 will automatically align all of the images before combining them into a single HDR image.
There is very more detail now in the sunset area of the photograph. This is impressive without evening touching any of the sliders in Aurora HDR 2019!
More HDR Edits
Gear & Software
Aurora HDR 2019 by Skylum Software
Also available on Amazon:
Luminar 4 + Aurora HDR + 1-click Looks + California Sunsets is also available on Amazon:
As of software updates: Android V4.3.32 | iOS V 4.3.32 | Aircraft Firmware: v01.00.05
Compatible with Samsung S9+, Samsung S9, Samsung S8+, Samsung S7, Samsung S7 Edge, Samsung S6, Samsung S6 Edge, Samsung Note 8, Huawei P20 Pro, Huawei P20, Huawei P10 Plus, Huawei P10, Huawei Mate 10 Pro, Huawei Mate 10, Huawei Mate 9 Pro, Huawei Mate 9, Huawei Mate 8, Honor 10, Honor 9, Vivo X20, Vivo X9, OPPO Find X, OPPO R15, OPPO R11, Mi Mix 2S, Mi Mix 2, Mi 8, Mi 6, Redmi Note 5, Google Pixel 2XL, OnePlus 6, OnePlus 5T.
Compatible with iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone SE, iPad Pro, iPad, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4.
Optimized for iPhone X.