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5 Camera Settings for the Best Drone Video Footage

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The settings on your drone's camera are easy to overlook, but they play a crucial part in how good your footage turns out and the overall quality of your project. No matter how good your film location is, if the camera settings are not set up properly, your footage is going to suffer.

1. Picture Profile

Picture Profiles are, in my opinion, the most important setting to start with. This setting controls overall contrast and how much color information is recorded to the actual video.

I recommend shooting in a Flat picture profile because it will give you the most dynamic range from the camera—letting you record lots of detail in both the dark and light areas of your image. Your camera may also offer a Log profile, which will also help flatten out your footage and give you more dynamic range.

Aerial photograph of a red truck driving on a rural roadAerial photograph of a red truck driving on a rural roadAerial photograph of a red truck driving on a rural road
This image looks very muted, and that's exactly what we want. A Flat or Log profile gives lots of dynamic range, or ability for the sensor to record a broad range of pixel information. Don't worry, you'll make it all look great in post-production!

2. White Balance

For your white balance, although it will depend somewhat on the location and what you are specifically filming, it is a good idea to set this to Sunny or Cloudy settings. (I don't think I've ever had to film in any of the other settings.)

One white balance setting I never recommend using is the Auto white balance setting. This setting can change your white balance between shots (or during a shot) and this can be an absolute nightmare to correct in post production. It is best to choose one white balance setting at the beginning of your shoot and stick to it during the entire shoot.

3. ISO

The ISO (which may also be named gain on your camera) brightens up your image when you are filming in a dark location. However, this introduces significant image noise on your footage the higher you go. My recommendation is to leave the ISO at the lowest possible setting. Use your shutter speed to adjust your exposure instead.

4. Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is often confused with frame rate, however shutter speed refers to how fast an individual frame is captured. (Faster often means sharper, but this can result in image image strobing if it is set too fast.) Anything under 100th to 250th of a second is my recommendation, and use an ND filter if needed to keep your shutter speed down. Shooting at 500th or 1000th of a second, which is common among drone cameras, will give you sharper frames, but it can give the footage some heavy strobing the closer you are to your subject.

5. Video Resolution

I always recommend recording your footage in the highest resolution possible, which is usually 4K with drones. This will give you the ability to downscale the size of your footage in post, to something like 1080p for example, and this will result in a sharper looking image. Recording in 4K will also give you more room to crop or zoom in on your image if your final video is being output at 1080p or 720p.

Photo Mode

Now all of these camera settings I have covered so far are for filming in Video Mode, but if you would also like to take photos, you won't need to adjust much. The main setting you would want to adjust would be your shutter speed. Set your shutter speed to as high as the shot will allow (without darkening the image too much). This will result in a sharper photo. Also, you may want to gradually increase the sharpness setting on your camera when you are taking photos.

Camera Settings PDF

Make sure you download the project file for this lesson which includes a PDF with all of my recommended drone camera settings.

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