Drone Camera Settings

It is important to understand the settings of your drone camera so that you can adjust them when needed while on site. Sometimes these settings can be confusing, so we made these GIFS to help clear things up.

 

Note: Not all drones are able to adjust all of these features. Features listed below with a "*" after the name indicate that this feature may not be available on all drone models.

Gridlines and Overexposure

Gridlines and Overexposure settings are key settings that can be turned on to make capturing data a little easier. The Gridlines allow you to more easily line up the center of the screen when taking photos. The Overexposure warning shows a visual overlay - like zebra stripes - that indicate that a portion of the image is too bright to be used in photography applications or for Scanifly modeling.

overexposure and gridlines-1

Interval Photo*

The interval photo option is a great way to easily capture photos for Scanifly. Turning this feature on allows the pilot to capture multiple photos in a row while only having to hit the capture/shutter button one time. The most common interval times used when capturing a site for Scanifly modeling is 3s or 5s, depending on the speed of the drone and the radius of the orbit that is being captured.

timed photo-1

ISO

The ISO Setting controls the sensitivity or brightness of the image. As the ISO increases from its low of 100, the image gets much brighter. The downside to ISO is that as it increases, you get a bunch of "noise" in the image. Noise in an image looks like a bunch of little specks all over the image. Fortunately, when capturing data for Scanifly, it will always be daylight outside. That means in 99% of cases you can set your ISO to 100 and leave it there for all Scanifly flights. The higher ISO numbers are meant for situations where there is not available daylight, such as indoor photos or night photos. 

ISO-1

Aperture*

The Aperture setting can be a bit tricky to understand at first. If your drone has an aperture control, it will allow you to increase it or decrease it. The lower the number that is shown, 2.8 in this case, the brighter the image is. The higher the number that is shown, 11 in this case, the darker the image is. However, there is also one more thing going on here. Depth of field.

Depth of field refers to "how much of this image is in focus".

When the aperture number is smaller less of the image will be in focus. Think of portrait mode on your phone. Where just the subject is in focus, but the background is blurred.

When the aperture is larger, more of the image will be in focus. Think of a nice landscape photo of a house and mountains, where you can see everything in focus clearly.

When taking images for Scanifly, we want as much of the image to be in focus as possible. That means we want a large aperture / higher number for the aperture. 

aperture-1

Shutter

The shutter setting determines how fast the camera will take the photo. The fractions represent what fraction of a second the images will be taken in.

A high denominator, like 1/800 means that 1/800th of a second that image will be captured. That is .00125 seconds! That is FAST. When an image is captured quickly like that, the camera is able to freeze motion. So something moving in the view of the camera will not be blurry, it will be nice and crisp. 

However, since 1/800th of a second is so quick, there is not enough time for a lot of light to make it through the camera. So the image is too dark!

A low denominator, like 1/4 means that 1/4th of a second that image will be captured. That is .25 seconds! That is SLOW. Think about how much your body or a drone can move in .25 seconds! Without a tripod, this image will be blurry. 

You will also notice that the image at 1/4s is also very bright! That is because in that time there is a lot of light that can pass through.

So it is important to control your shutter speed so that there is no blur, but you need to also balance that with how bright/dark the shutter speed affects the image.

shutter-1

EV (Exposure Value) + / - 

The EV or "Exposure Value" setting is a really quick and easy way to adjust the brightness or darkness of your image, without messing around with individual settings and staying in AUTO camera mode.

By adjusting the EV-, say to -3, the camera will automatically adjust settings to ensure the image is "3 steps under-exposed" meaning the image will be nice and dark.

By adjusting the EV+, to say +3, the camera will automatically adjust settings to ensure the image is "3 steps over-exposed" meaning the image will be very bright and with portions that are unusable because of the overexposure.

For the best balance with EV, get your subject in focus and adjust the EV- in the -1 to -2 range, to ensure that the image is not too dark, but that the overexposure is not on any key areas of the site, like the roof.

EV-1

Recommended Settings

To recap, here are our recommended drone camera settings:

  • Gridlines and Overexposure: Turned on
  • Interval Photo: if available turn on for every 3 seconds
  • ISO: 100
  • Aperture: The larger the better. We want everything to be in focus
  • Shutter Speed: In the 1/200 range is usually OK, but if you notice overexposure, raise it until the warning goes away
  • EV: Between -1 and -2