Best Camera Settings for Photos with the DJI Mavic Air
What I mean by "best settings"
My "best settings" may be different from yours.
Some people like photos with a lot of saturation. Others prefer to have the colors muted. You might like cooler shades while I prefer warmer tones.
In the end, "best" comes down to personal preference.
This tutorial will help you understand what each setting does and how it will affect your images. You can then choose the settings to produce the results you want.
Your Mavic Air must be on and connected
Many of the camera settings can only be changed if your aircraft and Controller are powered up and connected to the DJI GO4 app. In fact, some menu options only appear when everything is powered up and connected.
Once you get the settings dialed in to your liking, they won't change much from flight to flight.
How to access the settings
First, toggle between settings for still photos and video by tapping the little icon above the shutter release button. The icon will switch between a DSLR camera and a video camera. Another indicator is the color of the shutter release button. For photo settings it is white. For video settings it will be red.
Once you have selected the type of setting you want to adjust, tap the three horizontal lines with circles just below the shutter release button.
You will see three icons at the top of the settings panel. From left to right they are Camera Settings, Photo Settings and Miscellaneous Settings.
Click on any of the settings below to go directly to that section of this article. Use the back button on your browser to come back to this spot.
Camera Settings (Looks like a lens diaphragm)
Auto or Manual
Photo Settings (Looks like a camera)
Misc. Settings (Looks like a gear)
Smart Arm LEDs
Over Exposure Warning
File Index Mode
Save Unstitched Pano Photos
Format SD Card
Format Internal Storage
Reset Camera Settings
Auto or Manual
Select Auto and your camera will set the exposure it thinks is best. It does a very good job most of the time. If it's off a little bit, you can use the EV slider to make small adjustments. If you want full control over the exposure, select Manual (M).
ISO (Only adjustable in Manual mode)
The ISO setting determines how sensitive the camera's sensor is to light. The lower the number, the lower the sensitivity. Since most of your flying will probably done during daylight hours, you can usually leave this at 100. You can increase the ISO if you are flying in low light. Just be aware that the higher you raise it, the more digital noise you will get in your images. To change the ISO, tap on the slider and move right or left.
Shutter Speed (Only adjustable in Manual mode)
This setting determines how long the internal shutter is open and allows light to reach the sensor. Low (or slow) shutter speeds allow you to get a correct exposure when you are shooting in low light. If you are in bright sunlight, you will need to use a High (or fast) shutter speed to let in less light. Fast shutter speeds have the added benefit of freezing action.
EV (Exposure Compensation)
If you are in Auto mode and don't agree with the exposure the camera is suggesting, you can tap the plus or minus buttons to fine-tune the exposure a bit.
The first item under the photo settings is the type of photo you want to shoot. Tap "Photo" and you will see a list of the options available.
Single Shot Press the shutter release button and the camera shoots one picture.
HDR (High Dynamic Range) If you are shooting a scene that has very bright areas as well as deep shadows, HDR might be a good option. With HDR selected, the camera will take three images when you press the shutter release button. One will be underexposed, one overexposed and the third "properly" exposed. It will then combine the three images into one JPEG that will preserve details in the brightest areas while as the shadows.
Multiple If you are trying to capture peak action with a fast moving subject, Multiple mode will fire a rapid burst of photos each time you press the shutter release button. You can set the number of images captured to 3, 5 or 7. It's the same as what is commonly called motor drive on still traditional cameras. If you are shooting a lot of images or are shooting in RAW format, you might fill up the buffer and have to wait a couple of seconds for the image files to be written to the memory card.
AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing) This is basically a manual version of HDR. When you press the shutter, the camera will take either three or five shots at various exposures. However, unlike the HDR option, in AEB the images are shot in the RAW format and are not combined into a final JPEG. You will need to take the images into post-processing software like Adobe Lightroom and combine them yourself. It's more work, but you will end up with a better image in the end.
Timed Shot This setting allows you to shoot images that you can assemble into a time lapse movie. Select the interval between shots (between 2 and 60 seconds) and press the shutter release. The camera will take a picture, count down the interval, take another picture, count down the interval . . . you get the idea. When you're ready to stop taking photos, press the shutter release button a second time. If you are shooting in RAW format, the smallest interval available will be 5 seconds. That's because the larger file size of the the RAW images takes longer for the Mavic Air to process.
Pano There are four different types of panoramic shots available: Sphere, 180, Vertical and Horizontal. Make your selection, press the shutter button and your Mavic Air capture a series of overlapping images automatically. It will then stitch them together into a single panoramic image. It's quite amazing, actually and it does a very good job.
If you want to take it up a notch, you have the option to save the individual photos that make up the pano. You can take them into another application (like Adobe Lightroom) and stitch the pano yourself. The advantage of this is you will end up with a higher quality image.
It's actually the image ratio, not size. Select either 4:3 (the same as traditional 35mm film) or 16:9 which is commonly known as wide-screen. Purely personal preference here. Try both and see which you like best.
The Mavic Air has two format choices when shooting still photos: RAW or JPEG. Or you can have the best of both worlds and have it save every image in both RAW and JPEG formats.
If you shoot in RAW, all 12 million pixels captured by your sensor are preserved in a 25.5 MB image file. When you transfer the files to your computer and look at them on your display they are going to look dull and washed out. But after you tweak them a bit in your favorite post-processing software they will look amazing. Since you have every bit of data captured, you get to make creative decisions about how you want the final image to look. Need to see more details in the shadows? No problem. Want to add some contrast or cut back some highlights? You can do that. You have total control over the end result.
If you select JPEG, your Mavic Air is going to make some decisions about how your photo should look. Depending on your settings, it will adjust the sharpening, contrast and saturation. It will then do some fancy math, compress the image, discard unnecessary information and leave you with a file between 5 MP and 8 MP. Your images will look brighter and more natural right out of the camera. But since a lot of data has been discarded, your options for post-processing are very limited.
Having the white balance set correctly will prevent a color cast in your photos. Auto is the default and does a good job most of the time. But I recommend selecting either Sunny or Cloudy depending on weather. If you are shooting indoors, you will need to pick Auto, Incandescent or Fluorescent.
This is where you can configure the sharpness (Triangle), contrast (Circle) , and saturation (Square) of your images or videos. Each of these settings can be set in a range of -3 to +3.
Changing this setting only makes a difference if you are shooting in JPEG format or if you are shooting video. If you are shooting in RAW, you will control the sharpness, contrast and saturation of your images in post processing.
So what's the best setting? The one that gives you an image you like. I found that a custom style of +1 -1 0 gives me good results in most situations. To set a custom style, tap on the Custom option, Next, tap on the setting you want to adjust and use the plus and minus buttons.
I'm not sure why this even shows up as an option for photos because you can only change it for video. So "Normal" it is.
The Histogram is a graph of brightness of the scene. Personally, I find it gets in the way. I prefer to turn on the Over Exposure Warning to get a quick warning that I need to adjust the exposure.
Smart Arm LEDs
This will automatically turn the front LEDs off when you take a photos or video. Since they are so close to the camera, there is a chance they could create a bit of a color cast in your photos. There's really no downside to having them turn off automatically when you shoot.
Over Exposure Warning
If you turn this feature on, areas of your image that are going to be overexposed will be overlaid with what are called Zebra stripes. As you adjust your exposure, you will see the stripes disappear. Some people find it distracting, but I find it helpful in most situations. If part of your image is overexposed, there is really nothing you can do in post-processing to bring back the detail.
This obviously applies to video, so you can ignore it if you are shooting still photos.
This is a composition aid for lining things up according to the "Rule of Thirds." I leave it off most of the time because I've been taking pictures for a long time and pretty much have a grid burned into my brain. If you're new to photography, using a grid is a big help.
This is really only necessary to worry about if you are shooting video indoors. Since we're dealing with still photos here, you can ignore it.
File Index Mode
Your Mavic Air names your files automatically using the format "DJI_" followed by sequential numbers. If you want the numbers to start over at 0001 every time you format your memory card, select "Reset." If you want to avoid the confusion of having a bunch of files with the same name, select "Continuous" and you won't get any duplicate names for a long time.
You have two options: Internal or SD Card. Take your pick. The default is SD Card.
Save Unstitched Pano Photos
When you shoot a Pano, the DJI Go4 app will automatically stitch all the photos together into one image then delete the individual images. If you want to save the individual images, turn this option on. When you are ready to pull the images off your memory card or the internal storage, they will be in a folder all by themselves called "Panorama." You can download them to your computer and use the application of your choice to stitch them into a panorama.
Format SD Card or Internal Storage
If you want to clear old photos and video off your card or internal storage to free up space, tap the appropriate option here. You will get this warning before it erases the images just in case you hit the wrong button.
If you have changed a bunch of settings and want to start all over, tap this button and everything will go back to factory defaults.