The Mini 3 and the 3 Pro differ mostly in their video functionalities, but they are practically identical in terms of photography.In this article, I will give 9 tips on how to improve the quality of your photos with these two lightweight DJI models

Some tips apply to photography with any camera, others to drones in general, and some of them relate to specific features of the Mini 3 and 3 Pro

More details can be found in the following articles

If You Prefer To Watch This As a Video

1 Time of the Day

Probably the most important tip to get consistently good results in drone photography is to choose the best light conditions

Choosing the best light conditions for photos

I never shoot in the middle of a sunny day, as the shadows are very dark, the contrast too high and the results are always disappointing. It is much better to choose the so-called golden hour: the first two hours after sunrise or the last two before sunset for much softer shadows and a warmer feel

Another excellent time of the day for drone photography is right after sunset when the street lights turn on and there is still some natural light. This gives us the possibility of having some control over the lighting of a scene, a bit like being in a photo studio, with the artificial lights acting as the main source and the twilight as a fade light to smoothen the shadows

I have done a specific article about Night photography with the Mini 3 and 3 Pro

Photos taken in cloudy days

The only times I take photos or videos during the day is when the sun is covered by clouds, as they act like a giant softbox, smoothening the shadows

In general, it is much better to have very little difference between the lights and the shadows, in other words, low contrast. It is then very easy to increase the contrast to your taste in post-processing while reducing contrast is a much harder task

2 Correct Exposure

To get quality images it is crucial to get the correct exposure. It is always better to err towards underexposing rather than overexposing, as it is possible to recover dark shadows up to a certain degree, while there is nothing to do with burnt highlights

The histogram is the only tool I use for exposing

The only tool I use for exposing photos and footage is the histogram. I leave some empty space between the last bar to the right and the right edge of the histogram, to make sure that the highlights are preserved

When exposing manually, at the bottom of the exposure window the MM value displays the luminosity resulting from the exposure values. Since the Mini 3 and Pro have a slight tendency to overexpose, I prefer to have the value in negative territory, between -0.3 and -1

I always use manual exposure, as it is often useful to control individually the shutter speed and the ISO, the only two values available in the Mini 3 models, as the aperture is fixed

More info about Mini 3 Pro exposure settings and Mini 3 Pro camera settings for photography are in these articles

Examples of long-exposure photography

By using a longer shutter speed of about 1 with the aid of ND filters, it is possible to get silky waves and clouds, add some motion blur to moving subjects, or create some interesting special effects. You will find plenty of examples in my article about long-exposure photography by clicking on this link

I also suggested using manual white balance to have consistent colors while editing. With most other drones I like to set the white balance value at around 5500 Kelvins, but in my experience, the Mini 3 and 3 Pro have a tendency toward a yellowish tone, so with these models, I prefer a lower value of about 5100 Kelvins

3 Use Automatic Exposure Bracketing

The Mini 3 and 3 Pro have an AEB photo mode. When it is selected in the Photo menu, the camera will shoot 3 or 5 photos in rapid succession with an interval of two-thirds of a stop between each of them. I always use AEB mode with five shots when shooting photos for two reasons

First of all to make sure that I always get one photo perfectly exposed, since I have five different exposure values for each of them, much like an insurance policy against wrong exposure

Example of 5 AEB photos merged to HDR
Example of 5 AEB photos merged to HDR

The second reason is to merge the five images to HDR with a photo editor to get better results under certain conditions, especially in situations of high dynamic range, like shooting in the direction of the sun. The software will take the darkest part of the image from the brightest photos and the brightest ones from the darkest image, thus reducing the dynamic range

For more detail about Automatic Exposure Bracketing with the Mini 3 and 3 Pro, please refer to my specific article

4 48MP Photo Mode

The Mini 3 Pro was released with a famous, so-called 48MP photo mode. In the Mini 3, this mode has been added only recently via a firmware update

48 MP photos vs 12MP

The Bayer Quad sensor of the Mini 3 and 3 Pro has a real photo resolution of 12MP, but it has the ability to split each pixel into four smaller ones, thus achieving a sort of 48MP.Photos taken in this mode have a slight advantage in terms of detail in easy light conditions. This is useful, especially for large prints or when deeply cropping an image

Experienced users can also try merging 48MP photos into a panorama for insane resolution. The downside of this mode is that the resulting pixels are much smaller and therefore collect a lower amount of light, resulting in less info in the shadows and lukewarm results in low-light situations

More detail in my article about the 48MP photo mode in the Mini 3 Pro

5 Use RAW Format

With the Mini 3 and 3 Pro, when in photo mode, it is possible to choose to save the file either in JPEG or in JPEG + RAW. Photos saved in RAW format contain more information, especially in the shadows, and respond better to color grading and color correcting

Examples of JPEG photos with the Mini 3 and 3 Pro

JPEG photos have already a good dose of processing applied, they are in a way pre-cooked, so they leave less latitude for post-processing. It must be said that in the Mini 3 and 3 Pro, JPEG images have improved a lot, therefore they can be used to quickly share them on social media

But I always suggest saving in both formats. Even for users that dont do any photo editing, it will be valuable to have a RAW copy of their images when they will get addicted to post-processing, or they can ask a friend with editing skills to process their best images, in which case the RAW file will be needed

6 Rule of Thirds

The same scene may look in many cases better, by applying some basic rules of composition. And in any case, by knowing the rules it is possible to break them

Applying the rule of thirds

One of the best-known is the rule of thirds. Used not only by photographers and videographers but also by master painters in the past. It consists of not placing the main subject in the middle of the images, but rather on a third, either horizontally or vertically, or both

The Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro have an overlay with a grid to apply this rule

In drone photography very often we have the sky and the horizon in the frame. It is in general more interesting to have the horizon in the upper or lower third rather than in the middle

Sometimes the same applies to a landmark in the scene: rather than placing it in the middle, a position on one of the thirds can be more appealing

In the case of a moving subject, it is recommended to place it on the third which leaves more space in the direction of the movement

7 Different Points of View

The same scene looks different from different angles. With drones, we have the possibility to access unique points of view

Using intelligent flight modes to take several photos of a subject

When taking images of a scene, it is a good idea to take plenty of shots at different angles, varying the altitude and the angle. Intelligent flight modes like Point of Interest or Spotlight are excellent tools to find the best perspective for parallax

Try circling around the chosen subject or flying in a diagonal line at different heights and distances, while taking plenty of photos. Then in front of the computer while sipping an exotic drink choose the ones that offer the best perspective and the most interesting angle

Beginners starting with drones tend to fly as high as possible, but very often the best shots are from a low altitude and close to the subject

Top-down photos with the Mini 3 and 3 Pro

Birds eye view photos can only be made with drones and they often result in a completely different rendition of familiar scenes

This tiny island off the East Coast of Sicily is very popular around here, but when I showed top-down photos to friends living around here, they could not guess what it was. This fumarole in Iceland seen from above looks like an abstract painting by Klimpt. A vineyard seen from above might be mistaken for a cashmere blanket

Mini 3 and 3 Pro photos in vertical format

With the Mini 3 and 3 Pro it is possible to shoot videos and photos in a vertical format. It is a feature mostly used for footage, but certain scenes fit very well in portrait photos

8 Use Leading Lines and Geometrical Patterns

Using leading lines and geometrical patterns

Photographers and painters often use lines and geometrical patterns to add interest and to lead the eyes in a specific direction. Drones have the ability to move the point of view to different heights, offering even more possibilities to use lines and other geometrical patterns

In post-processing, it is sometimes useful to rotate the shot to find the most interesting angle

9 Inspect the Location

To make the most of a specific location it is important to know it well. Often when visiting an unknown place the first photo session is mostly for scouting purposes: we take as many photos as possible from different angles and different heights

When analyzing the images taken in front of a computer we often spot the ideal shots for photos to take going back to the same location

A very useful tool to inspect an unknown location is Google Hearth where it is possible to move around the place with a 3d view on the computer to carefully analyze the scene

When preparing a photographic trip with a drone always inspect the official maps to find out if there are any restrictions due to regulations. Consult the maps of the aviation authority of that country or DJI Fly Safe maps

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Last Update: 03/23/2024