Below is a list of the best photo and video settings for the Phantom 3 drone cameras. These settings will only be effective if you are going the extra mile and editing your photographs and videos. I would highly recommend this, since you spent so much money on a nice drone, you invest a little money in editing programs. This is a must if you want to take your photo and video skills to the next level and get incredible results with your drone. I use Adobe Premiere Pro for video and Adobe Lightroom for stills, which are both part of the Adobe Creative Suite.
ALWAYS shoot with manual controls, don’t let your drone/camera make the decisions for you. If the camera screws up the settings while on auto mode, you will not be a happy camper. Take control of your drone and camera, only shoot in manual mode! You will thank me later.
ISO: 100 or low as possible
The only time that the ISO should be pushed above 100 is at night or during other low light situations such as sunset. The Phantom 3 is capable of taking still photographs with a shutter speed of 3 seconds or more depending on the wind conditions. If it is necessary to raise the ISO up make sure you don’t go past 400 at the most or you will start to notice a lot of noise and that will ruin your image.
Shutter Speed: Double Frame Rate
To achieve cinematic video with your Phantom 3 it is important that your shutter speed is double the frame rate. For example, if you are shooting at 4k/30fps your shutter speed should be 1/60 [30fps x 2 = 60] or as close as possible. Since the Phantom 3 camera is locked at f2.8 the only way to achieve a lower shutter speed is to use a ND filter. To further understand the use of ND filters check out my ND Filter Guide.
Gridlines: Turn on
Even if you have the slightest knowledge of photography, I can guarantee that you have learned about the rule of thirds. Which basically means that your subject should be placed in one or more of the thirds on the image. Have the gridlines helps to guide you where to place your subject, by dividing the screen into 3
horizontal and 3 vertical lines. This can also help to show you where the center is located.
Gridlines help to keep biker centered
Photo: AEB 3 or 5 shots
The Phantom 3 allows you to take either 3 or 5 photographs total, each time you push the shutter button. The drone takes several images that are underexposed and overexposed, so you are guaranteed to get one photo that is correctly exposed. In addition to the prior, you can combine those 3/5 images together to create a HDR image.
3 photo bursts shot at different exposures
Image Size: RAW
RAW photographs are uncompressed DNG files as opposed to a compressed JPEG. RAW photographs have the appearance of being “flat,” but allow you to fully edit every aspect of the uncompressed image vs the camera compressing the the image to a JPEG with less information recorded. For example, if you overexpose an area of the image, in post-production you can bring down the highlights and get a properly exposed image.
Raw image edited in Adobe Lightroom
White Balance: Custom / Auto
I typically set my white balance at 5000k, which gives the image a slightly cool appearance vs. being too warm. To a certain extent this can be changed later in postproduction. At times I like the camera to determine the white balance for me, and if I don’t like it I can change it in post-production as well.
N/A while shooting RAW photographs
N/A while shooting RAW photographs
The two above settings are only applicable for JPEG photographs. It is important to shot RAW stills and make these adjustments in your post-production work.
Video Size: 4k/30fps or [highest resolution possible]
The Phantom 3’s camera sensor is quite small, so to make the most out of it and get the best results you should shoot in the highest possible resolution. I always prefer to shoot in 30fps rather than 24fps, because you can ever so slightly slow down the video in postproduction if you import to a 24p sequence. The video is just a tad slower, but looks silky and smooth! For the Phantom 3 Pro shoot 4k, Phantom 3 Advanced 2.7k, and Phantom 3 Standard 2.7k.
Video shot in 4k 30fps
Video Format: MOV
.MOV or .MP4 really doesn’t matter unless your computer handles one better than the other. I have always shot .MOV and had no problems with it.
NTSC is used in United States and PAL is used in Europe.
White Balance: Custom
When recording several clips with your Phantom 3, it easiest to set your white balance to a custom setting or one of the preset settings (sunny, cloudy, etc.) and leave it at that setting for all your recordings. That way later on when you're working on your edit, all your clips will match and will be easier to correct all simultaneously if necessary. Again I typically set my white balance to 5000K, which gives a slightly cool appearance to the video. The Phantom 3 shoots very warm on auto mode.
Style: Custom [ Sharpness -1 Contrast -3 Saturation -2 ]
I have played around each one of these settings several times and this is what I finally came up with. Set your sharpness at -1 if you want a nice sharp image. I would never go any sharper than that, but if you prefer a little bit softer image in your video then shoot -2 sharpness. Set your contrast to -3 to achieve the flattest image, which allows for the best color correction in postproduction. That way your blacks and whites will never peak and you can always make them darker/lighter in post. Set saturation to -2 because the Phantom 3 image is quite saturated at 0, and is it quite an easy fix to add saturation during your edit. You want you image to start with little saturation and add it on vs. trying to take saturation away from an over saturated image.
D-LOG gives you’re the flattest color profile, which makes for the best post-production results. D-LOG allows you to get the greatest dynamic range in your video footage. You use RAW for stills and LOG for video, both appear “flat” but allow for the best editing to achieve the best looking results.
LOG footage before and after color grading in Adobe Premiere Pro