DJI Air 2S and low light | Getting the best shots with your drone.

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DJI Air 2S is a fantastic drone that allows you to take stunning photos and videos in low light settings. It can be very difficult to find a drone that performs well in low light and nighttime. It relies on the drone manufacturer prioritising camera quality and sensor size.

The DJI Air 2S is fantastic in low light situations. It has a large 1 inch CMOS sensor with 2.4-micrometre pixels. Thanks to a high dynamic range and accurate colour reproduction, it can capture low light photographs very well.

If you are looking for a drone that performs well in low light situations, the DJI air 2S is a fantastic option for various reasons that we will look at below.

How the Air 2S performs in low light

Many very happy customers of the DJI Air 2S were looking for a drone with very low light capabilities.

DJI has produced a drone that delivers high-quality flying experiences with a fantastic camera attached.

The DJI Air 2S is fantastic in low light situations because of its great sensor, colour profile and intelligent HDR technology that can combine multiple shots automatically.

Great sensor

This drone is equipped with a 1 inch CMOS image sensor with large 2.4 micrometre pixels. It can capture 5.4 K video at 30 frames per second or 4K video at 60 frames per second.

The large CMOS sensor allows for a 20-megapixel photograph and performs very well in low light situations.

Thanks to the sensor’s high dynamic range and high resolution, the lowlight scenes are sharp, vibrant, and true to the real-life colour.

Good colour profile

The camera can capture 1 billion colours in the 10-bit Dlog-M colour profile. The colour profile allows for rich image capture with a greater range of hues.

Raw format

The drone can shoot in a raw format, which means that it can capture the full range of visual information from the scene.

The large dynamic range of up to 12.6 stops can even capture the details in a very low light situation. The raw format also allows you to go harder on postprocessing the video and photos, giving you much more creative freedom.

Intelligent HDR technology

Lastly, the drone has an intelligent high dynamic range technology that merges multiple shots automatically.

The greatest thing about this capability is that it increases the dynamic range of the images without postprocessing and allows for much more nuanced details in the images.

Having a drone with intelligent HDR technology means getting much more detail in your low lighting shots and showing much greater depth in highlights and shadows. Something very difficult with a drone that does not have this technology.

Hyperlight function

The DJI Air 2S aircraft supports the Hyperlight function, which can be automatically enabled when using the SmartPhoto function.

If you have purchased a DJI air 2S and you are looking to use it in low light conditions, you’ll be pleased to know that it is well suited for that use case.

Here are all of the other ways that you can improve your nighttime drone photography and the considerations you need to make to get the best shots possible with a lower amount of light landing on the sensor than normal.

Improving your nighttime drone photography

Because drones are meant to fly during the day and take images during the day, many of the default settings for shooting photos and films are optimised for when there is lots of light entering the camera lens.

For example, in lowlight situations, the ISO level will quickly ramp up, resulting in a lot of noise in your image due to the sensor’s high sensitivity. We can get around this by using the manual settings on our drone and learning exactly what has to be changed.

Here’s what you need to know…

DJI AIR 2S low light settiings

Shoot in RAW

To begin, make certain that you are shooting in RAW format. The raw format is significantly larger than other image formats, such as JPEGs. This extra size is since the image has been only lightly modified and is uncompressed.

The RAW file is a version of the image that has not been compressed. It has a lot more information on the scene and gives you more detail. This detail is especially crucial when photographing drones at night because you will be utilising a lot of postprocessing to improve the image over the raw form.

You won’t be sorry if you shoot in raw! You need to get a larger memory card to accommodate all of the additional data.

Lock the gimbal

A drone’s gimbal is a crucial component. It effectively counterbalances any turbulence or movement-related vibrations that get through and to the camera while the drone is flying, resulting in smooth footage and videos.

Turn on the feature that allows you to lock the gimbal while taking a photo. This feature means that the gimbal will not attempt to compensate for any instabilities caused by pilot movement. Throughout the picture capture, it will strive to keep the gimbal in the same position.

Turn off LEDs

Many drones come with forward-facing LEDs. These LEDs can tell you what mode the drone is in and give you the ability to see the drone from a distance at night.

However, these LEDs can be seen as a reflection if you are flying close to other objects such as tree branches or windows and walls.

If you notice that your LEDs are able to influence the photograph or video remember that you can turn them off.

Tripod mode           

A tripod mode is available on many DJI drones. In this mode, the drone will do its best to imitate the secure shot that a tripod would provide.

With each new version of DJI’s hardware and software, these advanced modes become more and more stable. Turning on tripod mode tells the drone that you want the image to be as stable as possible.

During the exposure duration of the shot, the drone will strive as hard as it can to maintain stability despite any wind gusts or other environmental variables.

White balance

If you want your night photography to look realistic, use the right white balance.

Many people leave their white balance on auto, but if you want complete control over your movie’s colours and outcome, you need to start fiddling with white balance.

A Kelvin temperature white balance value is required to pick the optimal setting. The Kelvin range will vary from 4000 to 7000 due to the abundance of blues and purples in the night sky. Start with a 5500 Kelvin setting, which will give you a consistent, realistic night sky colour while keeping the foreground colours.

Keep on playing about with the white balance, and you are happy with what it looks like in lowlight settings.

ISO

The iso range of a camera tells you how sensitive the sensor is to light. You must keep the iso as low as possible to stop the noise from being overpowering in the video and photos.

Bracketing options

Remember to utilise the high dynamic range options of your drone including bracketing.

To put it simply, it’s two (or more) images shot at various exposure levels that are then stitched together using software to make a superior image. The photographer takes a series of bracketed photographs. During nighttime drone photography, I recommend choosing a two stop difference to offer oneself the best chance of shooting good high dynamic range photos.

After using a bracketed photo option, you’ll need to combine the photos with software like Photomatix, Aurora HDR, or Luminance HDR for post-processing and photo modification (FREE).

Postprocessing

One of the most useful ways of getting the best photos and videos at lowlight is to know exactly what tools are at your disposal in postprocessing.

Here are all of the things that I do to make sure that my nighttime drone pictures are something I am proud of:

  • highlights down – lot of artificial lighting can be too bright
  • shadows up – highlight darker areas of the photograph
  • sharpen highlights – sharpen the edges so they are crisp and clean postprocessing can sometimes blur and deaden the edges of your image
  • noise reduction – have a look at the dark areas of your photograph and use simple noise reduction algorithms to remove the dots and noise
  • colour balance – at night time the dominant colours of purples and blues you can create a cinematic fill by warming up your image using a yellow filter and pushing the blues into the teal range.

Summary

This article has been through everything you need to know about the DJI air 2S and using it in lowlight conditions.

This drone is well-suited to flying and capturing photos and videos in lowlight due to the high dynamic range and large sensor that comes with the drone.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones. His favourite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!