Why should you use lens filters with your drone?

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Filters can change the optical properties of your drone camera.

If you’ve ever seen someone else’s footage taken with the same drone you own and wondered “How does it look so good?”, chances are it was taken with a drone camera filter attached. Here’s why you should use them too.

How does a lens filter work?

A filter is essentially a layer of special material on a mount designed to fit over your drone’s camera lens or objective. Light passes through the filter material before entering the lens, modifying it in some way. Some filters change the amount of light that enters the camera, and others change the type of light that is allowed through. Filters can also change the optical properties of your drone camera, such as changing the lens angle or zoom level.

Why use lens filters with a drone?

Each filter has a different job and is used for certain conditions and desired image results. Filters are used in all types of photography and essentially allow you to extend the capabilities of your camera’s lens, shutter, and sensor beyond their normal range of capabilities. This is especially useful for drones, where most consumer drones do not have cameras or interchangeable lens modules.

Depending on where you’re flying, the time of day or year, the theme, and more, you’ll need filters to make sure you take the best photo or video.

What types of filters do drones use?

There are many different filter options, some of which are common and some of which are more out of the ordinary. For drone photography and videography, there are three common types of filters you should be aware of:

• UV (ultraviolet) filters• ND (Neutral Density) filtersCircular polarizing filters

UV filters reduce the amount of UV light that enters the camera, which can create a blurrier image. When UV light becomes more of a problem at higher altitudes, a UV filter can help to clean up the image.

ND filters reduce the overall amount of light entering the drone’s camera without altering the image in other ways, such as distorting colors. They are used in photography to allow for longer exposures, but when it comes to drones, they are more popular for video.

When you’re shooting in very bright conditions, you generally have to use a faster shutter speed setting on your camera to avoid overexposing every frame. Unfortunately, higher shutter speeds also result in jerky motion that doesn’t look cinematic. By using the correct ND filter, your camera can maintain a slower shutter speed and can have excellent cinematic movement and correct exposure.

Circular Polarizing Filters (CPL) filter light reflected from horizontal surfaces such as a wet road, lake, or snow. They also remove glare from shiny surfaces, such as metal car bodies. Polarizing filters also deepen the blue of the sky and can help you see below the surface of the water, allowing you to see animals and objects from above.

You can also get filters that combine various types of filters, such as the PolarPro Vivid Filter Collection for the Mavic 2 Pro . These filters combine UV, ND, and polarization filtering into a single element.

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Warnings with the filters

The main disadvantage of putting a filter on your drone is that if you have used the wrong one or if conditions change, you will have to land to change the settings.

Someone shooting with a handheld camera can quickly change or adjust their filter as needed, but that’s not possible when your camera is half a kilometer away in the sky. While you can try to estimate if you are happy with a filter on the ground, it will take some experience and practice to compensate for in-flight conditions from the ground.

It may be helpful to take your first flight without a filter to get a baseline and then attach the filter (or stack of filters) you think you’ll need to improve the image.

What about the color grading?

Color grading is the practice of adjusting the color and brightness of a photo or video after it has been recorded. It’s standard practice, and all professional footage is color graded. Many drones can take “raw” photos or film images that have a flat color profile so they can be fixed later.

You may think you can do what a filter does by simply grading your footage after it’s done, but color grading can’t compensate for overexposure or incorrect shutter speeds. The necessary information cannot be retrieved from the file because the camera was unable to capture it in the first place.

If you are serious about drone photography or videography, you should invest in a filter kit for your drone model. It’s the most effective way to get those perfectly exposed cinematic shots.

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