One of the most challenging aspects of drone photography and videography is mastering exposure. With most drone cameras, you can control the exposure by adjusting the shutter speed and ISO (the aperture is set at a fixed level). But even with a quality camera and optimized settings you can still experience glare, overexposure, harsh shadows, and the dreaded jello effect.
Drone camera filters are semi-transparent glass accessories that can be attached to the outside of the camera. There are several different types of filters, but the primary purpose of all filters is to control the light that enters the camera — which directly impacts exposure levels.
Learning how to use neutral density and polarizing filters can help you consistently create high quality aerial imagery and provide you with a quick and easy tool for mitigating exposure-related problems.
Neutral density (ND) filters reduce the amount of light that passes through the camera lens, which gives you the ability to slow down the shutter speed without risking overexposure. ND filters use a numeric naming system the allows you to easily identify the specific amount of light the filter reduces (for example, an ND 2 filter reduces the light by one stop and lets in half the light; an ND 4 filter reduces the light by two stops and lets in ¼ the amount of the light, an ND 8 filter reduces the light by four stops and lets in ⅛ the amount of light, and so on).
ND filters can reduce glare, improve saturation, and enhance color. When you’re filming on bright, sunny days, using an ND filter gives you the ability to capture smooth video quality that might not otherwise be possible.
The following three ND filters cover a broad range of lighting scenarios, and are great tools to keep on hand whenever you fly:
Most quality drone cameras do a good job of automatically adjusting the shutter speed when you’re using ND filters, but if you’re not getting the results you expect, you can always alter the settings manually. Consider using manual exposure especially when the sun is in the frame: you’ll need to make a creative decision about how to balance the bright sky with the darker ground, depending on the overall look you’re trying to achieve and what post-processing your footage will undergo.
Here’s a quick sample of drone video footage captured with an ND filter.
Polarizing filters are specifically designed to filter reflected light. Using polarizing filters enables you to:
Polarizing filters have become a favorite accessory for landscape photographers — though the benefits are clearly applicable to all types of photography and videography.
Drone camera filters give you an additional method for controlling the light that enters your camera. Mastering the exposure levels of your photos and videos is challenging, but with the right drone camera filter you can reduce glare, minimize reflected light, and create beautiful, color-rich aerial imagery — even when lighting conditions are less than ideal.