DJI Air 3 Camera Settings for Photography

The Air 3 is a very versatile drone with an array of functionalities, with a game-changing feature compared to the Mini 3 Pro, the dual lens system

The settings for photography for the DJI Air 3 are found in different locations in the DJI Fly App. This article shows where to find them and how to use them to get the best results for still images with both lenses of this drone

A few other related articles you may find interesting:

If you prefer to watch this as a video, you will find my YouTube version at the end

Where are the Settings for Photography in the Air 3?

Where to find the settings for photography in the Air 3
Where to find the settings for photography in the Air 3

There are three locations where we can control the behavior of the Air 3 for still images:

  • in Settings through the icon with three dots at the right of the screen
  • in the Exposure Window at the bottom right
  • in the main Photo/Video menu next to the shutter

In the Settings

Let’s start with the Settings. The menu is context-sensitive, in other words, the Settings are not the same in video or photo mode

Camera Tab of the Settings

After choosing Photo in the Photo/Video menu, we tap on the three dots on the top right to access Settings, and then go to the Camera tab. The menu now relates to Photo

File Format: RAW or JPEG?

Choice of the File Format in the DJI Air 3
Choice of the File Format in the DJI Air 3

The first choice is the file format with options for RAW, JPEG, or both formats. I usually use only RAW images, but the JPEG files in the Air 3 are excellent and this is good news for users who post their masterpieces on social media without editing

Aspect Ratio

Choice of the Aspect Ratio in the DJI Air 3
Choice of the Aspect Ratio in the DJI Air 3

Then we have the Aspect Ratio, by selecting 4:3 we get the full resolution of the sensor, 4032×3024, slightly more than 12MP, if we choose 16:9 we get a version cropped to a height of 2268 which fits a traditional 4k landscape video format

I always choose 4:3 as it gives more options for reframing or cropping to different formats

48 MP Mode

Then there is a choice for resolution between the true 12MP photo resolution of the camera and the so-called 48MP

The 1/1.3” sensor of the Air 3 is a Bayer Quad type of sensor, capable of splitting each pixel into 4 smaller ones, therefore creating a sort of 48 MP mode

 

 DJI Air 3: 48MP photo taken with the telephoto lens
DJI Air 3: 48MP photo taken with the telephoto lens

However, the resulting pixels are much smaller with a limited capability of gathering light

In easy light conditions images taken in the 48 MP mode have just a touch of extra detail and give better results in large prints

But in high dynamic range or low light the results are sometimes disappointing and this is not surprising, due to the reduced size of each pixel

DJI Air 3, 48 MP mode vs regular 12 MP photo
DJI Air 3, 48 MP mode vs regular 12 MP photo

This mode has some benefits and it works much better in the Air 3 compared to the first firmware version of the Mini 3 Pro, but it has to be used only in certain light conditions and it is still a work in progress

To state that the Air 3 has a photo resolution of 48 MP is misleading

Tools for Exposure and Focus

Then we have a switch to toggle the Histogram on and off. I have it always on, as it is the main tool I use for exposing

 DJI Air 3: Proper use of the Histogram to avoid overexposure
DJI Air 3: Proper use of the Histogram to avoid overexposure

I make sure to leave some space between the last bar to the right and the right edge to avoid overexposing

Peaking level is a tool for focusing. It outlines in red the elements in focus, but only when using manual focus

It comes with three strength levels. I only use it when focusing manually on a subject close to the camera. On all other occasions, I leave it off, as I find it distracting

The next option, Overexposure warning, is another tool for exposure. It overlays white stripes on the overexposed areas. I never use it, as I find it distracting

Gridline for the Rule of Thirds

Then we can overlay Gridlines. I like the one in the middle to apply the rule of thirds

It is preferable to use the Rule of Thirds rather than having the horizon in the middle
It is preferable to use the Rule of Thirds rather than having the horizon in the middle

When taking drone photos, we often have the horizon line in the frame. Rather than having it in the middle, it is more interesting to divide the scene into thirds and have it either on the higher or on the lower third

On other occasions, especially for top-down shots, we might want a symmetric framing, in which case the same overlay helps position the subject

The function Style for sharpness and Noise Reduction that is found on the Mini 3 Pro is not available at the moment for still images on the Air 3

White Balance

Further down the White Balance can be set to Auto or Manual. I suggest always using Manual

With the Air 3, I prefer a setting around 5700 Kelvins

Finally, we can select the Storage Location, either an SD Card or the internal 8GB memory, and we can format them

Control Tab

Let’s move to the Control tab. At the top, we can choose the Unit: Metric in meters, Metric in KM, and Imperial

In Gimbal Mode we have a choice between Follow and FPV modes. It is a feature meant mostly for video, and we generally keep it on Follow mode, but if we switch to FPV, the aircraft will lean sideways while turning, like a real plane

Unusual photo taken with the DJI Air 3 in FPV mode
Unusual photo taken with the DJI Air 3 in FPV mode

This gives us the chance to create some unusual photos

Further down we have Gimbal Calibration. Here we can automatically calibrate it if we are prompted by the app, but we can also access Manual if we have the horizon slightly slanted to fine-tune it

Exposure Settings

The exposure settings are in the lower part of the screen to the right

Auto Exposure

In auto mode the exposure is set by the software, we can only access the Exposure Value (EV) to adjust the overall luminosity

DJI Air 3, EV slider to adjust the luminosity in Auto Exposure
DJI Air 3, EV slider to adjust the luminosity in Auto Exposure

I find that the app has a slight tendency to overexpose, therefore I prefer to set the value at -0.3 or -0.7

When the camera moves and the light changes, the exposure values are modified to maintain a constant luminosity, but the individual values for ISO and SS are not shown

This is one of the reasons why I always suggest using manual exposure, as we want to be able to control these values

Manual Exposure (Pro)

By tapping on the icon to the right, we access manual mode, labeled as Pro. Then tapping on the area of the values slightly to the left, we access the window for exposure

DJI Air 3, the window for Manual Exposure (Pro)
DJI Air 3, the window for Manual Exposure (Pro)

In photography, there are three parameters for exposure: ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed, but with the Air 3, like with many other prosumer drones, the aperture is fixed, therefore we have only two values to deal with

We can set the values for ISO and shutter speed independently

The MM value at the bottom cannot be modified, it displays the luminosity resulting from the values chosen above compared to the optimal exposure computed by the software

I prefer to see a slightly negative value

Semi-Automatic Exposure

This window has two Auto buttons for ISO and Shutter Speed. We can set one of the two values, either ISO or Shutter Speed, as Auto

Auto Sutter Speed

Let’s say we want a fixed value for ISO, 100, to get the best possible quality. In this case, we set ISO to 100 and Shutter Speed to Auto

When the luminosity varies, only the value for Shutter Speed changes to maintain the correct luminosity, leaving the ISO at 100

Notice that the value MM has now turned into EV, for Exposure Value and it can be modified

Auto ISO

On other occasions, we might want a constant value for Shutter Speed

Let’s say we want a long exposure to shoot moving subjects with some motion blur

We select the desired value for SS and set the ISO to Auto and this time as the luminosity increases or decreases, only the ISO varies

We can choose to put both values to Auto

It is very much like using Auto exposure, but there are some advantages compared to using the traditional Auto mode

In Auto mode, we cannot see the individual values for ISO and SS, while this method shows both values

DJI Air 3: The window for White Balance
DJI Air 3: The window for White Balance

By tapping on the icon at the lower left, we access another window for the White Balance, the File Format, the Aspect Ratio, the Resolution, and the Storage location

We have already seen how these functionalities work, as they are also available in the Settings

Photo/Video Menu

DJI Air 3, the Photo menu
DJI Air 3, the Photo menu

Let’s move to the Photo/Video menu above the shutter

Automatic Exposure Bracketing

After the Single shot, we can choose the Automatic Exposure Bracketing with a choice of 3 or 5 photos at an interval of 0.7 stops

When 48MP mode is selected AEB will only take 3 photos

DJI Air 3, an example of five photos shot in AEB and merged to HDR
DJI Air 3, an example of five photos shot in AEB and merged to HDR

It is a feature that I use all the time, for two reasons:

  • to be sure to have at least one image exposed perfectly
  • To merge the five images to HDR using programs like Luminar Neo for better results compared to a single one in certain light conditions, especially in high dynamic range situations

To edit all the images and merge them to HDR I have used Luminar Neo.
Here you find my article about this excellent program

You will find info about Luminar Neo together with a coupon for a 10% discount by entering the code “vicvideopic” using the button below

Other Photo Modes

Then we have Burst, with a choice of 3, 5, or 7 photos in 12MP and 3 photos in 48 MP mode, useful when shooting action

Finally Timed Shot, to take several images at a specific interval in seconds

In the Mini 3 Pro, the 48 MP is found in this menu, but in the Air 3 has been moved to the Camera tab of Settings

Lens Selection

DJI Air 3, the buttons to toggle between the two lenses
DJI Air 3, the buttons to toggle between the two lenses

To the left of the shutter, there are 2 buttons to select one of the two lenses. 1x for the wide angle and 3x for the telephoto lens

There is no progressive zoom between the two focal lengths. This feature is only available for video

Further down there is a button to toggle between Auto and Manual focus. In manual mode, we focus by dragging the parameter bar up and down

If You Prefer to Watch This as a Video

VicVideoPic

I am Vittorio Caramazza, aka Vicvideopic, the founder of this website and author of all the posts. I am a videographer and photographer contributing to several stock agencies. I am an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Lightroom. I have 10 years of experience with dron videography and photography. I was struck by drone syndrome in 2013. I have owned and tested in depth the following drones: Phantom 3, Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic Mini, Mini 2, Air 2, Air 2s, Autel Evo Nano Plus, Mavic 3, Mini 3 Pro, Mini 3. My home has turned into a breeding ground for drones. I am the owner of two YouTube channels specializing in Videography and Photography, with a focus on drones My main channel is VicVideopic (in English): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgaBlrFDONJ4BSEUHa2cLKg My other channel is Drone Mitico, the Italian version.: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkeoY8rPPj-fypUKHckTtwQ I am currently based in Sicily (Southern Italy), but I tend to move quite often. After all, this is one of the main benefits of being a digital nomad…

Recent Posts