DJI Mini 3 Pro Exposure Settings Explained

One of the most frequent causes of mediocre results with footage and photos with drones is wrong exposure

The DJI Mini 3 Pro has an array of useful settings for exposure. The main tool I use to expose is the histogram. For best results is crucial to choose the most favorable light conditions

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

Choosing the Right Light Conditions

Choosing the most favorable light conditions makes it much easier to find the correct exposure

Avoid taking photos in the central hours of a sunny day
The central hours of a sunny day must be avoided

The central hours of a sunny day are to be avoided at all costs, as the shadows are extremely harsh and the contrast too strong

There are good reasons why it is said that these are the hours when photographers and videographers sleep

Excellent light conditions for video and photos are in the two hours around sunrise or sunset or when the sun is covered by clouds acting like a big softbox

The idea is to reduce the dynamic range with a smaller difference in luminosity between the highlights and the shadows

My favorite time is about half an hour after sunset when there is still the last twilight acting as the fade light and the artificial lights as the main source

More details about all other settings for the DJI Mini 3 and 3 Pro are in the following articles:

How to Use the Histogram 

Histogram for an overexposed image with the Mini 3 Pro
Histogram for an overexposed image with the Mini 3 Pro

The histogram is the only tool I use for exposing

When the bars touch the right edge the image will be overexposed. This is something to be avoided, as burnt highlights cannot be recovered while editing

Histogram for an underexposed image with the Mini 3 Pro
Histogram for an underexposed image with the Mini 3 Pro

When some bars are bunched up against the left edge, the shadows will be too dark, but it will be possible to recover them during post-processing, up to a certain extent

Histogram fo a well-exposed image with the Mini 3 Pro
Histogram for a well-exposed image with the Mini 3 Pro

For this reason, I always make sure to leave a gap between the last bar to the right and the right edge of the histogram, so that the highlights are preserved

Histogram for a low-contrast image with the Mini 3 Pro
Histogram for a low-contrast image with the Mini 3 Pro

When the histogram has most of the bars in the middle and the are gaps both to the right and the left sides, the image has low contrast

These are the easiest conditions for correct exposure and correspond to the best hours of the day mentioned earlier

It will be easier to add a bit of contrast while editing for excellent results

Histogram for a High Dynamic Range image with the Mini 3 Pro
Histogram for a High Dynamic Range image with the Mini 3 Pro

When the bars touch both the right and left edges of the histogram, it is a high dynamic range scene, in most cases containing the sky and with the camera pointing in the direction of the sun

These are the most difficult situations, it is again suggested to leave a small gap to the right of the histogram to preserve the highlight

The shadows will be very dark, but on many occasions, it will be possible to recover them, at least partially, although some advanced post-processing will be involved

This is why it is suggested to beginners to avoid shooting footage or photos against the sun

Leaving part of an image as a silhouette
Leaving part of an image as a silhouette

An alternative possibility is to avoid burning the highlight and leave the elements on the ground as a silhouette, which can create an interesting effect on certain occasions

In the Camera tab of Settings, there is another tool to aid exposing: Overexposure Warning

It works by overlaying black and white diagonal stripes to the overexposed parts of a scene. I never use it, as I find it very distracting and the histogram is all that I need

More details and plenty of examples in my two articles

Exposure settings in the Mini 3 Pro

An Issue with Exposure to be Solved

The settings for exposure in the Mini 3 and 3 Pro are handy and well organized, but there is something that DJI should address at some stage

The exposure values are sticky for each photo or video mode

Let’s say that I have shot some footage and some photos at night, in all different modes

The next day I take some footage after sunrise and I find the same settings as the last time I used the drone, so I have to modify again the exposure settings for the new light conditions

The exposure values must be adjusted for each mode

If I want to shoot a few photos, the settings are still the ones from the night before and I need to expose again. The same goes if I want to do AEB photos, 48MP, Mastershots, hyperlapse, and so on

If I turn the camera for some top-down photos and footage, the scene is much darker and I need to expose once again every single time

Having to expose for each photo or video mode is a waste of time. Once the exposure values are set, it is obvious that these are the current light conditions, so, all other photo and video modes should be updated to the current exposure values

Check my article How to get the best photos with Mini 3 Pro for interesting examples, or this other about 9 tips for photography with the Mini 3 and 3 Pro

Auto Exposure

The icon for auto and manual exposure in the Mini 3 Pro
The icon for auto and manual exposure

Beginners generally start by using auto exposure which can be accessed via this small icon at the bottom right of the screen toggling between auto and manual (labeled Pro)

The EV value sets the overall luminosity in the Mini 3 Pro
The EV value sets the overall luminosity

In auto mode the exposure is set by the software, we can only access the EV value to adjust the overall luminosity. I find that the software tends to overexpose, therefore I prefer to set the value at -0.7 or -1

When the camera moves the exposure values are automatically modified to maintain a constant luminosity, but the individual values for ISO and shutter speed are not shown

Manual Exposure

There are two main reasons why it is better to get used to always shooting in manual exposure

  • When using auto exposure for video, in case of a change in the overall luminosity of the scene, the software will detect it and modify the exposure value, this will lead to a noticeable progressive shift of luminosity in the clip, an evident sign of amateur footage
  • On many occasions we must control the individual exposure parameters

Professional videographers prefer to use a specific shutter speed based on the frame rate of the project

Frame RateShutter Speed
24 or 25 fps1/50″
30 fps1/60″
60 fps1/120″
120 fps1/240
The 180 Degrees rule

This is known as the 180 degrees rule and it is more useful when filming close to the ground or when the scene contains elements in motion, to optimize motion blur. To learn more about motion blur, please refer to my specific article by clicking on the link

The window for manual exposure in the Mini 3 Pro
The window for manual exposure in the Mini 3 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

The Mini 3 Pro has a fixed aperture, therefore the only values we can select are ISO and Shutter Speed. We can set these values 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 value of about minus one stop

Whenever possible it is preferable to set the ISO at its base value, 100, for the best quality

But tolerance to ISO has improved so much in recent models of the DJI prosumer line that higher values up to 400 or even 800 can be used without a noticeable loss of quality

Example of long-exposure photography

For photography, at times it is interesting to use a long shutter speed value of around 1” for very interesting effects, please refer to my specific video about long exposure photography with the Mini 3 and 3 Pro

To maintain a specific shutter speed value with different light conditions ND filters are needed, you will find details on why and when to use ND filters in my specific article

Semi-Auto Exposure

In the exposure window, we notice a major new feature, added by the latest firmware update. There are two new Auto buttons for ISO and shutter speed, we can now set one of the two values as Auto

Let’s say we want a fixed value for ISO, 100, to get the best possible quality. So we set ISO to 100 and shutter speed to Auto. As the luminosity varies, only the value for SS changes to maintain the correct luminosity, leaving the ISO value at 100

The value MM has now turned into EV for Exposure Value and can be modified to set the overall luminosity

Fixed Shutter Speed and variable ISO

If we want control over the shutter speed, we select the desired value and set the ISO to Auto and this time, as the luminosity increases or decreases, only the ISO value varies

In this mode, the ISO value is modified by very small increments while in manual exposure the only values available are 100, 200, 400, 800, and so on

We can also choose to put both values to Auto. It is very similar to using auto exposure, but there are some advantages compared to the traditional Auto mode

In Auto we have no indications for the values of ISO and Shutter Speed while using this method we can visualize both of them 

Two Tricks for Exposing Photos

Five photos with different exposure values taken in AEB

When taking photos, there are two extra options to simplify the exposure

  • It is possible to use Automatic Exposure Bracketing to take five shots in rapid succession with different exposure values. It is a sort of insurance, as one of the five images will always be perfectly exposed
  • In the case of images shot in the direction of the sun, it is possible to merge the five images to HDR using an editing program. With this technique the highlights will be taken from the darkest image and the shadows from the brightest one, thus reducing the dynamic range of the resulting merged photo 
Merging five photos into HDR

More details in my specific article Automatic Exposure Bracketing with the Mini 3 and 3 Pro

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…

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