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DJI Phantom: Tips and Tricks to Get the Most Out of Your Remote Controlled Drone

by Richard Cochrane on June 19, 2014
DJI PhantomOne of the things that clearly differentiate experts from amateurs in drone use is the smoothness of flight. If the flight is smoother, images and video taken from the drone’s eye view will be of immensely higher quality.

The DJI Phantom has built in features that make it easy for even novices to get a smooth flight out of their helicam. The Integrated DJI Naza, Wookong (WKM) or DJI A2 controller, to a large extent, makes this possible.

Fire Up the GPS - and Check for Signals

The GPS will lock on after you start the DJI Phantom up. Wait for the red flashing LED to stop, indicating that you have a GPS lock. That GPS lock will be imperative to getting good footage.
The GPS allows you to use the advanced features on the drone, such as attitude control, to get smooth footage with minimal manual control required. This has some obvious applications. 
• Tracking shots: If you want a tracking shot, the GPS orientation can keep you on a straight flight path.
• Sports: A straight, smooth flight is a great way to get an establishing shot of the field or other venue.

You will definitely want to master the art of working with the advanced flight control features on the DJI Phantom. They’re among the most useful parts of the design and, once you have your flight abilities refined, you’ll likely still rely on them to get the smoothest and easiest shots to follow.

Consider What You’re Shooting and the Conditions

Getting the DJI Phantom up in the air is an intensely modern activity, but you’re still at the mercy of something that photographers have struggled with since the days of Niépce: light. The lighting on any given day is going to have a tremendous effect on the overall quality of your footage and your photographs. 

On overcast days, the lighting tends to be very even and shadows muted. While this may sound like a formula for bland, lifeless photos, it’s actually a good thing in some situations. On such days, it’s easy to get consistent shots and footage as the lighting doesn’t change dramatically over the course of the day.

On those days when the lighting changes dramatically, however, things can be more complex. When you’re working on such days, you’re going to face the following challenges. Be aware of the shadow of your helicam and plan the angle of your shot to avoid it appearing in the frame. Strobe effects can be seen in the shot when the sun casts a shadow of the moving blades into the camera lens, as well.
• Sunny Days: The position of the sun will be imperative. It’s easy to end up with the sun right in the camera, particularly if you’re following fast action.
• Partly Cloudy: Perhaps the most challenging lighting condition of all, partly cloudy conditions mean that the light can change tremendously between one minute and the next.

What you’re looking for in either situation is consistency. As you get better with the DJI Phantom and your image recording equipment, you’ll see better results. Remember that you can always edit your footage or photography to increase consistency, as well. Today’s digital image processing is incredibly powerful and flexible and you’ll want to take advantage of all that it has to offer.

Inclement Conditions

Just as is the case with lighting, photographers and cinematographers have been struggling for decades with weather. Rain gear for cameras can get sophisticated and expensive, but you can also improvise in some cases.

Obviously, weather can change quickly. If you’re going out shooting on a sunny day, make sure you have your rain equipment, even if rain isn’t in the forecast. We do not recommend flying your helicam in the rain, however. It’s not only bad for the electronics, but also causes spots from the rain to appear on the lens of the moving camera. It’s always best to wait it out.

It’s easy to put it off a flight you’re doing certain types of shots. You might be able to get a tracking shot of a city over and over again, but you’re only going to get one chance to shoot an outdoor sport event, a graduation and other types of events that only happen once.

Nonetheless, flying in the rain is a bad idea.

Talk to Experts at DJI and your Dealer

Just as is the case with your videography and photography skills, you will benefit from talking to more experienced pilots about how to get the most out of your DJI Phantom. 

One really effective way to do this is to make notes when you’re using your Phantom for the first few times. Write down what vexes you and what works for you. If you have questions about why something does or doesn’t work, you’ll know what to ask when you have access to someone with a great deal of experience.

Between being ready for the weather, knowing the lighting and learning the automated flight features, your DJI Phantom drone will provide you with an unmatched photography and videography platform.



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