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In the late 90’s digital cameras first appeared on the market and were extremely expensive. My first digital camera was a 2MP Nikon and 16 years later I have a Nikon 24MP DSLR with a high speed flash. Not long after getting my first camera I started using Adobe Photoshop for restoring old photographs. Around 5 years ago I started doing real estate photography and videography in Columbus GA and Harris County GA. The photo quality back then was rather amateur compared to the quality of photography I’m doing today. I have to say the photo quality and detail of my Nikon 24MP DSLR is quite good but the saturation, contrast, exposure, shadows, color, black and white balance is not perfect.
Approximately 10 months ago I purchased a DJI Phantom 4 advanced and after the initial drone pilot learning curve, started doing real estate aerial photography and videography. This drone has a 4K camera and the quality is quite amazing. Obviously shooting photos outside as opposed to indoors gives you much better photos because of the natural lighting from the sun. If you are shooting real estate photography inside of homes, make sure you have a good speed flash because lighting is very important. There are many variables to keep in mind when you are shooting outdoor drone pilot aerial photography and this article will help you improve your skills.
In my opinion the best drone on the market for shooting drone pilot aerial photography is the Phantom 4 drone mainly because of the excellent 4K camera it has. It includes most of the functions found on your DSLR including manual or auto, time lapse, custom white balance, burst mode, exposure and HDR bracketing. The Phantom 4 drone has a fixed 20mm f/2.8 lens and in manual mode you just adjust the shutter speed and ISO to fine tune your exposure. During daylight flight you only need to adjust shutter speed to tune exposure. The sensor is a one inch CMOS with 20M pixels. The images can be recorded in JPEG, or DNG (Raw) in H.264 or H.265 codec. There are many drones on the market but again, my choice for the best drone pilot aerial photography is the Phantom 4.
When doing a real estate aerial photography shoot I always do some research about the property before going on site. I usually lookup the property on Google Earth and see what part of the home is facing east or west because depending on what time of the day you start shooting you always want the sun behind or directly above to avoid the drone camera directly facing the sun. If it’s a 100% sunny day, you should have some neutral density filters for your camera as this will prevent glare on various surfaces like water, trees, etc. Since the flight time is only about 25 minutes on a full charged battery, bring some extra batteries. The Phantom 4 drone only comes with a 16GB micro SD memory card so I suggest buying a couple of 32GB or 64GB SD memory cards.
For those drone pilot aerial photographers shooting in Columbus GA you will have to get permission from DJI because all of Columbus GA up to highway 315 is a no fly zone due to the city being in close proximity to Fort Benning GA. You will have to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your drone serial number, property latitude and longitude location along with your associated email on your DJI login account. It usually takes one to three days for DJI to grant you to fly in the area you requested. Unfortunately I didn’t know this before I purchased my Phantom 4 drone and it is a pain. Later I found out if I had purchased the MI drone, I would not have to go through this painful process of getting flight permission from DJI.
As mentioned earlier in this article, most digital photos from DSLR or drones don’t have perfect saturation, contrast, shadows, color, black and white balance so I recommend using Adobe Photoshop or similar software to enhance your real estate drone pilot aerial photos. Today HDR (high dynamic range) photos is very popular and improve digital image quality so make sure your software has this function. Adobe Lightroom is another software program for enhancing digital images but I don’t know if it has the HDR feature. Adobe Photoshop is the one I use and I believe the new version has the HDR function. This new technology gives you better clarity in highligts and shadows by utilizing higher contrast, brighter images and vivid colors.
HDR aerial photo technology is actually a single burst of images taken at different exposure levels and then processed together with software to create a better image. HDR aerial photography works best with no moving objects on landscapes so try to shoot something that isn’t going to move drastically in a period of 5 to 9 seconds. Since JPEG image format uses a large compression algorithm to decrease file size this results in a loss of image details so I recommend shooting your drone pilot aerial photography in RAW format if your micro SD memory card is large enough to handle these large image files. I recommend buying a class 6 or or 10 micro SD memory card because these have faster write speeds which will reduce the time it takes for your camera to store RAW images.
Real Estate drone pilot aerial photography is in the infancy stage however more real estate agents are using this technology to showcase their property for sale even though it’s an extra added expensive for their budget. From my experience higher priced homes seem to be utilizing aerial photography since the agent gets more money from the sale of the home. Large tracts of land also are using more aerial photography since photos taken from ground level isn’t going to show the scale and landscape of the property.