Capturing Drone Light Shows

7th July, 2024
A man uses his android phone to film capture a drone light show in a stadium

Drone light shows blend technology and creativity to paint the night sky with intricate patterns and vibrant colours. Photographing these dazzling displays requires special preparation to capture the interplay of light and movement against the dark sky, much like photographing the night sky or the moon.

Tips for Smartphone Photography

1. Enable Night Mode: On newer iPhones (iPhone 11 and later) and most Android phones, Night Mode can greatly enhance low-light photos. Your phone’s camera will automatically activate Night Mode in dim conditions. Be sure to hold your phone steady for the best results.

2. Use a Tripod: To prevent blurry images, use a tripod or place your phone on a stable surface. This is crucial for low-light shooting.

3. Adjust Exposure: Tap the screen to focus, then swipe up or down to adjust exposure. Increasing the exposure will brighten the drones’ lights against the dark sky.

4. Utilise Burst Mode: Capture the peak moments of the show by using Burst Mode. Hold the shutter button to take a series of photos in rapid succession, allowing you to select the best shot later.

5. Experiment with Long Exposure Apps: Consider third-party apps for long exposure photography. These apps can capture light trails, adding a dramatic effect to your drone show images.

A man uses his iPhone to photograph a drone light show in the shape of a swirl in the sky

Professional Camera Settings

1. Shutter Speed: For clear images, use a fast shutter speed of 1/125 second or higher. To capture light trails, use a slower speed between 1/15 to 1/60 second, especially effective for geometric shapes like spheres.

2. Aperture: A wider aperture (f/2.8 to f/4) allows more light to reach the sensor, making the drones’ lights more vivid against the dark sky. This helps capture the ambient glow around the drones.

3. ISO: Begin with an ISO setting around 400 to reduce noise. Adjust based on the brightness of the drones and your shutter speed.

4. Focus: Use manual focus and set it to infinity or focus on a distant light source. This ensures sharp images of the drones throughout the show.

5. Colour Correction: In post-processing, adjust the white balance and saturation to match the colours you saw during the show. Often, lights that appeared white might have a purple tint in photos, requiring correction to reflect their true colour.

6. Filters: Using camera filters with effects such as starburst, low focus or diffusion can simulate the bright drone light effects that we see in real life.

Finally, whether you’re at a ticketed drone show or part of one of an event, don’t forget to appreciate the show in the moment. While capturing photos is fun, experiencing the performance whilst not looking through a screen is irreplaceable!

P.S – want to practice capturing a drone light show? Tickets are still available for our UK tour. We’d love to see you there!