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Blog Banner: Terms For Beginner Pilots


When getting into a new hobby, especially photography or film, there are a lot of new terms to learn. In order to not overwhelm you, here are a few beginner terms to help you get started. Knowing these will help you understand your drone’s settings and how to shoot higher quality content from your drone. I highly encourage you to play around with your settings to learn which weather conditions would require adjustments. Have a term you’d like to add to the list? Tell Me!

Photography & Film Terms


How open your lens is, which is going to affect how much light can get through your lens. Aperture is measured with F-stops, which are displayed as ” f ” divided by a number, like f/8. The smaller the number, the more wide open the lens is, so f/1 is a very wide opening whereas f/128 would be a very small opening for light to pass through.



This refers to how much light your sensors are exposed to. So if your photos are really bright they are overexposed to light. Likewise, if the photo is dark, it is underexposed. Your exposure is the combination of how fast your shutter closes (shutter speed) and the amount of light allowed through based on your lens aperture in that time.  Playing around with the Shutter speed and lens aperture will create different levels of exposure which can make for some unique footage.


FPS (Frames Per Second)

A number that represents how many unique images your device can capture sequentially, within a second. The higher the FPS, the more frames (unique images) the device is capturing. Capturing more frames per second will result in a smoother video with less blur or choppiness. Frames work like a cartoon flip book, where each page is the next sequence of the cartoon. The more pages in the flip book, the more smooth the animation appears. This is true for video recording as well. If you are trying to film a car speeding by, you probably won’t want to film it in a high FPS like 120 in order to catch as many frames as you can.


A support system that allows an object to remain still while the support system itself is moving. For drones, the camera is mounted onto a gimbal in order to keep the camera still regardless of the drone moving forward, back, left, right up or down. Gimbals can be 1-axis, 2-axis or 3-axis and there is quite a difference between these. A 1-axis gimbal will keep the camera still while moving forward or backward (pitch). A 2-axis gimbal is going to keep the camera still while moving the drone forward, backward, left or right (Pitch and Roll). Lastly, a 3-axis gimbal will provide support for forward, back, left, right and rotation (Pitch, Roll and Yaw).


ISO Represents the sensitivity of the sensor in your camera which will directly affect the exposure. The standard is set by the International Standards Organization, who  created the scale at which the sensitivity is set. As the sensitivity to the camera sensor is adjusted, so is the level of exposure. The ISO and exposure go hand in hand. If you are setting your ISO lower, to say 100, then your exposure to light is lower. If you raise the ISO to say 400, then your exposure goes higher as well. The ISO scale generally starts at 100 and doubles from there: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, etc. A photographer will want to adjust the ISO depending on the brightness or amount of light in their photo. Setting the ISO to the proper value will reduce the grain in the shot and create a much sharper image.


is a measurement used to show the size of the camera’s sensor One Megapixel is equal to one million pixels, so the larger the megapixel count, the higher quality the sensor is, meaning it can capture even more pixels.


ND Filters
Neutral-Density Filters. These are used to reduce the amount of light let in through the lens. ND Filters are best used on very bright days where lowering the shutter speed and lowering the aperture still results in an overexposed shot. The ND Filter is one more layer for the light to pass through, and the filter will literally filter out all wavelengths and colors of light evenly. With drones, ND filters are typically small clip on caps that go directly onto your camera lens. They are very easy to apply and remove on the go. I highly recommend purchasing a set of filters.


Noise / Grain
A visual distortion usually caused by low light conditions or improper settings for aperture and ISO. While filming in low light conditions and using incorrect settings for aperture and ISO, the footage will appear “grainy” or not very sharp. Adjusting your camera settings can help reduce the noise or grain in a shot, but in very low light conditions some drones will struggle.


Shutter Speed
The speed at which your camera’s shutter closes. The faster the shutter speed, the less light your sensor is exposed to. Adjusting the shutter speed, as well as the aperture can allow for some cool motion blur shots. If there’s too much light while adjusting these settings, you may want to add an ND Filter

Movement & Flight Terms

The forward and backward movement of the drone. Pitch up will move the drone forward, pitch down will bring the drone backward.


The side to side movement of the drone. Roll Right is moving the drone to the right, roll left will move it to the left.


Controls the up and down movement of your drone adjusting it’s height. Throttle up and your drone will go higher, lower the throttle and the drone will go lower.


Yaw / Yawing
The rotation of your drone. Yaw left would be rotating your drone in a counter clockwise rotation. Yaw right would rotate your drone in a clockwise rotation.

Feature Terms

ActiveTrack / Follow Me
Features put in to some drones that allow them to follow or track a specific object that the pilot designates. The drone will typically be told to track the object at a specific speed or height. This is great for action shots where manually flying would be difficult or too much for the pilot’s skills. It also allows for the pilot to film themselves while not having to control the drone.


Return Home
Overall pretty self explanatory, but depending on which drone you have, the feature itself will act very different. Return Home is a feature built in to some drones that allow the drone to auto-fly itself back to a designated point during a critically low battery. With some drones, a user can specifically select where this “home” point is, while some others will use the take-off spot for it’s “home” point. If your drone is equipped with Return Home features, you will want to check how it is set, and see if there is a minimum height that it can be set to fly at, and how to set the home point manually. For example, on my drone (the Mavic Pro), I have the home point set to be my remote so the drone will always fly back to where I am standing. I have also set the fly home height to about 100ft to clear any tall trees that may be around.


VPS (Visual Positioning System)
This is in some DJI drones to keep the drone at the same horizontal height, even with uneven ground. If the drone is flying at 30 feet above the ground and approaching a hill, the VPS feature will automatically adjust the height of the drone in relation to the ground changes. This feature also allows for indoor flying as the drone will recognize it’s positioning without the need for GPS.

Hey! My name is Mike Miller. I'm a drone enthusiast, self-proclaimed adventurer and web developer. Recently, I moved from the Tampa Bay area of Florida to the beautiful state of Colorado. I love to share what I am filming, learning, or have learned with fellow drone pilots. Follow the adventures @SkylineAperture on instagram. If you ever have any questions or want to say hello, send me a message! Have fun and fly safe!

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