What Does Joanna Steidle’s Process of Editing Drone Photos Look Like?

TDW talk with Joanna Steidle about her extensive work, her involvement with Women Who Drone, editing drone photos, and more current topics!

  • Meet Joanna Steidle and check out some of her most notable work milestones.

  • Find out how she edits her drone images and drone image editing services she uses.

  • Read more tips and tricks from an experienced drone pilot, artist, and content creator.

Well-edited and professional-looking drone photos are easy to spot. They make us double tap on Instagram, make our jaws drop when we see them in person hung on a wall in a gallery or someone’s home. Moreover, editing can be a hard process, but if you ask any drone pilot, it’s totally worthwhile.

About the importance of editing drone photos, how you can do it, and the important aspects to watch out for, we talked with a drone photographer who has been doing it professionally and with great care and attention to detail. And her name is Joanna L. Steidle.

Joanna is a 49-year-old drone pilot, artist, and content creator from Southampton, New York in the US. She told us that besides flying drones, we can find her enjoying swimming and gardening. Joanna comes from a well-established drone industry. It’s true that the drone industry in the US is on the rise with more and more people purchasing drones for professional and recreational purposes.

Joanna is also a Women Who Drone Ambassador and a moderator/group expert of DJI’s official Facebook group. Interestingly enough, she was the first female drone pilot who has been given this title in the DJI group. Speaking of firsts, she was the first female drone pilot who got a certificate to fly a drone under FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107) on Long Island, NY back in May 2017.

However, her droning journey didn’t actually begin with this brand. In fact, she started flying a non-automated Hubsan drone back in 2015. “I learned to fly crash and rebuild before getting a DJI Phantom 3 Standard. That drone catapulted me into photography,” adds Joanna.

drone shot of lighthouse at sunset

Speaking of her beginnings, we asked her about the first best photo she was actually proud of. “The Montauk Lighthouse Lantern room was my first great shot. I got a taste of the uniqueness of perspective combined with nature’s beauty,” she says.

The evolution in concept and composition is evident when you look at one of her most recent favorite shots ‘Two Trees Lane’ which she took in Bridgehampton. “Years of working on my editing skills really help this photo come alive.”

A Peek at Joanna’s Portfolio and Work

TDW: Which drone does Joanna use for taking drone photos? Do you use other equipment besides drones?

J.S.: I Started with a Hubsan – a non-automated drone. Now I am flying several drones for different occasions. Further, I use DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 for photography, video, mapping, and high winds. Moreover, Mavic 2 Zoom is my go-to drone for recon, photography, and video. And, finally DJI FPV.

Read more: Top 5 affordable drones for beginners.

Also, I have the DJI Osmo Pocket 2 and just ordered a GoPro 10 for FPV drones and ground footage.

TDW: That’s an impressive fleet you got there. What is something you’ll always remember from your drone flights?

J.S.: I flew on Shinnecock Golf Course. It was early morning before the first tee time before an FAA TFR for the US Open Golf tournament. The ground security sent local police to my home. I had to explain the laws and my rights to the officers. 

editing drone photos to improve colors

So, I promised I would comply with all federal regulations and would not fly in any airspace in which the PGA had jurisdiction. They were quite happy about that and left smiling.

TDW: With your extensive experience in drone photography, which has been featured on news stations and has received numerous achievements, which five locations in the Hamptons and New York would you recommend for people to visit and fly a drone?

J.S.: Any beach is beautiful. Just be aware of authorization in the Town of East Hampton and the local airport. Additionally, back creeks of North Haven, Scallop Pond in North Sea, Farm Fields in Water Mill, and Sayer Park in Bridgehampton are definitely worth mentioning.

TDW: You are also a Women Who Drone Brand Ambassador. Congratulations on that! What is the experience like for you to be involved with such a platform? Also, how important is it in diversifying the drone industry and including more female drone pilots and professional photographers?

J.S.: Becoming a WWD Ambassador was a highlight of 2021 for me. Since that time, I have taken on three female pilots from Long Island as mentees and found teaching is quite rewarding. 

They are a support network that crosses the globe and offers help and incentives to female pilots. Criteria for Ambassadorship are strict. So, it is an honor to be included among the best in the world. 

Furthermore, I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with some exceptionally talented women in the industry and WWD is bringing more of that talent to the forefront of a male-dominated industry.

What Editing Drone Photos Looks Like for Joanna

TDW: How important photo editing is for the adequate presentation of your work? Which useful tools and software do you use? It must take a lot of time to turn a raw file into a beautiful aerial photo with an increased image quality that is ready to be sold or published on social media.

J.S.: Edits are a great thing and they’re essential. For editing aerial photographs, I like to use Adobe products. Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, and Premier Pro are fantastic. I work from a PC and have a graphic background in Photoshop. Overall, It’s a super cool photo editor.

TDW: These great tools offer plenty of options for drone photographs and videos. Which tools/features are your go-to? 

J.S.: That’s a great question. Often, I find myself using Highlights, Shadows, Black, Whites, contrast, vibrancy, texture, and exposure. On the other hand, I use dehaze and noise less frequently.

TDW: What does the post-production and editing process look like in detail for you from taking the raw photo to having the final images and uploading them online or delivering them to a client?

J.S.: As a general rule, all my drone images start in Adobe Lightroom. Then, my process of editing drone photos moves to Adobe Photoshop. Editing is uniquely dependent on the subject. 

It’s the same with videos in Premier Pro. For videos, I export specifically for the platform. I post my drone footage on YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook. So, I keep these settings in presets.

Furthermore, it’s slightly different for my clients. Firstly, I offer private links to review the content I’ve produced.

As you mentioned, some news sources were interested in my work. For them, I upload to YouTube. Afterward, I send the link to distributors, who then send me a licensing agreement.

“Be true to yourself, dip your toes into many areas of the industry to see what fits you, your abilities, and desires best. Fly safe, dream big!”

Joanna L. Steidle

TDW: You mentioned presets. Do you use ones you have previously worked on or do you download them online the easy way?

J.S.: I’ve done some one-on-one tutorials with superstar photographers who have graciously provided me with some great presets. 

I found great value in taking tutorials with Andy Leclerc, Solly Levi and the DJI Photo Academy with Randy Jay Braun and Stacy M. Garlington. It is important to feed on others’ experiences and give back to new

Also, Michael Shainblum has some good ones that can be useful for aerial photos. For FPV videos, Matt Johnson’s stabilizing presets are a must.

top down drone shot as a result of editing drone photos

TDW: Are there some camera settings and adjustments drone photographers should take care of before flying and editing drone photos?

J.S.: My advice to get the best results is to always keep the ISO at 100 for aerial images. That is unless you are doing drone shots at night.

On the other hand, for videos and cinematic shooting, I typically prefer a lower frame rate. But, you also follow the 180-degree rule, and manually set the shutter to 1/2x the frame rate. 

So, if you’re shooting 24fps 1/50, 30fps 1/60, 60fps 1/120, and if intending 60fps for slow motion, go 90 degrees and do 1/250. That way the slowed frames won’t be quite as blurred. 

The problem is, in daylight even at ISO 100 (and a fixed aperture of 2.8), 1/60 is way too overexposed. So, that’s where the ND filters like ND4, ND8, and ND16 come in. For instance, ND32 is a popular four-pack, with ND16 and ND8 typically used during moderate to bright days.

Last-Minute Tips for Editing Drone Photos

TDW: It’s time for some last-minute tips. What are the important aspects our readers and drone photographers have to consider when it comes to aerial photography based on the lessons you’ve learned yourself?

J.S.: Be patient with yourself, there is a lot to learn, but never forget safety always comes first. Also, don’t be shy about reaching out for help. I developed a network of some of the brightest minds in the industry and I now know where to go for accurate up-to-date information.

TDW: What’s next for you professionally?

J.S.: I just started FPV-ing, as it is the latest craze in video production and requires a tremendous amount of skill and focus, which I thrive on! 

Did you know that drone racing is a cool way to start FPV-ing? Read more: Is drone racing a sport?

Also, I see more teaching in my future. There is something very rewarding about watching someone get so excited about learning to fly and capture aerial shots. Kim Players of Master Your Drone is a true inspiration in that department.

It’s always a pleasure to talk with such an inspiring drone pilot like Joanna. We, at The Drones World, would whole-heartedly like to thank her for her time and insight into her techniques of editing drone photos as well as her tips and tricks.

The fact that she is a trailblazer for female drone pilots deserves special applause. We encourage and strongly advocate for more women in the drone industry.

To find out more about her and her portfolio of drone photography, check out her website and social media profiles.

How do you edit your drone images? Please share with us your experience in the comments!

All photos featured in this blog post belong to Joanna L. Steidle.


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