What is FPS and why does it matter for drone videography?

Operating a drone can require pilots to learn what seems like an alphabet soup of new acronyms and phrases. The FAA (there’s one already!) requires pilots to learn flight rules similar to those required of commercial airline pilots before they will grant Part 107 certification. And then there’s the technology. You will often see the term FPS frequently come up when researching drones and drone models. FPS stands for frames per second, a critical factor in determining the quality and fluidity of captured footage. Understanding FPS and why it’s important can significantly enhance the quality of your drone photography and videography output. So, what is FPS, and how can you optimize your settings for the best results?

Understanding FPS


FPS, or frames per second, refers to the number of individual frames or images that are displayed or captured in one second of video. For example, a video recorded at 30 FPS means that 30 distinct frames are shown every second. Common FPS rates found with DJI drones include 30, 60, and 120 FPS, each serving different purposes and producing varied visual effects.

  • 30 FPS: Standard for television broadcasts and general video recording, providing smooth and natural motion.
  • 60 FPS: Popular for busy or fast-moving scenes and sports, delivering even smoother motion and clarity.
  • 120 FPS and above: Used for slow-motion effects, allowing for dramatic playback of fast actions.


For perspective, the footage for this video of St. Cecilia’s Parish, in Boston, MA, was captured using a DJI Phantom 4 at 60 FPS:


Why FPS Matters in Drone Photography


As a freelance drone videographer, understanding the impact of FPS on your footage is crucial. For example, shooting at 60 FPS or higher is essential when capturing dynamic scenes like a high school football game or vehicles in motion. This higher frame rate ensures each movement is smooth and detailed, which is perfect for creating captivating slow-motion effects during post-production. On the other hand, 30 FPS is often sufficient for more static or cinematic shots, such as panoramic landscape views or architectural photography. These lower frame rates not only give your footage a more movie-like quality but also reduce the amount of storage needed, making the editing process more manageable. Editing large files can slow your computer down and sometimes force you into an unplanned upgrade. Balancing your FPS settings based on the subject and desired outcome will significantly enhance the quality and professionalism of your final video projects.

  1. Smoothness of Motion: Higher FPS rates capture more frames per second, resulting in smoother motion. This is particularly important for drone photography as drones often capture fast-moving scenes or track moving subjects. Higher FPS ensures that the motion appears fluid and less jerky, a valuable attribute of drone footage, in particular.
  2. Detail and Clarity: Higher FPS can also enhance the clarity of footage, especially during high-speed movements. More frames mean more data is captured, which can result in better detail and less motion blur. This is crucial when shooting dynamic scenes or objects in motion, such as cars, animals, or sporting events.
  3. Flexibility in Post-Production: Videos shot at higher FPS can be slowed down in post-production to create stunning slow-motion effects without losing quality. This is valuable for emphasizing particular moments, adding dramatic flair, or analyzing fast actions in detail.
  4. Cinematic Quality: Different FPS settings can evoke different emotions and aesthetics. For instance, 30 FPS is commonly used in movies to give a film-like quality, whereas 60 FPS can make the footage feel more lifelike and immersive. Choosing the right FPS can set the tone and style of your drone footage.


Optimizing FPS for Drone Photography


  • Assess the Scene – Consider what you are filming. For static landscapes, real estate, or slow-moving subjects, 30 FPS may be sufficient. For action scenes, wildlife, or fast-moving objects, opt for 60 FPS or higher to capture smooth, detailed footage.
  • Lighting Conditions –  Higher FPS requires more light. In low-light conditions, using a lower FPS can help ensure each frame has enough exposure. If you need to shoot at a higher FPS in low light, you may need to adjust other settings like ISO or aperture to compensate.
  • Storage and Processing Power –  Higher FPS videos require more storage space and more powerful processing capabilities. Ensure your drone and editing setup can handle the increased data load. Be mindful of your storage capacity and battery life when shooting at higher FPS.
  • Final Output –  So this is all well and good, but what does your customer want? Consider the platform where your footage will be displayed. If it’s for social media, 30 FPS might be more than enough. For professional work, including broadcast or cinematic projects, or if you tend to fly really fast, higher FPS might be necessary to meet quality standards.


More Tips for Capturing Excellent Footage

We hope you found this FPS explainer helpful. If you’re looking for cinematic camera moves or other drone tutorials, check out our other articles below:

5 Best Simple & Easy Cinematic Drone Shots

How To Take Great Drone Photos – A Brief Tutorial

Bring Your Drone Photos to Life – Drone Cinemagraphs Tutorial

How to Take Long Exposure Photos Using DJI Drones

How To Edit Drone Photos To Make Them Pop


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About the Author

Adam Shore

Adam is a Central Florida alum who recently left the Orlando area to relocate to Denver, where he enjoys shooting aerial photography of the Rocky Mountains. And to ski. He is a member of the AMA and was been a drone photographer since the early days of the industry. Follow him @dronegenuity.