Aerial Photography

Thanks to technology, photographing the earth and its atmospheric features is now easier than ever. Meteorologists and other scientists can now capture different perspectives of scenes through aerial photography.

Aerial photography is the heart of good photography, dating back to the 19th century when the first aerial photograph of a French village was taken.

So, are you an aerial photography enthusiast? Here are some 12 tips you could use.

#1 Be Ready and Comfortable

Aerial photography can be fun for an enthusiast but can be a daunting task. There are many things you need to do to get ready. Whether you are using drones, aircraft, rockets, or satellites, you need to have everything set. 

Before taking off, you should first assess your work tools to ascertain everything is in order. This is a vital step to ensure all your safety equipment is in place. Getting ready and comfortable not only helps you ensure you are safe but also keeps you focused on the course.

#2 Know the Timing

Knowing the right timing is crucial to getting that fantastic shot. As such, you should think about the golden hour and make sure you are ready when it comes. The pre-sunset 18:20 and the after sunrise make perfect golden hours for clean shots. Everything on the earth’s surface appears softer with color enhancements, and the images are just amazing.

#3 Choose Your Aircraft

Drones are taking over as the most advanced aerial photography options. However, if you want to feel part of the process and have some fun, aircraft is your best option. The most important thing is a clear view, and not every plane will give you that. 

You need an unobstructed view of the earth’s surface, and more so the target objects.

Shooting behind the window feels safe but will significantly undermine the image quality and sharpness. Some plane models are specifically designed for aerial photography and have the doors off to allow you to have a clear view of the landscape.

Others have windows that open from the bottom, providing a clear view. The Cessna Single Engine plane is excellent for the bottom window. The window opens to a 60-degree angle so your camera lens shoots with zero obstruction.

#4 Choose the Right Camera

The camera is a significant determinant of image quality. Manufacturers avail different models, so you need to know what’s best for the task ahead. Aerial photographs are mostly captured in motion so you need to tune the camera settings to deliver quality images even when the aircraft or drone is moving at top speeds.

If you are using a drone, there are specific cameras for drones. Aim to get such models before embarking on your course. There are options for beginner camera drones that are cheaper and professional-grade camera drones that are a bit expensive.

In any case, the critical camera features you will want to observe include:

The Resolution

The camera resolution refers to the number of pixels that its sensor can map. The resolution varies widely among cameras. Some have resolutions as low as 2 megapixels and others can go up to 50 megapixels. The resolution determines the Ground Sample Distance achievable. Therefore, if you choose a higher resolution camera, it means you get a greater GSD.

Higher megapixel cameras are preferable, although it takes a combination of factors to get a clear and sharp image. For instance, a high-resolution camera with a small sensor may not be the best since the image will be prone to diffraction effects, thus undermining the quality.

The Aperture

The aperture is the opening in the lens through which light enters the camera. It can be fixed or variable and is usually expressed in f-numbers to express the size of the opening. Cameras with fixed apertures of a lower value place target objects that are some meters away from the camera to the infinity focus. It is a useful aspect, but low-resolution cameras may not be able to distinguish points if the target is too far away.

Variable apertures are preferable since they allow you to adjust the value to achieve the appropriate lighting and sensor exposure for sharp images.

The Sensor Size

The sensors are available in multiple sizes. You can have large or small sensors depending on the resolution of your camera. The larger types work best with high-resolution cameras since they have better light-gathering abilities. For a small sensor, you may need a greater exposure time for you to get clear images.

Shutter Speed

Aerial photography images are best when taken with fast shutter speed cameras. A fast shutter helps to keep the object in focus while the aircraft is at high speed. However, you will need to compensate for the fast shutter speed with a low ISO speed.

The ISO Performance

The ISO sensitivity is the camera feature that compensates for almost all the other necessary adjustments for a sharp image. Camera adjustments are inevitable, especially if you are doing a long shoot.

For instance, when the light levels go down at the sunset magic hour, you will probably need to make a couple of them keep shooting. Also, the nature of aerial photography makes it necessary to have a fast shutter speed to avoid blurred images, which forces you to push the ISO speed low.

While playing with the ISO settings helps you end up with softer images, you may experience the pitfall of more noise when you raise the speed. However, you can opt for full-frame cameras which have better ISO performance. Going for the latest full-frame camera model gives you confidence in its ISO capability, and this renders clean shots when combined with a suitable shutter speed.

#5 Choose the Ideal Lens

Choosing your lens should be guided by the kind of images you want to shoot. You want to make the most use of the time you have in the skies, so you should have a variety of versatile lenses.

However, remember the helicopter isn’t stopping to allow you to take your shot, so ensure you can change the lenses pretty fast. There are different camera lens brands, and most of them offer similar experiences. The focal length is the everyday basis for comparing lenses, but you could think of it in terms of the field of view.

You can also go for zoom lenses since they are excellent in bringing the object to a closer focus. A zoom lens that covers between 24mm-105mm focal length is ideal for aerial photography.

The aircraft will have vibrations, and this can affect the quality of your shot. You can, however, solve this with an image stabilization lens and keep the photographs sharp.

Some cameras can have lens hoods, but they are not quite a necessity. They are never guaranteed to work properly so it’s even safer taking them off.

#6 Capture Your Objects in Burst Mode

In aerial photography, the objects pass quickly, especially if you are shooting from an aircraft or spacecraft. You could lose your target in a blink of an eye, so you need to find a way to shoot fast and capture a clean shot. The burst mode allows you to capture a ton of images at the same time. You can review them later and select the best shots.

Most cameras will allow you to set the number of images you want to capture per shot.

#7 Shoot at Different Orientations

It’s easy to forget to change your camera’s position from the excitement of being up there and admiring the landscape. You could end up with many similar images, and a viewer wouldn’t enjoy hundreds of the same shots. The primary orientations are portrait and landscape.

The vertical orientation or the portrait images are the most common but don’t forget the horizontal landscape as well. Have the purpose of your pictures in mind and determine the best orientation and take more of it. However, you can still tilt the camera to different angles and shoot as many images as possible.

#8 Safety Tether Your Equipment

Whether you are aerial shooting from a helicopter, aircraft, satellites, or drones, it’s essential to keep your equipment safe. The helicopters and planes are the most critical since equipment and parts can easily fall off.

The camera is the most delicate accessory in your hands, so consider using a neck strap to ensure it won’t fall even if you accidentally let it free. You can also have a camera bag to store the other small tools you need. However, make sure you don’t let the bag lying on the aircraft’s floor unattended. The vibrations of the plane can move it to the bottom window or open doors.

It is also important to mind your safety as much as you care about your work tools. If you are in an aircraft or helicopter with doors off, make sure you wear a seatbelt. You can bend over to achieve certain angles as you capture, but always be keen not to go overboard in your positions.

Make sure the parts you attach to the camera fit tightly. The wind is blowing against you, and your camera plus the helicopter wings are still in motion, so make sure nothing could fall.

If you are using drones, fix the cameras tightly as recommended and ensure nothing undermines the field of view. Test the drone and the camera before the final takeoff to see how it performs first.

#9 Dress for Easy Mobility

You may need to take different angles depending on the location of your target object. The cold and wind up there could force you to dress warmly, but again it can be a little challenging to take some angles while heavily dressed. You can do away with buggy clothing and look for fitting wear that still keeps you warm.

It’s necessary to have safety straps and headgear and other equipment for aerial works but ensure they all do not come in your way. Make sure the camera straps are not getting stuck to the walls of the aircraft, and that your arms can move freely.

#10 Change the Altitude

Everything on the surface looks beautiful when you are up there. Taking shots at high altitudes can be a great idea since your images reveal much more. However, sometimes you only need to come down some 500 feet to get the clear view you have been waiting to see. You can talk to your pilot if you are using a plane or helicopter to go down and you could realize a dramatic change.

Also, you can change the altitude of your drone to come closer to the surface and see whether there are improvements in the image details and sharpness. It works out perfectly, especially if you want to isolate a couple of the aspects surrounding your object.

#11 Keep Shooting

It took you an investment of time and money to be on that helicopter or get that drone a thousand feet high. Therefore, utilize the time you have for the sole purpose, shooting. It can be tempting to start reviewing your images but don’t fall for it. You will have all the time once the session comes to a close.

Also, it’s not time to admire the landscape and boats on the sea or try to locate your favorite basketball pitch. If anything, you can take another flight for that some other time. 

#12 Have Backup Memory

It can be frustrating when you can’t have any more images because the memory space is full. You can make space a top priority when choosing a camera, and go for one as high as terabytes. High-resolution photographs take up a lot of space, so no matter how large the storage space of your camera is, make sure you have a backup. You can find large SD cards that you can fix quickly and keep going.


If you got here, most probably we share a passion for photography. Did you learn something new from our aerial photography list post? We all get up to the task with the expectations of serving our clients with great images, so following these tips can be quite useful.

Feel free to add your views in the comment section and share the article for other aerial photography enthusiasts to learn.

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