Digital Photography Tutorial Aerial photography tips
Aerial photography tips
Flying high in the air offers an incridible view of the world. However is it is surely no sinecure to capture that fantastic view in an photographic image.
Aerial photography is a world on it’s own, whether photographing from a commercial aircraft, a private plane, a balloon, a helicopter, a glider, or even radio controlled (rc) aerial photography or kite aerial photography. Aerial photography asks for an abundant amount of technique and practical considerations, but that is just a start. Without a clear topic, aesthetics and creativity your photo won’t shine.
Flaws with aerial photography
The basic photography can be learned on the ground, but there are many aspects that are specific for aerial photography.
1. A daunting problem with photographing from a small plane is vibration. When sitting in a private plane you are subject to movements and vibrations. Don’t let your arms or your camera touch the aircraft. If you touch the window or any part of the of the plane, the vibration will shake the camara and your pictures will be blurred. An image stabilizer has become a popular feature in photo cameras. By adding image stabalization, your shots improve immensly.
2. Haze is another special and big problem with aerial photography. A polarizing filter can help to improve contrast. Preferably photograph on a clear and smooth day.
3. Many plane windows are plexiglass and with heavy scratches. Shooting though the plastic results in less sharpness and reflections. When flying in a private aircraft, see if there are possibilities to shoot through an open window. Be aware that it can get cold inside. If it is not possible to shoot through an open window, shoot with the camera straight through the window, instead of at an angle. But don’t touch the window with your camera because of the vibrations.
4. When posible, switch off auto focus. Manually focus to infinity or switch to ‘landscape mode’, since the subjects on the ground are several thousand feet away. This will avoid the camera focussing on the window glass.
5. Watch for the position of the sun. Make use of shadows. Your photo will look flat if you have the sun directly behind you. The best lighting a probably the hours after sunrise and before sunset. Then the warm and low sunlight creates long shadows.
6. If you are on a commercial flight, choose your seating. First of a all a window seat is needed. And if you are too close to a wing, the view will be obscured by the wing or blurred by the engine exhaust.
7. With aerial photography holding it is even more important to hold your camera level, because often a distinct and inexorable horizon is within the frame.
8. When you are taking a photo from your own house be sure there is no rubbish in your garden. This will spoil your nice photo.
9. Don’t forget the most important: your photograph must present a clear topic, or at most a few topics. When you are flying high, the view will be very broad, and ‘everything’ will be included in the view: merely a chaotic combination of unclear miniature, undistinguishable houses of several villages, some forrest, and vague horizon, etcetera.
10. So do some selection. Show certain structures in landscape or cityscape and exclude what is not relevant. Search for a clear subject in the picture, like a tall building, a lake or colored agricultural field. The subject must be clear and big enough on the photo not to disappear in the rest. Zoom in when necessary or get closer if possible.
Aerial photography gives an unusual perspective of the world with surreal toy-towns or landscapes that can’t be seen from the ground. So there you scored one or two oddities already. But you have more oddities in your photo.
1. Show the unusual shapes of the earth.
2. Use the mystique of mist and clouds above the earth.
3. Shoot the earth with unusual colors of snow, Indian Summer, or when the sky is red at sunset.
4. Attach the camera to the wing of your the private plane, glider or ultralight aircraft, and using radio control make a picture of the aircraft itself with you in it. That gives an odd first reaction for the viewer: was someone out there hanging in the air taking the picture? Of course not, but you grab and hold the attention of the viewer.
You can take your aerial photos to the extreme:
1. Show the extreme size of mountains and the fabulous extensiveness of the landscape.
2. Use a ultra wide angle, or even a fish eye to capture even more.
3. Make a picture when your plane at a great angle, of even upside down.