Aerial Photography 1

© Porhec

Constructing a nice aerial photography needs some basic knowledge that I will share here:


The better lens for aerial photography is the normal lens (50mm in 35mm. photography) this is due to the fact that you are going to be far away and that an angular lens (less than 50mm) is going to show the stuff very small. The other interesting lens is a 100 mm. or even a 150mm. So the normal choice is to shoot with a zoom lens that goes from normal to a short telephoto.


Probably this is the only real use you are going to have for a UV or haze filter, yes the ones that sellers usually push to you in the photo-stores with the lame theory that they will protect your lens. I prefer a Haze filter when shooting aerials where the horizon is in frame because this little things help to make sharper the image of mountains and produce a defined and contrasted horizon line.


Don't give a crap about it, anything between the minimal f number and one stop less the biggest f number; i. e. f3.5 - f16 (for a f2 lens) is going to work because the point here is to have a fast (really fast) shutter speed. And also remember that your focus usually is going to be in the infinite or very near infinite so don't worry about focus is really hard to have an out of focus aerial image.

Shutter Speed:

Ok you need, as I have said, a fast shutter something beyond the 150/1 the more faster the better, specially is you are doing aerial photography on a helicopter because the vibrations of the rotor can tamper with your pics.

Film speed:

Use what ever works good with your de-noiser software, go to the limit of decent image quality and use that ISO, never shoot with ISO 100 if you don't have ton's of light. Why? you really need a really fast shutter.


I am not a great fan of RAW files but to do a good work with aerial photography is always useful a RAW to do several developments and then paste them in Photoshop because when you are shooting from the air, many material are highly reflectant (water masses, sand, dessert soil, snow, and yes leaves of certain trees)

Sun position:

If it's possible shoot with the sun in your back or at your left (why left?) because the shadows to the right look more nicer because the western speaking people is used to read and image just as they are used to read (from left to right) so it's nicer to see stuff..shadow...stuff...shadow, than the opposite. If you are lucky and you can shoot at sunrise or dusk try it the other way because the shadows at that times are large and produce a sort of abstract quality to things here on earth.

Shoot like a mad man

Try to shoot in burst mode and don't stop till the buffer of your camera says OUCH. Aerial photography is not about composing, checking, chimping with the histogram for 10 min. etc. Aircrafts move fast so if you loose that point of view is very probable you are not going to find it again, not even if you hired the pilot because you are not going to be able to give him the exact position on the air, and this not only include the regular right-left-far-near but higher and lower so just shoot and shoot a lot.


Lines. Aerial photography is a kind of photography that usually, if not always, happens in -above subject camera angle- so see the image as composed of lines and try to do a nice angles composition when combined with the horizontal lines you are going to find in the ground.

OK that's it for today tomorrow more tips and stuff I have learnt the hard way.

Oh and don't forget that the captain, pilot or dude that keeps the crap where you are on is the one that knows, don't irritate them or do stuff that endanger your lives. They are the pros there so hear them and be nice with them.

© Porhec

Photo credits: Hector Fernandez.

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July 21, 2009


Many thanks .. there are not too many aerial tips around. I'm about to go and buy a camera and lens for this purpose .. your advice is great.

September 11, 2007


Good read. I've never tried to do aerial photography, but I will keep your advice in mind when(if) I do so.

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