Aerial Photography Tips & Tricks
Aerial photography combines the passion for photography with the love for flying. Taking pictures from an aircraft is amazing. You have a unique perspective. The proportions are different, the colors are somehow different, and you feel universal and complete. Aerial photography is probably the most exciting photo session you could have. This doesn’t mean it’s easy. A moving aircraft is not the perfect environment for a sharp photograph, but there are some simple tips which can help you.
How to find the best subjects
Book a photo session with an ultralight airplane. It will fly low enough to give you a good perspective. It doesn’t have the speed of a commercial flight either. Besides, ultralight pilots know all the best places. They can give you the angle you need by flying controlled over the scenery. Ultralight planes usually have just two places, so nobody will distract you from work. Discuss the route and the landmarks you want to see. Pilots are ready to show you all the pretty places. The only disadvantage of this type of flight is that an ultralight plane cannot fly after sunset.
You can also book a helicopter or a hot air balloon. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but you always have to think want kind of photography you want to do. If you want adventure, a helicopter will suit you best. If you want a romantic view over an old city, a hot air balloon is what you need.
The most appropriate subject for aerial photography is landscape. Seen from above, the landscape shows all its geometrical features. Seasons are great explored from above. Fields and forests, mountains and meadows, they all have their colors and patterns. Even villages and cities look better from above. Use color enhancing filters to make them even more colorful. If you have strong contrast you can do black and white compositions, but most of the times aerial photography looks better in colors.
How to get sharp pictures
There are many sudden movements when you take pictures from the air. Still, with some practice, you can deliver sharp images. The first thing you need to keep in mind is to use a fast shutter speed. Don’t forget that you are moving with more than 100 km/h. Then you need to focus on distant subjects. Use wide lenses to frame the entire landscape. If you have a really good pilot or you are in a hot air balloon, you can try doing a panorama.
Because there are many chances to photograph through a window, don’t forget to use a circular polarizing filter. It will help you remove any reflection. Also, if you take pictures in the middle of the day, you may want to use a neutral gradient filter. It will help you achieve the best exposure both for the sky and for the land.
You should also consider using manual focus mode. Using automatic focus mode will allow the camera to take decisions and in difficult conditions, they may not be the good ones. You have really close objects (the window, the door etc.) and really far subjects (the landscape, birds, other planes etc.). If you are not sure that the camera will focus on what’s interesting for you, it’s better to use the manual focus mode.
General composition rules
Especially for landscape photography, rule of thirds is a must. Be careful with the horizon line. You don’t want it to be crooked. Follow lines and diagonals, include shapes, patterns, and textures. Also, pay attention to image weight. Photographs need to be balanced. Even if it’s beautiful up there, think at what you want to convey to your viewers. There is a story in every photograph.
Aerial photography can be expensive, but it is also rewarding. First of all, it gives you a different perspective on things. Secondly, it lets you play with geometry and proportions, with curves and textures. Last but not the least, it gives you a panoramic view which fill your heart and your memory card.