Everything You Need to Know About Aerial Photography

High above the earth, a photographer points her lens towards a picturesque landscape and snaps an image. The flight plan soon dictates that the pilot makes a hard left and swings back toward the north to photograph the scene from another angle. Next up is another scouted location, and then back to the airport. This is what it looks like to be an aerial photography specialist.

What is Aerial Photography?

Aerial photography, to put it simply, involves creating images of the earth from above. Most common aerial photography platforms include helicopters, fixed-wing aircrafts such as gliders, hot air balloons, and drones. Anyone with the right camera and the right training can become an aerial photographer.

There are three types of aerial photography. A vertical photograph is created by simply pointing the lens towards the ground. The camera’s sensor and earth are relatively parallel to one another, creating a map-like view. Examples include satellite imagery, which is a type of aerial photography created miles above the surface of the earth and done remotely.

A low-oblique aerial photograph is created by tilting the camera up about 15 to 30 degrees towards the horizon. This creates a skewed view of the surface of the earth. These types of images are best produced in a helicopter or airplane. Examples of a low-oblique aerial photograph include images of cityscapes that showcase the skyline or the facade of a large building.

The final type of aerial photography is high-oblique. Like low-oblique, the camera is tilted further toward the horizon, upwards of 60 degrees. This captures a wider field of vision and oftentimes can include the horizon. An example would be a wide view of New York City showcasing the major buildings along with the rivers and horizon.

The best way to imagine the three types of aerial photography is to picture a plane in the sky. A vertical image is created by pointing the camera and lens at something immediately below the aircraft. An oblique aerial photograph is created by focusing the camera on something to the side of the aircraft. The angle of which the camera points determines whether it is a low or high oblique photograph.

Aerial Photographers: What it Takes

As an aerial photographer, the images produced are the main responsibility. Realtors often work with aerial photographers to create images highlighting a structure from above, or illustrating unique features. Creating images from an unusual vantage point is the principle behind aerial photography - this is why it is such a popular and valuable asset to many companies.

Knowing your camera inside out is the first step. There are many types out there, but it is best recommended to start with a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) or a Mirrorless camera. The key to success is knowing how to use the camera and developing a muscle memory that comes with repetition and practice.

There are many jobs and roles for an aerial photography specialist. From creating images that show trends in a forest’s growth to monitoring a wildfire or other disaster, aerial photography is without a doubt an exciting and demanding field to enter.

A Look into the Industry: Everything You Need to Know

Finding a good pilot and affordable rental is key to crafting compelling aerial photographs. While everything from helicopters to fixed-wing aircrafts, and even hot air balloons, can be used to create images, helicopters provide the easiest platform to create aerial photography due to their compact size and nearly limitless mobility.

While each platform has its own benefits and costs, the practice of aerial photography is mostly the same from one aircraft type to another. Helicopters are typically the most expensive, and fixed wings are a tad cheaper; hot air balloons, while they may be the most affordable, are hard to coordinate. Gliders are fairly flexible but extremely bare bones.

When flying in a helicopter, try to gain access to an open door and harness. When working from any motorized aircraft, there are a few things to consider: helicopters create a massive amount of vibrations, and it is important to not rest or lean against the aircraft itself. In addition, best practices include panning along with your subject to create sharp images. Airplanes produce fewer vibrations, and gliders produce next to none.

Wearing dark clothing helps reduce glare and reflections. Have a lens hood on, and keep the aperture wide open, around f/5.6 or lower, to eliminate any scratches on the window. Finally, keep your shutter speed at or above 1/750th of a second. This ensures a quick exposure and sharpness of the image. As the light fades, you can always boost the ISO to keep both the shutter speed and aperture constant.

One thing worth brushing up on is aerial photography laws. These include everything from flying the aircraft to operating a drone. In 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration banned the use of drones for real estate property - however, four years later, the FAA reversed its decision, and now drones are a key component to crafting real estate imagery. However, there are still laws governing the use of drones in cities, and especially around airports and hospitals.

The best thing a photographer can do ahead of take-off is plan and research. Prepare for your time in the air in order to maximize the potential for images - this includes spending time on Google Earth and planning for the weather. If possible, visit the ground locations ahead of time to gain a sense of what compositions can be created.

At Novajet, we provide the highest standard of information, equipment, and resources. Contact a member of our team today and let us help by addressing all your aerial photography questions as well as private jet charter enquiries.

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