Aerial Photography Tips Optimum Camera Settings

So far in this aerial photography ideas collection, we’ve talked about how to get airborne (Aerial Photography Part 1) and some of the tools finest suited to aerial images (Aerial Photography Part 2). And we’ve mentioned planning your journey. Next, we are going to look at some digital camera settings that work best for aerial images.

The beautiful colors and patterns of the panorama are yours to be had when photographing from excessive above. The lowest ISO setting your digicam offers helps capture fantastic element.Set Up Your Camera to Take the Pictures

Every journey is totally different – objectives, terrain, and weather all change from one flight to another, and typically even inside a flight. This is particularly true with climate, which may change inside seconds. You solely have one light source with which to work, the solar, and climate can radically alter your relationship with that mild source.

The settings you thought have been going to work best simply don’t anymore, and it could occur instantly, even inside a single image!

Here’s an instance of why figuring out your camera intimately will pay huge dividends. I was downtown just lately, had my DSLR with me – turned off. I heard a familiar noise and thought, “Here comes a photo-opportunity.” I whipped the digicam around, turned it on, and quickly set the aperture and shutter speed. I zoomed and framed – had exactly sufficient time to crank out one picture. One second later, he was gone.

This is why I suggest knowing your digital camera intimately. You don’t wish to discover ways to change settings whereas flying. It needs to be second nature.

We are very conversant in the relationships amongst shutter speed, aperture and ISO sensitivity, so I won’t go into these details right here. Instead, here are some pointers for fundamental settings that I have discovered to be very profitable for the majority of aerial work:

Aerial Photography Tips – ISO Settings
Using the bottom ISO setting obtainable along with your equipment helps to make sure the maximum decision of your image. Aerial photography is all about decision, so digital “noise” (like movie grain) is the bane of our craft. And steer away from utilizing digital ISO settings below the bottom rated offered by your camera.

For example, in case your lowest rated setting is ISO 200, don’t use the “LO” setting to scale back the effective velocity to ISO 50 or 100. All you might be doing is clipping useful pixel information out of your image.

It’s all about resolution!

Shutter Speed: The Faster the Better

There are a couple of factors that can impact image sharpness. One is aircraft vibration, the other is the pace at which you may be flying over the bottom. In Civil Air Patrol, our commonplace airspeed for aerial images is ninety knots (about 105 mph).

At that pace, you are transferring over the ground at one hundred fifty per second. Faster shutter speeds assist reduce camera “shakes” and blurring from velocity. For finest outcomes, I recommend no longer than 1/500, 1/1000 or even greater is better but. Of course, how fast you’ll find a way to journey your shutter and still get good contrast and detail range is decided by the quality of light out of your single supply – which again is dependent upon the climate.


As I mentioned in Part 2, each lens has its own “sweet spot” for optimum sharpness. We know aperture impacts depth of field. Unlike ground-based photography, depth of field is nearly a non-issue, since we’re focusing almost to infinity. Don’t search for “bokeh” effects in your aerial images! So, set your aperture on the most sharpness setting for the lens, and concentrate on shutter pace and framing your composition.

Auto or Manual?

Here we are able to get into some serious debate. Some of us are merely not comfy with full handbook (where you management shutter pace, aperture and ISO), and that’s O.K. Just as a result of I prefer guide doesn’t mean you must be forced to make use of it.

If you will use a setting aside from full handbook, I suggest using Shutter Priority with a given ISO setting to ensure the digital camera doesn’t drop you below 1/500 (which may end up in blurry pictures).


If you’re using full guide, you aren’t metering at all. You are telling the digicam what publicity settings to make use of. If you would possibly be using something other than full handbook (shutter precedence, for example), you will rely on the camera to do the metering for you.

In this case, I suggest utilizing Center-Weighted Average (or the equal for your camera) since you may be capturing a reasonably broad expanse of earth. A stray cloud, which casts a shadow upon the bottom, can upset the metering apple-cart in case you are using spot mode. Center-weighted common can help stability things out.

aerial photography ideas – A stray cloud can simply fool your camera’s metering system if you’re in Spot Mode.
It also can radically alter the colour steadiness of your panorama.
It’s just all part of the difficult adventures of aerial photography.


When over water, the terrain is flat and featureless. This makes it very troublesome for the camera’s auto-focus to work correctly, so having a subject on the water on which to focus would make for a extra appealing image.

Achieving an affordable white steadiness could be tough in aerial photography if you let the digital camera do it for you.

Modern digital cameras have a extremely neat function referred to as auto-focus. This is a superb device for photographers with failing eyesight like me.

But the camera’s auto-focusing mechanism could be fooled by the terrain you’re photographing. If the terrain is flat and featureless (water, desert, hazy landscapes), there is little for the mechanism to latch onto, so the focusing motor will continue to “hunt” and never lock on.

There are a couple of ways round this. First, you’ll be able to swap to guide focus in case your camera is so geared up and do it the old school method. Or you can use auto-focus to lock onto a known point in your viewfinder and interact the focus-lock – you understand your digicam settings intimately, right?.

JPG or RAW Files?

There is all the time much debate about which file format to make use of. The brief reply is – it relies upon. If you’re comfy in coping with RAW information and have the software program needed to work with them, I at all times advise working in RAW. Why? Well, there are a few reasons…..

First, RAW pictures always include the utmost amount of element that the digital camera is able to capturing. JPG is a compressed format, so in case you are starting with a JPG file, you’ll lose some definition.

Whether it’s enough loss to be of concern is decided by what you propose to do with the photographs. If you are taking the photographs for purely private, rather than industrial, reasons, it may not matter. If you are working commercial, as I typically do, than reaching most resolution can be a deciding issue.

Another reason to start with RAW files is restricted to digital cameras (as opposed to film). With digital photography, we’ve to be concerned with white balance. RAW files may be easily adjusted for white steadiness, whereas JPG is notoriously troublesome to change in post-processing.

Most digital cameras – DSLR and point-and-shoot alike – have quite so much of “scene” modes to accommodate completely different qualities of light, corresponding to cloudy, shade, direct daylight, and so on. Remember, you’ve only one gentle supply. Anything that comes between it and your landscape, like clouds, haze or flocks of birds, can change the white stability.

I recommend not utilizing the AUTO setting for white balance because of the risk of rapidly altering climate situations. The camera’s balancing mechanism just might not work the way you think it ought to. The solution to this drawback is shoot-and-observe. That is, take the image, immediately play it back on the camera’s monitor and make these quick changes as wanted.

In Part four, we will talk about how to handle the digicam in the aircraft for one of the best aerial photography outcomes. And we’ll take a glance at some post-processing techniques that can remove the necessity for these resolution-busting filters.

Welcome Home!

Until subsequent time, happy flying and don’t overlook to view the relaxation of my aerial images tips sequence of articles.

by Allen Moore
All textual content & pictures: © 2013 Allen Moore. All rights reserved.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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