Aerial Photography:
Questions and Answers

By John Bahu

Based in San Diego, California, John has been a professional scenic photographer since 1995. Along with postcard photographer James Blank, John operates San Diego Scenics

Also read James Blanks tips for Aerial Photography.

Here are some questions and answers that may help you get started in aerial photography.

When is the best time to do aerial photography?

On the days with the clearest weather conditions and unlimited visibility.

What type of camera do you need?

Any SLR camera, either film or, will work out fine.

What type of lenses should you use?

A zoom lens is the most ideal, but may not give you the best image quality. A fixed lens with a focal length of 28mm, 35mm, or 50mm will give you the most shooting options If it is your intent to do landscape aerial photography at altitudes 500 feet or below. If you plan on shooting at altitudes above 500 feet then you may need a lens with a focal length of at least 105mm to as much as 300mm.

What is the best aerial platform to shoot from?

A helicopter is probably your best choice and you have many options; a small two seater,like an R-22 is the most economical, but not the most stable and a Jetranger is more stable, but more expensive. They range in price from $250/hr. to over $1,000/hr. A small fixed wing plane is the most economical, like a Cessna, but you are limited to higher altitudes and can only orbit in circles. They start at about $50/hr. for a two-seater.

What type of film should you use?

A slow speed film, ISO 50 or ISO 100 is best for daytime aerial photography. Fuji Velvia and Kodak VS are probably the best brands.

What are the best camera settings?

A fast shutter speed of at least 1/500 sec. and a large aperature.

What are some shooting techniques and tips?

1. Bracket your shots.
2. Keep the horizon level.
3. Use Autofocus if shooting below 500 feet and use manual focus(on infinity setting) if shooting above 500 feet.

For more, read James Blank’s photo tips on Aerial Photography

Copyright 2007 James Blank for Photo Tour Books, Inc. Written for PhotoSecrets. You may reproduce this article for personal, educational, non-commercial and non-Internet use, such as in a local photo club newsletter or school project. No Internet publishing is permitted. For commercial use, please email Andrew Hudson for permission.



Reply by Daniel

September 4, 2014

Thanks for posting this Qs and As article John. In response to your questions, the best way to have an aerial photography is when you are licensed to do with this matters, you have the appropriate tools and if you love what you’re doing. Of course climate should be based also to this to avoid further errors. I prefer using drones as it can be remotely controlled and can capture any settings which are out of reach by helicopters/planes. This will be able to help you capture an aerial photo in low altitude. I hope I answered some of your questions, I’m always open for conversations though. Kudos to you John!

Daniel - TerraServer

Reply by Caleb Howell

December 1, 2012

I know when to shoot such as morning vs evening but what about knowing when to take shots when the shadows isnt so large?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

December 3, 2012


Hi Caleb,

The time of day affects several factors, such as color, form, shadows, etc. Midday has a bluer, less saturated color; less form; but less shadows. It’s your choice on what type of photo you want.

Best wishes,


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