Professionals who specialize in aerial photography are able to take the best digital photography from the air because they shoot from small planes or helicopters. Their windows or doors can be opened, providing the pro with a much wider view and no obstruction from glass. You can come close to duplicating some of those aerial photos from the window seat of a commercial airline flight, although it’s unlikely the pilot or attendant will allow you to open a window or door.
This PhotographyTalk.com article presents a few of the tips and techniques to capture digital photos of the world below and sunrises, sunsets and clouds from a totally different perspective.
Don’t Touch the Glass.
You might think that placing your camera lens against the glass of the window would steady your shot and eliminate reflections. Just the opposite is true. As soon as the lens is touching the window, it becomes part of the plane, so all of the vibrations and movements are transferred to the lens and camera. This will actually cause blurry pictures.
The best solution is to use a DLSR camera, with a separate lens that accepts a lens hood. That will help to control any flare or reflections. Next, place the hood as close to the window as possible, but don’t touch it. Then read and practice the techniques in the PhotographyTalk.com article, Beginner Photography—Steady Your Camera for Sharper Pictures. Yes, your body is also a “part” of the plane, but your body is not as rigid as the window, so if you steady your camera correctly, you can damper most of the plane’s vibrations and movements that move through your body. If you’re not shooting aerial digital photos with a DSLR camera or if you don’t have a lens hood, then create a “hood” with your hand to reduce reflections.
Use Manual Focus.
The auto-focus mode on your camera has limits, especially when it’s trying to focus on the subject matter through two or three panes of glass that are probably also scratched. It’s best to rely on your eye and brain and focus the camera manually.
Shoot at a Lower Altitude.
If you want digital photos of the landscape below, then be ready to shoot during those short periods immediately after takeoff and as you land. The plane is more likely to bank in one direction or the other, giving you a better angle to shoot subject matter on the ground. Once you reach higher altitudes, ice and/or condensation will start to gather on the windows, obstructing your view even more. Even if you have a clear view at 35,000 feet, it’s difficult to take digital photos that show anything distinctively on the ground.
Your Flash Doesn’t Help.
Even if you were shooting through an open window like the aerial photography pros, a flash would have no affect on your subject matter, since it’s too far from the camera. As you’ve probably learned on more than one occasion, if you try to use your flash when shooting through glass, then you only cause even more reflections.
Practice Air Travel and Photography Etiquette.
If you weren’t assigned a window seat or your fellow passenger is not willing to change seats, then your opportunities to shoot digital photos from an airplane are very limited. You will quickly become a nuisance and cause yourself more serious trouble if you’re moving through the cabin trying to shoot pictures over or around the other passengers. You may discover interesting pictures to take in the cabin, such as when the low light of a sunset bathes the interior. Remember, some people don’t want their pictures taken. Learn more about how to ask permission in the PhotographyTalk.com article, Portrait Photography—Ask Before You Shoot.