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How do I Become an Aerial Photographer?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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To become an aerial photographer you should begin by having the equipment you will need, as well as an eye for spatial and visual composition. While you do not need to take classes in photography to become an aerial photographer, it can certainly make it easier for you to get much of the basic knowledge you will need for this career. Basically, you will want to have a good quality camera or two, a few lenses for different conditions, and the ability to work in airplanes or helicopters while remaining calm and finding attractive visual elements for your photographs.

A good deal of aerial photography is taken for real estate companies and architects, both often looking to better showcase their work or opportunities for realty investments. Many buildings and plots of land are best showcased when viewed from the air, especially for land or structures that are enhanced by the surrounding environment. To become an aerial photographer, you should be able to capture landscapes from the air in a way that makes the area seem more attractive and showcases the best aspects of a region.

Purchasing a good camera or two, as well as a few lenses, is an excellent place to start as you work to become an aerial photographer. The nature of aerial photography is such that you will typically be working either from airplanes or helicopters. Both types of vehicle have strengths and weaknesses that you will want to know how to take advantage of and compensate for. One of the first things you should consider is that airplanes and helicopters both vibrate a good deal during operation, which can lead to issues with motion blur in photographs taken from such vehicles.

A good camera that you can adjust to a high shutter speed, around 1/500th or 1/750th of a second should be sufficient to just about eliminate motion blur in your pictures. Most high quality, digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras will allow you to increase the shutter speed to this level, as well as some digital compact cameras as well. Digital cameras can often help you become an aerial photographer since they allow you to shoot dozens or hundreds of images and later select the best ones. You will also want a couple lenses to help you deal with the fact that you will likely be about 1,000 feet (about 305 meters) above what you are shooting in an airplane, or around 300 feet (just over 91 meters) when in a helicopter.

Of course, once you have the equipment you will need to become an aerial photographer, you will have to actually get up in the air and take some pictures. If you are fortunate, then you may know someone with a pilot’s license and an airplane or helicopter who can take you up for a low cost. Otherwise you may be able to hire a pilot to take you in a plane or helicopter and charge you per day, though this can be expensive. If you are operating in the United States, then you may also want to consider joining a professional group such as the Professional Aerial Photographers Association for more information and opportunities for getting started.

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