How To Take Great Aerial Photos

Mauna Loa Helicopters allows novices and budding photographers to charter a helicopter for aerial photography. And what better landscape to shoot from the air? Whether it’s the snow-capped peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the verdant valleys along the Hamakua Coast, the stunning color and violence of erupting Kilauea Volcano, or the breathtaking perfection of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast, you’ll find some of the most memorable scenery on earth passing beneath you.

How To Take Great Aerial Photos
How To Take Great Aerial Photos
How To Take Great Aerial Photos

So you’ve made your reservation and today the weather is perfect.  The helicopter is ready and your pilot is eager to get started.  If you’re like many people, you’d like to take home some great aerial photos of this memorable event.  Whether you’re using a point-and-shoot camera or high end equipment with interchangeable lenses, there are some basic things to consider when shooting from a helicopter.

First, know your camera.  Although a helicopter generally flies slower than an airplane, things still happen fast once you’re airborne, so it pays to be familiar with your camera to avoid missing a terrific shot.  You should be able to switch from telephoto to wide angle without much fuss, to turn the flash on and off, and to adjust the shutter speed and/or aperture, if your camera allows.

You may want to shoot some images before you even get in the aircraft.  Follow your pilot as he does the preflight and see what angles and composition work best for the situation.  Ask your pilot to reciprocate and take a few shots of you seated in the aircraft.  Generally, he or she will be happy to oblige if time permits.

Once you’re airborne, you’ll have the aircraft vibration and motion to contend with as well as the wind coming through the open door.  A higher shutter or “film” speed setting and a wider angle on your lens can help minimize this.  Also, it’s never a bad idea to brace your arms against your chest while shooting to help reduce camera movement.

If your camera accepts filters, use a skylight filter to help reduce any haze that may be present, and a polarized filter to bring out the color of the sky.   If you see something of interest, ask your pilot to circle the area to allow you to shoot from different angles, comparing how the light plays off your subject.

Digital cameras offer the luxury of being able to take hundreds of images without changing disks.  Take advantage of this and shoot lots of photos.  Photographers for National Geographic magazine routinely shoot thousands of images for one pictorial, and these men and women are some of the most talented shutterbugs on the planet.  So take a cue from the pros and fire away.  You can edit the so-so shots later, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to have many good shots from which to choose.

With a little planning and preparation, you can return home with some stunning aerial photos of one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

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