air photography

Aviation photography

Aviation photography is the act of capturing images of aircraft, either in flight, or on the ground. Like other specialties in photography, aviation photography requires knowledge of special techniques and of the aircraft to be done properly. There are different types of aviation photography, including air-to-air, ground-to-air, ground-static, and remote photography. Military aviation photography, especially air to air, requires additional skills, as the photo and target aircraft often fly at velocities from 500 to 1000 knots, while under moderate to high G. The photographer also must wear a flight suit, flight boots, G-suit, flight helmet with communications system, oxygen mask and visor.

Air-to-air photography

Air-to-air photography is when images are shot with the photographer in the lead aircraft of a formation (at least two aircraft flying together). The subject aircraft is photographed while both aircraft are in flight. This allows the photographer to position the subject in specific locations and angles to get the most desirable shot. Some things that must be considered to achieve best results are lighting and background. Proper lighting is achieved through correct placement of the aircraft relative to the sun, and is accomplished flying only at certain times of the day and/or by flying at a heading that lines the sun up on the subject aircraft properly. The background can highlight or distract from the subject and must be carefully considered when taking shots. Air-to-air photography can be used for a variety of purposes, including commercial use and advertising.

Ground-to-air photography

In ground-to-air photography, photos of aircraft in flight are taken with the photographer stationary on the ground. This type of photography is common at airshows or airports where there is a lot of aircraft activity. The same concepts of air-to-air photography, such as lighting and background, apply to ground-to-air photography as well. Generally, a longer focal-length lens is necessary due to the greater distance between the photographer and the target aircraft. Along with ground-static photography, this is the most popular form of aviation photography.

Ground-static photography

In ground-static photography, photos of stationary aircraft are taken by photographers on the ground. This type of photography gives the most flexibility and freedom in terms of composing one's shot. Photos can be of aircraft exteriors, interiors, and aircraft details. The photographer has full control over lighting, aircraft placement, camera angles, and background. Involving other subjects such as the pilot or other aircraft is much easier to accomplish in ground-static photography than in other forms of aerial photography.

Remote photography

Remote photography is a variation on aerial air-to-air photography, whereby the camera is mounted onto the external aircraft structure away from the photographer and is triggered remotely using a mechanical or electrical shutter release. The image has to be composed when the aircraft is on the ground, because the photographer has no access to the camera while the aircraft is in flight. Much brainstorming and planning must be done while setting up the camera to get the desired shot. Remote photography is the least common type of aviation photography.


  • Dean Garner (1992). TOPGUN Miramar, Osprey Publishing. [Chapter 7: Shooting TOPGUN, pp. 140-150; excellent details about photography and flight equipment, physical aspects of shooting from jets, cockpit organization, etc.]


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