“Aerial Photo of land union with the sea”- Image Courtesy- Gastonebaldo


Aerial photography, to be explained in simple terms are those photos that are taken from the air. Photos taken from an altitude of objects at comparatively lower altitudes are classified as Aerial Photos. 
Aerial Photography can be done in many ways such as through an aircraft, using a drone, setting up a camera at a quite high altitude, using a kite. These all sorts of methods get into the classification of Aerial Photography.


“An aerial photo, the object is at lower altitude”- Image Courtesy- Anita Denunzio

In today’s time, aerial photography is a common form. People use it for various purposes such as in movies, photo exhibitions, and military purposes. But a thing that should not be confused is “Air-to-Air Photography”. Air to air photography is slightly different from aerial photography. As in air to air photography, both the objects are at the same altitude, for example, capturing an aircraft using another aircraft is an Air to Air photography. Aerial Photography deals with photos that have objects at quite a lower altitude than the capturing camera.

So, let’s get into the brief history of how Aerial Photography started and how it was used in previous years. 


 “An old fort”- Image Courtesy- Mika Baumeister

Aerial Photography was first done in the year 1858 by a french photographer accompanied by a balloonist called ‘Nadar’. The photo was taken over Paris, France.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence present of that photograph as it no longer exists. Due to this, a photograph taken in the year 1860 on October-13 is classified as the first-ever Aerial photograph. The photo is titled ‘Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It. and was captured by James Wallace Black and Samuel A. King. This photograph was taken over Boston, showing the city of Boston at an altitude of 630 meters.

After this, there were numerous photographers who took such photos of different places. Some took photos at various angles whereas some captured a completely vertical image.

In previous years, Aerial Photography came out as a boon for many projects. People used this technique in many places. One of the examples is World War I. During the war, the aircraft were equipped with cameras and were made to fly over the enemy’s location. Hence, it captured all the movements and structuring of the enemies. 

Later on, it became a trend to use this method to detect various planning of enemies and was also used in other wars including World War II as well.

Even in today’s time, Aerial Photography has made people access a lot of wondrous shots that are breathtaking. Here we mention some uses of Aerial Photography in today’s time.



        “A night aerial view of a town”- Image Courtesy- Mike Swigunski



One of the major uses of Aerial Photography is in the entertainment industry. Aerial photos, as well as videos, are used in Film production and for many other purposes as well. Sometimes, some scenery also contains an Aerial Shot. Hence, the Entertainment Industry is an avid user of this technique of photography. 



We all are aware of a “Map” application in our devices. This facility is only available to us because of this technology. Topographic Maps present an Aerial view of the surface of the earth at a completely vertical level. It is designed so that with the help of Aerial Shots it can demonstrate the entire path, location, buildings, land around an area. Aerial photography is a major property used for this application.



Just as in previous years, aerial photos are still used for various military purposes, whether it be detecting the enemy movement or finding out a land path through the air. Aerial Photography can be used for many purposes in the military. As the years have passed, the Technology for Aerial view has tremendously evolved. There are a lot of tasks that can be done merely by some Air captures.



In today’s time, there are different types of photos. Each photo has its own classification. Similarly, Aerial Photography can be used for artists to present in an exhibition or for other various purposes. Aerial Photography has made its way to precious gallery to be presented as an achievement.



There are many other purposes such as archeological studies, Power line detection, and many other various operations that are done through Aerial Capturing. It is extremely helpful for people in the above-mentioned fields to get track of their work through this technique, else it would have been a really difficult task to perform and would have caused a lot of problems.


“An Island View from a height”- Image Courtesy- Nour Beter

Aerial photography is not an easy task, there are many factors that are responsible for a perfect Aerial Photograph. Some of the factors are mentioned below. 


Scale, in simple terms, is defined as the ratio of the focal length of the camera lens and flying height above the capturing terrain. If any of the factors changes in it, the quality of the aerial Photographs changes, and it is really crucial to have a perfect ratio between these two (depending on the type of photo the client wants) to get a perfect shot.



There are special cameras that are built for Aerial photography. Such cameras are designed to achieve a speedy succession with a great calculation of geometrical precision. They have a good quality lens, a large film magazine, and a Mount to hold the lens so that it can be adjusted desirably. There are many cameras for the purpose of Aerial Photography. Some of them are Multi lens camera, multiband camera, panoramic cameras. (“Details have been mentioned ahead”) 



This aspect also plays a very crucial role in getting a perfect Aerial Photograph. As in terms of oblique Photography, the direction of flying or flight direction decides the length of the area and how the area will be presented in the captured Photography. Hence, Flight direction is an important aspect to keep in mind while performing this task.


This factor decides the entire lookout of the photo as it can alter the Photograph in a quite worse way. If the atmosphere is clean without any visible dust, smoke, or any unwanted particles then, you might achieve your desired photo whereas if something like this encounters your way, you’ll have to start clicking again. The best time to avoid such unnecessary conditions is the day after rain as during this time all the dust particles settle down and you’ll get your way as clear as a new canvas.



All that matters is time, not only in Photography but in life as well. If you’ll be able to get that perfect timing you’ll succeed in your task. Similarly, in Aerial Photography, the timing when you’ll have to snap the picture decides how the picture will look. Time varies for each and every type of Aerial Photograph. For someone, who needs a sun, a rising click might need to have a morning timing whereas someone who wants an evening shot, needs to have time in the evening.

There are many more minor factors that affect the quality, length, area covered of the photo such as season, length coverage, type of Aerial films, and many more. But the above-mentioned factors play a major role.

Now, the point is, there are so many different types of Aerial Photographs but they still vary from each other. Some are at an angle whereas some are completely vertical.

To the note, Aerial Photography is of various types based on camera axis, scale, and several other factors. So, let’s get into types of Aerial Photography.


“A Vertical Image of a town”- Image Courtesy- Mohit

Based on the camera axis or lens axis, and angle variation Aerial Photography can be defined into the following three types:


Vertical Aerial Photographs are those Photographs in which the camera while capturing the object drops a perpendicular on the object or it can be stated as to when the photo plane is completely parallel with the area covered while clicking. Getting a perfectly vertical Photograph is an extremely difficult task. Therefore, a deviation of plus or minus 3 degrees is accepted in the classification of vertical Photographs. A deviation more than that will be considered as a ‘Tilted Photograph’. This type of Photography is generally used for depicting maps or for map applications in your devices.



Low Oblique Photography contains photos that have a deviation from the vertical axis of the area. In this, the camera axis creates an angle ranging from 15 degrees to 30 degrees from the vertical axis. This type of Photography is often used for military purposes or for military surveys. This type of Photography is also used by artists to get a perfect shot of any scenery.



Just as in Low Oblique Photography, High Oblique Photography also captures an area with an inclined phase. The only difference that arises between these two Photographs is the variety of angles. In High Oblique Photography, the camera axis must be inclined within the range of 40 degrees to 60 degrees from the vertical axis to get a perfect shot. High Oblique Photography is also used for military purposes such as surveys or detection of any unwanted material.

“A town, Aerial view” Image Courtesy- Jay Mullings

Some of the points of comparison between all these 3 types of Aerial Photography based on the Position of a camera are: 

  • Vertical Photograph covers the least area, whereas High Oblique Photography covers the maximum area. Low Oblique Photography lies in the moderate zone.
  • In Vertical Photography, the horizon does not appear whereas in the Low and High Oblique Photography horizons do appear.
  • The shape of the area covered by Vertical Photography is a square whereas the shape of the area captured by low and high Oblique Photography is trapezoidal.

       “An Oblique Aerial Shot”- Image Courtesy- Sergio D’Souza



      “A sun view along with town”- Image Courtesy- Tim J

Based on scale Aerial Photographs can be divided into three various parts depending on the range of scale. 


A photograph is classified into the category of Large Scale Photograph when the scale of an aerial photograph is 1: 15,000 or more. 



Aerial photographs that have their scale ranging between the distribution of 1:15,000 to 1:30,000 are presented into this form of Aerial Photography. 



Aerial photographs that have a scale less than 1:30,000 are classified into the Small Scale Aerial Photography section. 


Each type of Photography demands some sort of camera. A single-camera cannot just cover all sorts of Photography. Hence, here we present you with the camera which can be used for Aerial Photography.


During the 1940s to 1960s, strip cameras were the most popular cameras used by people for Aerial mapping and Photography. It was used in low altitude, high-speed aircraft to take pictures throughout the flight. Later on, these cameras were replaced due to satellite Photography technology.


Multiband cameras are the best camera to use for capturing terrain locality as a multiband camera allows better identification of different terrain features. Such cameras use either a multiple camera array or a multi-lens camera system.


A panoramic Camera can be used to cover the ground area through rotating the camera lens or by rotating the lens assembly. It can be used to capture the surface of the ground in a circular manner. Hence, it can be proved as a very useful instrument of some specific sort of aerial photography.

Not just these, but there are several other types of cameras that can be used for the purpose of Aerial Photography. It all depends on the requirements needed to fulfill. Other cameras include Single lens or single frame camera, Digital camera, and so on.



      “Over the clouds”- Image Courtesy- Ramona Flors

Aerial Photography has evolved a lot since the previous years and it is still getting better day by day. More and more advanced technologies are being created to get wonders out of this technique of Photography. Hence, It is believed that in the coming years, we’ll be observing a new and more great phase of Aerial Photography.

About the Author:

Maushi Journal is a writer and an amateur photojournalist. She writes poems, poetry & short stories. She loves to work for society, in society & with society. “Love is what’s important to me. I want to spread love in the universe”, she quoted her aim passionately.

Instagram Handle: maushi_journal.

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