Expose to the Right: Shooting and Editing Aerial Photography

Aerial photography is incredibly stunning. Not only does it offer spectacular scenery, but it can show you places you see every day from a completely different perspective. With the rise of quadcopters and other unmanned vehicles that are fitted with powerful action cameras—or even DSLR cameras—aerial photography is getting more and more accessible to the public at large. Mike Kelley offers in the video below a very interesting take on aerial photos, using the Expose to the Right (ETTR) technique:

As you can see in the video above, the premise for ETTR is having an over-exposed picture to begin with. Also, Kelley converts his shots to black and white for a more dramatic look.

ettr exposure to the right aerial photography los angeles before

The source photo in Mike Kelley’s example in the video. Note the severe over-exposure.

The first thing he does is use Lightroom to adjust the exposure levels to something that’s more appropriate for each photograph. Adding more contrast to the photo will make it look even better and bring out the details in the image.

Tweaking the highlights and the shadow in the image even further will bring some more clarity to the image—-the amount you change will differ from one image to the other, and it is important that the result is tailored to your tastes. Even more clarity is added, naturally, from the Clarity slider in Lightroom. Basically, as Kelley shows in his video, you want to work every setting and see how it improves your image—if it does, otherwise don’t use that setting!

Finally, enabling lens correction will help eliminate all distortions.

ettr exposure to the right aerial photography los angeles

The final photo. You can immediately see the enormous transformation that helped improve this shot.

And as you can see above, the results are fantastic. Starting from a ridiculously overexposed shot we end up with a fantastic photo that any photographer would be proud of.

Have you tried using this technique on other types of images beside aerial photos? How did it go? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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One response to “Expose to the Right: Shooting and Editing Aerial Photography”

  1. Ivy Baker says:

    This is some really good information about aerial photography. I like what you said about to adjust the exposure levels on the photo. I know that I would want to have a professional take the photos for you. I know that I wouldn’t be able to take good aerial photos.

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