How to Photograph a City From a Helicopter

If you’ve ever dreamed of photographing your city from high above it, you’ll enjoy this perspective from photographer Vincent Laforet. Here, he talks about his passion for shooting from the sky, what drives him to take the aerial route, and the different perspectives you can achieve when shooting straight down on the world:

“It’s increasingly difficult to find something different these days. So that when you discover something that you have never seen before with your own eyes, let alone capture by someone else, you kind of get goosebumps.”

aerial photography tips

As you can imagine, there are many challenges to a shoot like this. Keeping your shutter fast enough to freeze the frame isn’t the most difficult. For an aerial shoot, meticulous preparations are necessary. A photographer needs to do a lot of planning. Permissions are to be taken, flight paths are to be approved, and of course you need to communicate a lot with a number of people—all the while the shoot is in progress.

aerial photography tips

A lot of planning and meticulous preparation goes into making these images.

Laforet states that while in the air he needs to tell a few people what he intends to do about 30–45 seconds prior to the shot. The preparations are so meticulous that he can’t be spontaneous when he’s in the air.

Aerial photography tips

Shooting from the air provides an unique perspective

Aerial photography has its own challenges, no doubt. But some sessions are more difficult than the others. For example, going up at night and flying at a very high altitude requires a different approach.

Equipment for Aerial Photography

Laforet uses a lot of prime lenses of varying focal lengths to tackle the challenges of night time photography. Zooms, despite the fact that they are excellent, cannot be used because of their slower apertures.

As far as equipment goes, Laforet uses several camera bodies, including a Canon 1-DX and a Canon 5DS. These go with the fast prime lenses and help to capture clean frames even in trying conditions.

tilt-shift lenses in aerial photography

Tilt-shift lenses can give a completely new perspective to your aerial photos.

Laforet also uses tilt-shift lenses quite a lot. These lenses, though originally designed for architecture photography, tend to give a unique perspective to cityscape photography. Something that Laforet describes as a “dollhouse effect.”

“I think it makes our world look very very playful, if you will. It also forces the eye to a specific thing.”

aerial photography guide

Geometric patterns form an interesting subject to shoot from the air.

What Makes a Great Aerial Photo?

“What you’re looking for is geometry, color, composition, lines, repetition of form. It’s the same things that you would on the ground, but in this case geometry is probably one of the most important things in aerial photography, in my opinion, as well as color.”

For further training, currently 60% off: The Cityscape Chapters

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