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22 Nov 2023

Aerial Photography

What is Aerial Photography? Aerial photography is photography taken from an aircraft or drone, usually from a high vantage point.

Whether you’re an experienced hobbyist or have been running your own photography business for a while, you might have wondered whether aerial photography is right for you.

As drone technology improves, and it’s becoming easier to shoot stunning photographs remotely, many photographers like you are starting to expand into this discipline.

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Aerial Photography: A Quick History

While aerial photography might seem like a new trend, the discipline dates back to 1858, with the first aerial photograph in the world picturing Paris, France. However, the oldest surviving aerial photograph is of Boston in 1860.

Over time, photographers experimented with balloons, kites, and early aircraft for their photography until the outbreak of the First World War, during which aerial photography became vital to tracking enemy movement. This led aerial cameras to drastically increase in size, quality, and focal power. However, aerial reconnaissance was slow, which led to the British army mounting cameras on Spitfires to avoid detection.

The first commercial aerial photography company in the world was Aerofilms Ltd, which was founded in 1919 to shoot photographs for surveys and mapping. This company would go on to pioneer the practice of Photogrammetry.

Uses of Aerial Photography

Aerial photography has a variety of commercial uses in cartography, archaeology, land surveying, power line inspections, environmental studies, conveyancing, and more. It’s also widely used in the film industry to survey potential shooting locations.

Common Types of Aerial Photography


These are the aerial photographs people are most familiar with, as they’re taken at an angle. Low oblique refers to angles closest to ground level, with high oblique being closer to vertical aerial photography.


Vertical photographs are taken looking directly down at a subject and are commonly used in photogrammetry.


In some cases, vertical photographs are combined and manipulated to create a navigable map, such as that you’d find on Google Earth.


Aerial photographs can be combined in other ways, such as:


Several shots from one location, but taken at different angles, are fused together to create a “wide-angle” shot.

Stereo Photography

This technique takes multiple images from different angles of the same subject to create a 3D image.


Using five mounted cameras, this technique takes four low oblique shots and a vertical shot to create a single image.

Aerial Photography Regulations

Depending on where you are in the world there are numerous regulations to keep in mind. Most of these regulations cover drone use. Common regulations include:

  • The pilot must keep visual contact with the drone at all times;
  • The drone cannot be flown over certain protected areas,
  • You might need a license to operate commercially, fly a drone, or pilot a drone over a certain weight threshold.

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