You are at the ideal altitude when your aerial subject fills the frame – i.e. no extraneous surroundings – at the shooting angle you want, and the scene appears sharply-defined and bright.

Determining the right altitude to properly photograph your aerial subject is basically governed by your selection of lens or its zoom setting. If your lens is not long enough, ground details become too small at high altitude and your subject can become lost in a panorama that is too big for it to be easily identified. If your lens is too long, you will need to increase altitude to fit your subject in the frame, but an increase in altitude brings a decrease in overall contrast and brightness because there is more atmosphere between you and the subject.


Atmospheric conditions will change from flight to flight, and an altitude that works well today may be too hazy tomorrow.

If the scene appears washed out due to excessive haze – lacking brightness and contrast – everything else being equal, you need to shoot with a shorter lens at a lower altitude.

If your subject is lost in a vast but otherwise well-exposed scene, you need to get closer to it, either by using a longer lens at the same altitude or by dropping altitude to get physically closer to your subject.