Aerial Photography Checklist

Checklist 2 min
Be prepared to capture the moment and remain in communication with the crew on aerial missions.

While on an aerial operation, it is crucial for you to work in partnership with the aircraft crew to ensure you get the imagery you need. If the flight is a dedicated photo mission, the aircrew is there to assist you in accomplishing the mission. Lean on their expertise to complete the mission safely and successfully. Be an asset, not a liability. Use this checklist to ensure you're prepared for an aerial operation.

  • Attend pre-flight briefing.
    • Pay close attention at the briefing.
    • Listen for - and make sure you clearly understand - the mission details.
    • Complete your Mission Strategy Worksheet (MSW).
  • Familiarize yourself with the aircraft and mission specifics.
    • Know ditching drills and emergency egress points.
    • Assess the best place to stow your gear and confirm with the crew beforehand.
    • Familiarize yourself with both the aircraft you are shooting from and the aircraft you will be shooting.
  • Determine what kind of gear to bring and how long you will be gone.
    • Determine what the approximate distance to your subjects will be during the mission brief and choose your lenses accordingly - smaller, lighter telephoto lenses are easier to manage.
    • Bring warming layers for longer and higher altitude flights.
    • Pack neutral density and polarizing filters.
  • Prepare to explain your mission needs to the crew.
  • Communicate with the crew throughout the mission.
    • Explain your mission to the crew before the flight. Be tactful, but direct.
    • Let the crew know what you need and where you need to be to get the best imagery.
    • Work with the crew to complete your mission in a timely manner since there will be limited flying time.
    • Follow the crew's directions during the flight to ensure the safety of the aircraft and everyone on board.
    • Do NOT use flash in aircraft without prior approval from the crew to avoid causing an accident.
    • Do NOT use flash or any type of lighting during a "blackout" operation, where the entire crew is wearing night vision to conduct the mission.
  • Choose a shutter speed that eliminates camera shake and maintains the ability to show the parts in motion.​
    • Shoot at a higher shutter speed. This will help eliminate shake caused by aircraft vibrations and stop the actions such as missile firing and fast maneuvers.
    • Do not use a shutter speed that is so fast that it "stops" the propellers or rotors of an aircraft. It is unnatural to see an aircraft flying without the rotation of the propellers or rotor.​
  • Select the right filter.
    • Use a polarizing filter to shoot through the canopy or windows of an aircraft. This helps minimize harsh reflections and allows you to acquire clear images.
    • Use a neutral-density filter when shooting conditions are bright if using slower shutter speeds is necessary.

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