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How To Create Aerial Perspective In Your Photographs

Aerial perspective's a technique that can help give your landscapes an interesting twist as we explain.

|  Landscape and Travel
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Glastonbury, Somerset, England, UK
Photo by David Clapp -

What is it?

Aerial Perspective is the technical term given to shots that look as if everything in the background could almost be cardboard cut outs that someone has layered over one another. The atmosphere / weather helps create the effect which changes the appearance of distant objects in the landscape. It's a technique that some painters used and now it's widely used by photographers who enjoy shooting landscapes. This techniques a great way to produce atmospheric shots and it can help you give popular photographic scenes a new perspective. You'll notice your shots seem to have more depth to the, too as subjects that are closer to the camera will appear darker than subjects further away.

What gear do I need?

  • Telephoto lens – This types of lens is the most useful, however you can use other optics too. Telephotos can help emphasis the stacking effect as they 'pull' distant objects closer together.
  • Tripod - If you do choose to use a telephoto lens you'll need a tripod as longer lenses tend to be more prone to camera shake.

What weather's best?

Wintery days where there's fog or mist hanging around are perfect for this technique but it's not something that you can only have a go at during winter and autumn as hazy summer days or days where low cloud's forecast will also create the same effect. You can even shoot on drizzly days but unless you're a fan of getting wet, there's no real reason why you can't just wait for a cloudy but dry day.

Glastonbury, Somerset, England, UK
Photo by David Clapp -

What locations work well?

Ideally, you want a viewpoint that overlooks an area where there's plenty of background interest so when you take your shot, everything looks as if it's stacked. Mountains and hills work well and so can large groups of trees if they are slightly closer to your lens.

You don't just want a good view though as a grey-ish background needs some foreground interest that will guide the eye through the shot and add some much needed colour and sharpness to your frame.

Will my camera have any problems?

There is a good chance your camera will be fooled by the background it's pointed at and you can lose the light, delicate, almost tissue paper-like feel you're trying to create. To prevent this, try using a plus exposure to rectify the problem. Keeping an eye on your histogram can help ensure the effect is captured perfectly in your final shot. You just have to make sure the graph is sat more towards the right side.


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petebfrance 8 2.9k France
15 Mar 2014 11:56AM
Having looked into / used aerial perspective for many years in painting I'm rather struggling with your definition:
'Aerial Perspective is the technical term given to shots that look as if everything in the background could almost be cardboard cut outs that someone has layered over one another.'

Most other places, like wiki:
have a definition which is more akin to what I'm used to, i.e. showing the effect that the atmosphere has on the appearance of an object (parts of the landscape in the example you give).

Aeriel perspective is often achieved in painting by progressively reducing contrast and 'bluing' more, and yes, the cardboard cutout effect can help exaggerate things (a bit of mist in the valleys is useful for this) but it can also be done gradually so that no distinct layers are visible.
Closer subjects, as far as I'm aware, should have 'more contrast and less atmospheric colour,' not 'look darker' as in the first paragraph.

Done in layers it looks quite nice....and I think of it as a way of showing of aerial perspective........

Ah well....

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