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Tips On Taking Photos Out Of Plane Windows

How to take great photos for the holiday album before you've even stepped off the plane.

|  Landscape and Travel
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Photo from aircraft window Photo from aircraft window


  • Camera – Compact or DSLR
  • Zoom lens – Can change from a wide to cropped shot without changing lenses
  • Rubber lens hood (optional)
  • Camera bag - Manfrotto's Veloce V Backpack can currently be carried on to planes (due to ever changing restrictions, do check with your airline prior to departure about this though). It's an essential shooting backpack that fits your camera gear and tripod either inside or outside the bag.


Pick your seat

If you can, pick your seat before you fly as not all seats will give you a clear view of what's bellow you. Don't pick one that's directly above the wing as all you'll see is the wing and make sure you book a window seat – a stranger won't appreciate you leaning over them. Towards the front or back of the plane will give you the best view but do remember you do get the odd seat that only has half a window as it's in between two seats.

What not to do

There's not much room on a plane so don't empty your camera bag out onto your lap. Don't take photos during take off or landing as you're not allowed to use electronic equipment at this time and try not to get carried away taking very similar shots over and over again.

Wide or Crop?

A wide lens will obviously get more in frame but this can often include part of the window so remember to look around the frame before you take your shot. If you can't position yourself so the window frame isn't in shot, take your photo any way and just crop it out once you're in front of your computer. If there's a cloud formation or a group of fields making a particularly interesting pattern use the longer focal length of the zoom lens to crop in tightly.

Wait for the plane to turn

Due to the angle you'll be sat at, it can be hard to take photos of the ground but waiting for the plane to turn will give you the angle you need to get the ground in shot. Just make sure you're ready to take your shot and take it quickly as they don't usually bank for that long.

Watch the vibration

If you shoot away from the window you'll capture reflections from inside the cabin as well as what's on the outside. If you were on the ground, leaning against the glass would stop this but as you're in a plane, the engines make the windows vibrate and as a result you can end up with shake in your shot. You can buy soft rubber lens hoods that you could try and press up against the window but your best bet is to attach a lens hood and just get as close to the window as possible without touching it. If you're using a compact, use your hand as a lens hood to shield the lens. Remember to deactivate your flash and turn off the overhead light to minimise the amount of reflection you see on the pane. If you're using a compact, to stop it focusing on the window, set it to infinity focus or switch on the Landscape mode.

Scratches and condensation

Some windows will be badly scratched which can make focusing tricky. Switching to manual focus can help but sometimes they'll be so badly scratched that anything you take will be slightly fuzzy.

Condensation can cause contrast problems but if you shoot earlier in the flight, it's had less time to build up so the windows should still be clear.

What to shoot?

  • The wing can add interest to a blue sky
  • Cloud formations
  • Another plane flying by
  • The setting sun
  • Patterns created by fields, roads etc.

Find the tripod to suit your needs at

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alistairfarrugia 8 164 88 Malta
18 Sep 2012 11:56AM
Here's a couple more tips that could help - avoid using a polariser when shooting through an airplane window, or you get funny results because of cross-polarisation.

Another tip I came across relates to the seat-position: behind the engine, the heat from the engine may have an effect on the resultant image.

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