Master the Art of Aerial Photography: 6 Lighting Techniques

castle with water reflection

Just as light gives life significance, lighting gives photography life. In the third installment of our Master the Art of Aerial Photography series, we will cover six simple lighting techniques to improve your photography.


SHADOW Lighting Techniques

1. Silhouette | Hiding the Sun

Creating a silhouette is a beautiful way to showcase your photography. Use backlighting that will illuminate your subjects to create stunning silhouettes.

Silhouettes © Andrius Aleksandravičius | Equipment: Mavic Air

A simple way to achieve this type of shot is to position the sun directly behind your subject. You can experiment with objects that have interesting profiles, such as people, birds, and buildings.
castle with sunset

Trakai Island Castle in a Blue Hour © Bluras | Equipment: Phantom 4 Pro

2. Hours | Golden and Blue

At different hours of the day, the horizon is decorated with many different colors. Golden hour occurs during sunrise or sunset, where soft tones of light illuminate your subject. This is an excellent time to capture a shot of a striking landscape.
golden beach

Golden Sands © George Visio | Equipment: Phantom 4 Pro

Blue hour occurs when the sun is just below the horizon, characterized by a rich blue tone. Use this unique window of time to emphasize subjects with artificial light sources and add a tranquil atmosphere to your photography.

blue sky city view

The Blue Hour – Green © Dominique D. Peter

3. Alpenglow | Redirecting Light

Alpenglow is one of the most interesting natural phenomena, where directed light passes through the atmosphere, producing a characteristic red glow.
alpen picture

Sunrise Kathleen Lake – Yukon Territory © Alan Nyiri

Drones are excellent for capturing alpenglow because they can shoot with a wide angle, small aperture, and at high altitudes. All you have to do is wait for the blue hour to begin, position your camera toward your subject, and face away from direct sunlight. Alpenglow occurs for around five to ten minutes, so have your camera ready to capture all your shots.
stormy sunset

Storm Warning © Philip Lima

Always make sure your subject is facing direct sunlight to achieve this type of photograph. If you are shooting next to the water with slower shutter speeds, use a tripod to keep your shot steady and produce stunning results.

4. Depth | Creating Physical Separation

Lighting plays a key part when trying to create a sense of physical separation in your photography, which can make the image more engaging.
schloss neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein Castle © Boyan Ortse | Equipment: Mavic 2 Pro

Different lighting conditions influence the perception of space. Brighter lighting can be utilized to make your subject appear farther away, while darker lighting is more effective for objects in the foreground. Experiment with different lighting effects to create a sense of depth in your aerial photography.
Lago Di Braies

Lago di Braies © Szabo Ervin-Edward | Equipment: Mavic Pro

5. Overcast | Diffusing Light with Clouds

Dark skies with strong cloud coverage are perfect for capturing rays of sunlight.
sunset HDR picture

Stormy Sunset HDR © Johnny Beavers | Equipment: Inspire

You can also create black and white pictures to make your photography more dramatic. During post-editing, adjust the highlights and shades to achieve this effect.
berg mountain

The Berg © Trushall | Equipment: Mavic 2 Pro

6. Water | Perfect Reflections

Light interacts with water to create endless photographic possibilities. Adjust the altitude of your drone to avoid overexposed shots.
pirate tower beach

Towering Seas © Colin Smith

If you want to capture the reflection of a solid object, you can try lowering the altitude of your drone and positioning the camera at a low angle to find the best reflection.
castle with water reflection

Reflection | Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania © Andrius Aleksandravičius | Equipment: Mavic 2 Pro

Aerial Photography Lighting Techniques

Some say photographs are just a combination of light, shadow, and good timing. While this may not paint the complete picture, proper lighting can transform your photography from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Try using these six lighting techniques to bring your aerial photography to life.

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