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Types of Aerial Photography

Types of Aerial Photography

These brief descriptions cover the most common types of conventional aerial photographs.

OBLIQUE - The most common type of aerial photograph. It is shot looking down at an angle to the ground (ie not directly overhead as in a 'Vertical' or 'Near Vertical').

Obliques can be either 'High' or 'Low'. Both can be taken as 'Wide shots' or 'Close-ups'.

HIGH OBLIQUES include the horizon.

High Oblique

LOW OBLIQUES do not include the horizon.

Low Oblique

NEAR VERTICAL - A photograph taken 'almost' vertically above the subject, but not so accurately that special equipment and calibrated metric cameras are required and to qualify as a 'True Vertical', which are needed for scaling and mapping purposes (See True Vertical at bottom of the page). Near verticals, however, are useful for looking down to see the general layout of large areas (eg for planning purposes and redesigning extensive industrial sites etc). Whilst special cameras are not needed for near verticals, specially adapted aircraft with pods or holes in the bottom of the fuselage are often needed to get a clear shot of the ground from the aircraft.

Near Vertical

WIDE SHOT - A photograph taken usually to show the subject in context with its immediate surroundings. For example, a company in a Business Park may wish to show the road and motorway links to the site and therefore a wide shot will be needed to get all the infrastructure features in the frame. Wide shots may be Obliques or Near Verticals, depending on the photographic objectives.

Wide Shot

CLOSE-UP - An Oblique (or occasionally a Near Vertical) photograph that is taken as close as required to fill the frame, or nearly fill it, with the subject. Close-ups are taken for particular reasons, including creating impact or capturing maximum detail. (Photographs taken as wide shots can be enlarged after they are taken, but this reduces their quality. Ideally, it is best to take close-up photographs with the best equipment possible and from as low as legally allowed by the CAA regulations.

Close-up

PANORAMA - A loose term, usually referring to an exceptionally 'wide' shot, which includes a large area of the horizontal view. Panoramas are often produced by 'stitching' together (using computer software) adjacent and overlapping images carefully taken for that reason.

The panoramic image shown below (taken using a helium balloon) is made from 3 stitched images.

Panoramic View

The 360 degree panorama below (taken using an unmanned aerial vehicle) is made from 8 images.

TRUE VERTICAL - A photograph taken with the camera pointing directly down at 90° (or with <3° tilt) to its centre point. All the four corners of the ground framed in the viewfinder should be more or less equidistant from the film/sensor plane (allowing for variations in the terrain). This produces a map-like perspective and allows the resultant photograph to be 'scaled' (after ortho-rectification) and measurements taken from it. True Verticals are essential for use in mapping and should be taken as a series of overlapping images or mosaics (with a frame overlap of c. 60% ± 5%). Modified aircraft, special equipment and very experienced aerial photographers are required to take True Vertical photographs.

ORTHO-RECTIFIED VERTICAL - A True Vertical image that has had all the geographical and topographical distortions removed from it and has been optically corrected. Distortions occur as a result of imperfect optical lenses and digital sensors, the tilt of the camera/aerial sensor (relative to the ground), and other aspects of capturing the image. If an image is not ortho-rectified, it is not possible to use it for mapping and take accurate scaled measurements from it.

See also Conventional or Artistic images (which describes some reasons for taking 'Record', 'Progress', 'Marketing' or 'Artistic' shots).

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