8 Top Tips For Great Aerial Photographs on Your Helicopter Pleasure Flight

Our helicopter pleasure flights make a wonderful gift for such a diverse range of people. We fly guests from all walks of life and even the most nervous of passengers will enjoy flying on a helicopter pleasure flight across Yorkshire.

Probably the most important thing to bring along on your pleasure flight is a camera. Many people think that an expensive DSLR camera and a big lens is needed to take great aerial photographs. In fact, almost any camera can capture a great aerial picture, even your simple camera phone.

When we’re flying ourselves, many of the pictures taken by our pilots as they fly along were shot on iPhones and other simple cameras.

To prove it, aerial photographer Neill Watson gives us some top tips to help capture the best aerial photographs when if you’re coming along on one of our helicopter pleasure flights, regardless of your photographic experience. Here are Neill’s tips for great aerial pictures on your helicopter pleasure flight.

1/ Bring Your Camera – Any Camera! Just to prove that you don’t need expensive equipment to take aerial photographs for fun, many of the images you see here were shot on either a simple compact, an iPhone or a GoPro set to stills mode. Don’t be intimidated if you see people waiting to fly with huge cameras. They certainly help if you have experience of using them, but they’re far from essential.

You don't need and expensive camera. Castle Howard in Yorkshire, shot in an iPhone 6
You don’t need and expensive camera. Castle Howard in Yorkshire, shot on an iPhone 6

2. Be sure it’s charged and bring lots of memory cards! If you’ll be using your iPhone or Android device, make sure you have plenty of memory space on your device. You may wish to back up some of your images beforehand. Once you’re airborne, we find that many of our passengers can’t stop taking pictures.

If you’re using a camera with memory cards, be sure that you have plenty of space and that they’re wiped clean before we take off, to make maximum use of them.

Be sure that whatever camera you’re using, it has plenty of battery power! There’s nothing more frustrating than flying along looking at wonderful Yorkshire countryside while the low battery warning light blinks on your camera. If it’s fully charged, you won’t need to worry.

3. Don’t edit and delete in flight, keep shooting! Looking down at your camera screen deciding whether to keep a picture or not is a sure fire way to miss a great picture. Also, while very, very few people ever become airsick in our helicopters, looking down at a screen like that can make you feel a little queasy. Look outside and search out the next shot. If you have plenty of storage space on your camera then you can keep shooting at every opportunity and edit the shots down later once you’re back on the ground.

4. Don’t worry about which seat you have. Our Robinson R44 helicopters give a wonderful panoramic view for everyone, from below waist height right up to almost overhead. While the front seat passenger obviously has a better view forwards, our pilots will always make sure that the two rear seat passengers get plenty of great opportunities for pictures.

Don't worry about which seat you're in. This is Whetherby from the rear seat of our R44
Don’t worry about which seat you’re in. This is Whetherby from the rear seat of our R44. Image Neill Watson

5. How to Control Reflections. Unless you’re booked on one of our specialist aerial photographer flights, we will be flying with the doors installed. This means that you will be shooting through the aviation spec side windows, made of acrylic. For the absolute best quality, professional camera men and photographers fly with the doors removed, but you probably wouldn’t want that. Don’t worry, very good results are still easily possible.

For best results, put your camera lens close to, but not actually touching the window. This cuts out reflections and helps the camera lens focus past any bugs or small scratches on the window. If you remember, try and wear a dark coloured top, as this cuts down on reflections that may show up in the shot.

6. Getting that pin sharp shot. How to control shutter speed, camera shake and vibrations. If you have a camera with some manual controls, then these tips will help you if you’re new to aerial photography.

Keep the shutter speed above 1/1000 of a second whenever possible and an aperture of f8. If the shots are looking too dark at that, modern digital cameras allow you to raise the ISO setting – that’s the camera’s sensitivity to light – which will help you keep the shutter speed up. This helps to avoid camera shake which can create blur in your pictures.

Camera shake on longer lenses mean shutter speeds need to be high
Camera shake on longer lenses mean shutter speeds need to be high. Image – Neill Watson

Don’t allow your camera to touch the bodywork of the helicopter. Instead, try and hold it’s full weight in your hands so that it’s suspended all the time. While this is a little more tiring, especially with a heavier camera, it means that the high frequency vibrations of the helicopter aren’t transmitted to the camera and blur the picture. Rest your arms in between shots and lift up the camera to compose the image when you see something you’d like to photograph if you have a heavy DSLR camera.

7. Add the helicopter to give a behind the scenes look. Once you’re back on the ground, your friends will surely wonder how you got the images you show them. We often take pictures ourselves of the helicopter and the background to show the perspective of the view we enjoy so much. People love to see our ‘view from the office’ shots.

Behind The Scenes shots always work well too
Behind The Scenes shots always work well too

Alternatively, if it’s a sunny day, watch out for the helicopter shadow as we come into land. Helicopter shadow shots are always popular on Facebook!

Helicopter shadows are always fun on Facebook
Helicopter shadows are always fun on Facebook

8. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the view! Above all, make sure that you’re not so busy behind your camera that you forget to take in the sheer thrill and enjoyment of helicopter flying. While pictures are important, make sure that you take the time to simply gaze outside and enjoy the view from the helicopter that we love each day.

You’ll see a perspective of Yorkshire on a helicopter pleasure flight that you’ll never experience from the ground which will leave you with great memories long after you’ve returned to earth.