Tips for taking the perfect photo from a plane - plus the most picturesque routes to fly


High up in the air looking down on the world, landscapes flitting by and cities sparkling in the distance - there's a reason everyone always wants the window seat.

Sometimes it's just so picturesque you want to take a photo - but with extra thick glass it might be a bit tricky to capture the magic that we see.

READ: Time Travel: Tips for aspiring travel photographers from those in the know 

If you're interested in improving your aerial game, photography extraordinaire Jason Hawkes shared some useful tips with British Airways after taking a photo trip in their Embraer 190 from London City Airport to Edinburgh.

A key component to getting the best photos is choosing the right seat - for Hawke it was row three, where you can avoid getting the plane's wing in the shot.

Hawkes normally takes photos dangling from a helicopter without a door, so the biggest challenge in a plane is dealing with the glass that's between you and your 100-likes photo.

ALSO SEE: Astrophotography tips to capture the Milky Way at its best, from anywhere in South Africa 

aerial photo of london city
Photo taken from the Embraer of London City. (Photo: Jason Hawkes/British Airways)

Here are his top tips:

    • Try and ensure you sit towards the front or the back of the aircraft to get an unobstructed view.
    • To try and shoot without reflections, the most basic tip of all is to ensure your lens is as close to the window as possible without actually touching it.
    • Opt to shoot in one of the golden hours - either the hour just after sunrise or the hour just before sunset - to get lovely warm light and long shadows to accentuate both the urban and natural forms of the landscape.
    • If you are shooting images on take-off and landing on a DSLR, and have various lenses, anything between a 24mm and 70mm works best.
    • Set your camera or phone camera onto a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second or higher - this will ensure you get sharp images even if the aircraft is vibrating.
    • If you have a DSLR you could also try using a polarizer filter. A circular polarizer filter only allows light rays that are travelling in one direction to enter the lens. It’s a great tool but is a little tricky to use if the aircraft is banking round, as you have to turn the filter to get the desired effect.
    • You could also try a lens skirt or large rubber lens hood, which are both great for blocking out window glare.
    • For the very technically-minded, set your camera to shoot in both RAW and jpeg. You’ll have to grade the RAW file yourself to get the most out of it, but it’s really worth the effort and gives you a huge amount of control over the final image that you could never get from a jpeg. The standard phone camera app doesn’t always support capturing RAW photos, so you’ll need to download a third-party app, such as Adobe Lightroom CC.

    SEE: The wilder side of travel photography: 8 pro-tips to up your game 

    Armed with these tips though, which flight routes have the most scenic landscapes?

    Cape Town to Walvis Bay

    Hugging the coastline, there's one point in the flight where you'll see the red and white dunes clash, something you can't see on the ground.

    READ: Easy flight trips: A long weekend in Swakopmund - the most German place in Africa 

    Sydney to Johannesburg

    This is the best flight to take if you want to see Antarctica without paying to actually see it.

    Johannesburg to Vilanculos 

    The sandbanks and the colours of the water make this short trip breathtaking. 

    Anywhere to Seychelles

    Whether you're landing on an international flight or hopping between the islands, the emerald waters and lush green islands lined with white beaches look even more spectacular from the air.

    WATCH: The best Seychelles sunset comes with a Creole braai on the beach 

    Johannesburg to Reunion

    The position of the runway on the side of the island gives flight passengers the best views of rugged Reunion.

    Auckland to Queenstown

    You'll get to see most of New Zealand's most beautiful destinations in just two hours - from green hills to majestic mountains and valleys.

    Hong Kong to London

    While seeing both cities from above is spectacular, the flight also travels over the Gobi Desert and the Siberian tundra. 

    ALSO WATCH: The World's Busiest Cities: Hong Kong, the world's most vertical city 

    Zurich to Naples

    Any flight over Switzerland would be breathtaking, but throw in sights of Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast and Mount Vesuvius and you're guaranteed to run out of memory space.

    Albuquerque to Las Vegas

    Sit on the right-hand side to catch a unique view of the Grand Canyon without having to take a helicopter tour.

    READ: Everything you ever wanted to know about visiting Las Vegas!

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