How to Shoot Better Travel Photography From Airplanes Using Your Phone

Shooting photos from planes can honestly be tough to do some times, but believe it or not what really, truly matters in the end is the final result. If you’re one of those folks sitting at a window seat, you should really take advantage of all the intoxicating views that are granted to you to the best of your ability. Of course, you’ll generally need to be some place away from the wings for starters and then you can concentrate on whatever is in front of of you so that you can share that gorgeous vista later on with all your friends on social media.

Take the advice of a photo editor who travels a whole lot for work.

The Content of Your Scene

Now most of the time, you don’t really want the world to know that you’re on an airplane. Of course, they most likely will know this factual tidbit but the winged contraptions tend to simply get in the way of the images. So start out with the overall content of your scene. Think about a few things: like “Is this scene seriously worth taking a photo of?” No, really…think about that. While anything from up above may be exciting, some scenes are sometimes just best left alone.

If the scene that you’re shooting is truly worth photographing and showing to the world, then proceed. While you’re at it, consider your phone’s photo burst functionality. At least one of those photos is bound to be crisp and sharp. I typically have good enough luck with my iPhone 6s standard camera app, but you can also use apps like Manual to get you better and clearer images.

Geometric Shapes

One of the easiest ways to capture better images from an airplane is to look for geometric shapes in the scene in front of you. This is one of the foundations of photography: looking for shapes and abstracts.

Do you read poetry? If you don’t, you should. In poetry, imagery is often used to compare one thing to another. In the case of the photo above, the hills looks like veins to me. But then the shapes also really were very interestings overall. To emphasize this a bit more, I edited the photo to be black and white and made the contrast very apparent. What it eventually ended up being is this photo: which makes things very clear. There’s going to be more on editing later on.

Geometric shapes overall tend to be really interesting to look at and hold the eye’s attention for a longer period.

The Rule of Thirds

Rules are meant to be broken, right? Well, not all the time. If you’re shooting with your phone, then consider using the rule of thirds grid options to frame your scene. But sometimes, the rule of thirds just won’t work for you based on your intent and what you want to highlight in the scene. So if the rules aren’t working for you, consider the fact that what’s paramount is still getting a great photo. Generally speaking though, try to work within the rules.

It All Comes Alive in the Editing Process

I used to be an Android phone user, and typically I tend to reach for apps like VSCO and edit from there. VSCO and other options like Lightroom Mobile are pretty popular and effective. But these days, I’m an iPhone user. So what I tend to reach for is my single favorite mobile photo editing app ever: RNI Films.

Personally, I really like the look of film and RNI Films gives you a whole load of presets that you can start with. Then you can edit all accordingly to however you wish. If you want more presets, you can buy them.

For black and white images, I tend to go for Ilford or Kodak film stocks and then lower the exposure. After this, I work with the contrast, vignetting, shadows, highlights, sharpness, and clarity. Otherwise, there isn’t a whole lot done to the photos afterwards.

When it comes to working with color, I tend to go for Kodak Ektar, Kodak Kodachrome, or the various Fujifilm Negative film options. Sometimes I like to tweak the look of the highlights and shadows accordingly and it really just depends on what kind of scene that I’m shooting.

Don’t Be Afraid of Crops

I’m purposely using this image in the last section. See how I got the plane in the top left? A crop could have fixed that and considering that what I’m really trying to emphasize is what’s on the land, then I can crop as much as I’d really like. Square crops tend to work really well for me personally.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.