We’ve all taken photos from an airplane window to ‘gram to the world that we are off to see a new part of the world (or maybe just going home for Thanksgiving). Even though we probably don’t think of it as an ideal situation to take a photo, there is still ample opportunity to capture something interesting from a perspective that we generally aren’t presented. And, according to Icelandic photographer Páll Jökull, if you do it right, you might even be able to take a quality photo that is more than just a quick post to your Instagram story.
To celebrate Icelandair’s new Boeing 737 MAX 8, Jökull recently shared seven tips on how to get the perfect picture from cruising altitude. And though flying over the lovely landscapes of Iceland might help your cause (and some of these tips are specific to the country), the information presented is still going to be beneficial no matter where you find yourself traveling too. Just be sure to get a window seat.
Play with colors, lights, and shadows to add depth to your photo.
Clouds can make an interesting pattern on the ground. In Iceland, the contrasts of a snow-covered landscape against rivers or lakes can make for a great photo. The black sand beaches or a rocky coastline against the surf and the waves of the blue Atlantic also show off the amazing landscapes of Iceland. As the ground is slowly changing color from the brown and yellow autumn and winter tones you might find green colors popping out, like moss-covered lava fields.
Use the rule of thirds
Carefully balance the space between the sky and the ground: 1/3 sky versus 2/3 ground works well. When you are in the air and can only see the sky and/or clouds, you can use the wing and engine as a prominent part of the photo.
Including part of the aircraft wing in the shot can make the landscape really stand out.
The window of the aircraft also nicely frames the landscape. When you are photographing the landscape below, the wing will automatically point diagonally upwards in the photo, creating a connection between the plane and the ground.
Use aperture priority or manual mode to get the best results of sunrise or sunset photos.
If it’s getting dark then adjust your ISO setting to 800-1200. The golden hour before and after sunset or sunrise can be rather long in Iceland, especially in the winter because of the low angle of the sun. The sunset light can linger, providing up to two hours of beautiful golden, pink, red and purple colors until the dark blue color of the night takes over.
Reduce window glare
To reduce glare on your picture from the window of the plane, hold the camera lens close to the window or even covering it with your other hand so the reflection does not reach into the lens.
Take full advantage of the new Boeing 737 MAX LED light settings to help shooting at dark by waiting until the cabin lights are set to night mode.
Use a tripod
Photographing northern lights from a window of a plane requires the use of a tripod, as you would use on the ground. A small Joby Gorilla Pod is always a great tool to have around. Set the camera to ISO 2500-4000 and use f/2.8 or lower with 5-10 second shutter speed you should be able to capture some northern lights. Try to set the camera lens up to the window to minimalize glare reflecting the light of the window.
Left is best!
In general, it is better to sit on the left side of the plane if you plan to photograph through the window. It is easier for your posture and for framing the shot so you don‘t have to twist your body to get the shot.
Editor’s Note from Michael Bonocore: But sometimes, on long-haul flights, the view is best on the right and may be worth the uncomfortable photography posture. Use a site like Flight Aware to research the flight path on previous days. Use Google Earth to then find out what you ‘think’ may be the best side to sit in order to get the best view. Also, take into account the sunrise and sunset. Shooting into the sun, especially from an airplane, can be harsh. If I am flying during a sunrise or sunset, usually I will opt to sit on the opposite side of the sun.
So there you have it! 7 tips that should help you make those long flights a little more entertaining. Your Instagram followers will thank you.