5 Tips for Shooting Photos & Video from a Helicopter

Sometimes shooting from the air is essential. While there are increasingly more options besides a helicopter (we’ve shot more with R/C helis in recent years – click here and click here to see some of the highlights of these fun toys) sometimes there is simply no substitute for a good old-fashioned chopper. For example, the shoot we’re currently working here in Cape Town with Mike Horn and crew demanded that we take to the air for the shot list we’re working on.

Top 5 Tips for Shooting from a Heli:

1. Book with the right operation. Go with a well-recommended outfit. An operation that has pilots who understand photographer/filmer needs is essential. We photographers and filmers have unique time pressures around light and weather considerations – it works out better when your pilot and ground-team understand this.

2. Make sure that the doors can come off for photography and filming. And then make sure they are off when you arrive.

3. Dress warmly. No matter what time of year it is. The rotors make it chilly.

4. Use a safety harness. Attach yourself to heli at two points (eg: the frame and floor) plus your seatbelt. If you do not have a harness – tape the seatbelt clasp liberally with gaffers tape. Ideally you can move about freely. Note: a regular climbing harness and carabiner will work in a pinch but a the full-body roofer harness is preferred.

5. Use camera exposures of higher than 1/1250s. Ideally 1/1600s or greater. This will insure that your shots are free of motion blur. There is lots of motion see inside a heli that you can see and not see (both high and low frequency). Adjust the rest of your settings (ISO/Aperture) to get the proper exposure around that shutter speed.

[As another point of reference – some of you might recall the video I ran a couple years ago that was a visual run-through of my pre-flight. Check that out by clicking HERE.]

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