How to Take the Perfect Picture Out the Window of a Plane

Yahoo TravelMay 16, 2014

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Don’t kid yourself … we’ve all done it in the air.

After you’ve read your magazines, perused the Sky Mall brochure, and enjoyed an in-flight episode of Law & Order: SVU, that’s when we reach for our smartphones.

Whether the sun is shining on the canyons below or the city lights are laid out like a sparkly dress, the window seat is definitely the best seat on the plane for iPhone photogs. 

For some tips and tricks to produce the perfect in-air pic, we asked Michael Loccisano, Getty Images staff photographer, to lend us a hand (and a lens). Here are his suggestions for taking the perfect in-flight picture.

Frame It

It’s a good idea to photograph wide enough so that you capture the border of the window. It’s usually much brighter outside, and by shooting wide you will get a nice black frame. Additionally, the shape of a plane window is very recognizable, giving your photo a location.

To Flash or Not to Flash?

The flash should always be off. It will likely reflect off the window, screwing up your photo. Also, the flash will only travel so far—not far enough for what you’re looking to brighten. 

(Photo: Jo Piazza)


When the sun is above the plane, say, around noon, it will cast its light on the top surfaces of everything below: the plane’s wings, the tops of the clouds, and the land, creating shadows from the clouds and the plane itself. 

When the sun is setting or rising on the horizon and parallel with the plane, it will often create a beautiful spectrum of colors in the sky.

If the sun is nowhere to be seen, and clouds are in abundance, everything below will be dim from a subdued, mellow light.  

Among the Clouds

Aim to expose the brightest parts of the clouds, similar to how eyes see them. This will darken the naturally shaded parts of the cloud. If you aim for the exposure of your image to show detail in the darker part of the clouds, the photo will become bright and washed out.

Timing & Steadiness

(Photo: Michael Loccisano)

The ideal time to take a photograph from inside an airplane is while it’s parked, during bright daylight. The worst time is while it’s taking off at night, because not only is it dark, but that is also when the plane is shaking the most. 

Keep Snapping

Aim to get better images from the camera itself, as opposed to post-production. Take 30 pictures and choose the very best one.

When you’re done—don’t forget to share with @YahooTravel!