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Back to Blogs The Difference Between Aerial Photography and Aerial Mapping - Aerial Innovations Southeast

The Difference Between Aerial Photography and Aerial Mapping

Aerial photography and aerial mapping are both forms of aerial imaging that have been adapted for different purposes. Aerial photography is used to take still photographs from an airborne platform. In contrast, aerial mapping uses photographic cameras fitted with a fish-eye lens to capture images from a bird’s eye view that can be used for surveys or other purposes. Here are some differences between an aerial photograph and an aerial map.

Establishing the Objective 

When deciding to do aerial photography or aerial mapping, it’s essential to understand what you want to achieve. With aerial photography, your objective might be to take photographs using a high-quality camera from a low-flying aircraft. In this case, the surveying images captured will be static. It’s also possible to do aerobatic flights where a person is filming from a moving platform, a helicopter, or a gyrocopter. In this scenario, the aircraft is also used to capture images using a fast-moving camera.

Determining the Criteria

The type of aerial photograph you capture will significantly depend on what device you take the images from. Suppose you’re capturing aerial imagery with a digital camera. In that case, your camera should capture high-resolution photos because digital cameras are usually able to take more than one picture at a time. Unlike film cameras, you have to wait for the film to develop before seeing what images you’ve captured.

Types of Cameras 

Aerial photography and aerial mapping both require flying an aircraft over an area to capture images. However, several factors set them apart. Aerial photography typically uses a digital camera, while drone mapping uses photographic cameras that have a fish-eye lens. Aerial maps often involve capturing images from a moving platform, while aerial photography is done with a static camera.

Location Regulations 

Arrival at your designated location also plays a role in aerial photography. If you plan to fly over a national park to photograph a specific location, you must ensure that local officials or the government have designated it an eligible area. There’s a commercial aspect to aerial mapping, as you want to return with a completed set of accurate photographs. In this case, you should ensure that your flight path has been cleared from its location and any other sensitive areas.

Camera Equipment 

There’s a wide range of camera equipment available for aerial photographs or aerial maps. For instance, you can use a high-definition camera that captures more detailed images than average digital cameras. Another important aspect of this is that you need to use a digital camera because it will provide quality images that can be used as the basis for maps and drawings. An alternative to this is an entry-level HD trail cam that captures still images and video, but you can enlarge and composite them after the event.

Environmental Factors

You also have to consider the environmental factors that apply to a photographic flight. Because aerial photography involves traveling at high speeds, it’ll be subject to lateral winds. In this case, you should make sure you have adequate equipment on board, such as a compass and altimeter, and a weather forecast from a commercial source such as FlightAware to determine if the flight will be affected by any weather delays.

Trips, Measurements, and Transmission

Various photographic trips can be conducted, including vertical, horizontal, and curved, among others. It’s essential to get an idea of what type of photography you want to capture before entering the air. Aerial map measurements will also differ from aerial photographs because you’ll be working specifically on a horizontal plane sans traveling vertically. Another critical factor is that these measurements can be of any scale, creating any map you want. 

The last significant difference between aerial photography and aerial mapping is the transmission process. With aerial photographs, images are transmitted via a secure wireless link before being processed on a computer. In this scenario, you can use a professional-grade tripod or have a remote control for your camera to ensure that you have steady shots. With aerial maps, the preferred method is GPS as waypoints to help with location identification and time synchronization with other systems.

The Future of Aerial Photography 

Aerial photographs and aerial maps are dynamic forms of aerial imagery whose use is constantly evolving. Apps are now available for iOS and Android that allow you to process your images on the go. Drone mapping is also becoming more common in many parts of the world.

Although there aren’t any significant differences between aerial photography and aerial mapping, both forms of aerial imaging are utilized for different purposes. They also offer several advantages over traditional photographic equipment, such as obtaining images of large areas without using a long focal lens.

Our Aerial Innovations Southeast team of professionals possess expertise and years of experience in aerial and drone photography. If you’re looking to leverage aerial photography for your next project, get in touch with us today.


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