Our easy-to-follow pole photography tutorial shows you what you need and how to take aerial photos from the comfort of solid ground. We also show you how you can take your aerial pole photography images at the photo editing stage and stitch them together into stunning 360-degree panoramic photos.
Most images are captured from between one and two metres from the ground, because that’s the height that the majority of us see the world from.
It’s easier to raise the camera to our eyes and snap a picture than it is to change perspective. Try changing your angle of view, however, and it can result in far more dynamic photographs.
A great way to make your images more interesting is to get up high or get down low. Putting your camera on the ground and shooting from a worm’s eye perspective instantly gives your images impact.
Similarly, finding high angles to shoot from, such as a stairway, bridge or an upper-story window, instantly lifts your images out of the ordinary.
A common example is portrait photographers who carry a stepladder in their car to achieve a higher perspective for group shots. Changing your angle of view is a great photographic technique to master.
In one of the more creative photo ideas we’ve come across, we’d like to introduce you to pole photography, a slightly cumbersome but rewarding technique where photographers use a camera pole to change your point of view.
Pole photography not only gives your images a fresh perspective, but it can help you look over things that obstruct your view of the surroundings, such as hedgerows, fences, or sea defences.
For this pole photography tutorial, we got up early and headed down to Vicar’s Close in Wells, Somerset. Here’s how we got on…
How to shoot pole photography
01 Shooting settings
With our 8mm lens we manually prefocused to 1m, with ISO100 for best quality, Manual exposure, and an f/8 aperture for a large depth of field with the whole scene in focus. The sun in the frame in some shots would give different exposure readings, so we tested on the ground, checked the histogram and overexposure warning, then altered the shutter speed. We allowed the sun to burn out a little of the sky, and 1/400 sec gave a good balance of sky and shadows.
02 Extra kit
For a pano, rotate on your lens’s nodal point to avoid perspective errors. The Nodal Ninja R1 Pano head (£330) was easy to use, but not essential with a wide-angle lens if your camera is swaying on the pole. When the camera isn’t in front of you use a radio shutter release, but you can also use a wired or infrared device.
03 Keep it up
Unlike a tripod, even if a pole is firmly anchored to the ground, the top sways in the breeze, so it’s important to use a fast shutter speed to minimise camera movement. It’s also best to ensure the pole is as upright as possible, so a bubble spirit level taped to the pole is a huge help. We used a Fanotec Rotator Footplate to stabilise the pole and control the rotation; it’s marked with 45-degree click stops, so for our four shots we rotated it two clicks each time and fired the shutter.
04 Up the pole
We used a Fanotec Series 1 pole (£324) that extends to 2.75m high. The pole comes in four sections that collapse down to just 0.81m, and because it’s made from carbon fibre it only weighs 0.75kg, making it easy to carry. It’s just like working with a very long monopod, although somewhat harder to handle, so take extra care not to smash your camera against anything! For an even higher view, the Fanotec Series 2 pole (£660) stretches to 6m high.
05 Wide boys
A big drawback to having your DSLR way above your head is not being able to frame up and compose the photo. For a lot of pole photography you’ll use wide-angle lenses to simply include everything. We used a Sigma 8mm f/3.5 DG lens on a Canon EOS 7D, which captures a huge angle of view and makes a panorama quick and easy. Also clean your camera lens before attaching it to your pole to help control lens flare.
06 Group shots
A pole is useful for other types of photography too; it’s great for group photos, but if you’re not using an ultra-wide-angle lens you’ll need to see what you’re shooting. The Hähnel Inspire Wireless Live View Remote Control (£180) enables you to see the Live View image from your camera and to fire the shutter remotely. If your camera doesn’t support Live View, the unit has a built-in video camera you can use to help you estimate the field of view, even if it doesn’t show it exactly.