Picture a valley in the early hours of the morning. One by one, colourful hot air balloons start dotting the blue sky.
Balloon festivals can look stunning in a photograph. But great hot air balloon pictures are not easy to take.
Here are 10 tips to help you capture amazing hot air balloon photos.
Arrive Early to Find the Best Photography Spot
Whatever type of photography you practice, it’s always a good idea to arrive early. This is especially true for a balloon fiesta, yearly hot air balloon festivals organised throughout the world.
One famous event is held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Arriving early to the event will allow you to take your time and scout the location before photographing. But it will also mean you can secure a good spot for you and your camera bag when the crowds arrive.
The good thing about balloon photography is that it is usually done in an open space. So you should find you have plenty of room.
When you get to a location, start by looking around for potential vantage points that you can photograph from.
It’s also worth having a chat with some of the crew members or volunteers and even the pilots. They might have knowledge of places that will give you a good view.
Photograph the Preparation for More Variety
Anyone who has arrived early at a hot air balloon launch will tell you how much preparation goes into getting things ready.
Unrolling the balloon off the truck. Attaching the basket. Checking the burners. Slowly filling the balloon up before finally filliping it so it is upright.
Whilst a blown up hot air balloon is the focus for most photographers, it’s also worth photographing the preparation.
This will give your hot air balloon photos variety and help tell more of a story.
Get Close-Up Hot Air Balloon Pics
One of the most photogenic elements of hot air balloons is the colorful balloon material.
Think about it, how many times have you seen a boring grey balloon? Never, right? So, any hot air balloon photography should also include some close-ups.
Get close enough to fill the entire frame with the colourful balloon material. Use a zoom lens for this. These abstract photos will look great but also add variety to your portfolio.
But getting closer also applies to other elements of balloon photography. For example, if you are photographing the crew, don’t stand far away and zoom in using a telephoto lens. Instead, get close to your subject.
Interact with them and you are far more likely to capture a candid photo than being far away.
Look for Your Wow Shot
Whenever I run photo tours or workshops, I always set a task for my students which involves capturing 3 photos. A close-up, something which shows context (like an environmental portrait) and the big, impressive wide angle shot.
This is a great way to think about any scenario you are photographing.
You’ve captured the early morning preparation. Then you walked amongst the balloons and got some close-up images. Now you need that big “wow” shot that could appear as a double page spread or front cover.
Hopefully, you already know the spot to capture this from when you were scouting earlier in the day. Now it’s time to execute it.
How to Stay Safe When Taking Hot Air Balloon Photos
Besides always being polite and courteous to pilots, crew and other passengers, you also need to make sure you stay safe. And that you do not endanger other people.
Be extra careful not to damage the balloon fabric or the ropes when around them. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t go inside of the balloon or look at the burners without permission from the pilot or the crew.
Once you are on-board, keep your valuables and camera equipment secure so they do not fall out.