How It All Began: The History Of Aerial Photography

Aerial photography is one of the most exciting branches of photography. Our field has become so advanced that people can take pictures at all different altitudes using literally any type of flying mechanism – airplanes, helicopters, blimps, hot air balloons, parachutes, spacecraft, and more. Over the past century or so, aerial photographers (such as the experienced photographer at Imagewerx Aerial Photography) have honed the skills required to capture crystal-clear images in all types of settings. Of course, it goes without saying that the aerial photography industry was not always as advanced as it is today.

In order to get a true appreciation for how far we’ve come in the world of aerial photography, we have to get a better understanding of where we started. In this blog post, our aerial photographer in Colorado is here to explore the origins of our exciting industry.

The Earliest Beginnings

In 1855, a Frenchman named Gaspar Felix Tournachon (commonly known as “Nadar”) became the first man to dream up the idea of using aerial photography. He specifically planned to use aerial images to aid in the process of surveying and cartography. It took him a full three years before he was finally able to turn this concept into reality, but in 1858, he successfully captured the first aerial image from a tethered hot air balloon floating 240 feet (80 meters) above the ground.

Capturing this image was no small feat. At the time, photographers were still using the early collodion wet plate photographic process, which meant that photographs could only be developed using a darkroom wherever the photograph was taken. This means that Nadar had to transport a complete darkroom in the basket of his hot air balloon. The development process took about 15 minutes to complete.


Pigeons & Rockets & Kites — Oh My!

As technological advancements in photography made it easier to capture images, early photographers were able to use different mediums to get their cameras into the air. The first aerial images captured from kites were taken in 1882. These photographers used various inventive mechanisms (such as rubber bands and slow-burning fuses) to time the release of the cameras’ shutters after the kites were launched.

In 1903, photographers began attaching small cameras to pigeons. These cameras could be programmed to capture images every 30 seconds. Though the flight patterns were not always reliable, these images became incredibly valuable – particularly in the field of military reconnaissance.

In 1897, Swedish photographer Alfred Nobel became the first photographer to successfully capture an aerial image using a rocket. (The Nobel prize was eventually named after him.) Over the next decade, other photographers followed his lead and eventually developed more reliable ways to use rockets for aerial photography.

Enter: The Airplane

You are probably familiar with the Wright Brothers and the fact that they became the first pilots to fly airplanes successfully. What you may not know is that in 1908, Wilbur Wright also piloted the first plane from which an aerial photograph was captured. Photographer L. P. Bonvillain captured the image while Wright piloted the aircraft.

As the most reliable method for capturing aerial images, aircraft quickly became the preferred medium for aerial photographers. Aerial photography took off and grew to play a prominent role in World War I. After the war ended, the field of aerial photography expanded to be used for other, non-military purposes.

Aerial Photography Today

Fast-forward a century, and aerial photography is now used in countless different industries for a variety of different purposes. Our aerial photographer in Colorado Springs is excited to carry on this thrilling profession. We are proud to capture outstanding images that our clients may use for marketing, surveying, mapping, tracking progress of new construction, litigation, home/office decor, and any number of other purposes.

To learn more about our professional aerial photography services in Colorado, check out You can also call our Pilot & Photographer, Mitch Bowers, directly at 303-550-2946. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have!

Historical Information Source:


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Englewood, CO 80112

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