Hot air balloons over Tuscany

Riding in a hot air balloon is a bucket list item for many people.

A hot air balloon photo shoot is also a dream job for many photographers. My opportunity came recently on an incentive travel photography assignment in Tuscany, Italy.

Such photo opportunities are uncommon so here’s a few tips to help things run smoothly for your hot air balloon photo shoot.


As always discuss with the client what their expectations are and how you are going to fulfil these.

The balloon pilot is an essential part of making the photo shoot a success. Chances are you’re not the first professional photographer they’ve dealt with.  Find out how they’ve done it before and combine their successes into your own plans.


A balloon basket is not a place to have a lot of gear or to be doing frequent lens changes.

Think about what exactly is required and keep gear to a minimum.

Hot air balloon over red roof houses Siena, Italy.

Hot air balloon over Siena, Italy. Aerial photo

I set up two Nikon DSLR Cameras.  A D4 with my trusty 70-200mm covered most of the shots and D800 with a 24-70 for all the wide requirements.


Balloons generally fly early morning or late evening when the wind is calmest.  But this also means light conditions will constantly change too.

Thing appear to move slowly but remember you are in a moving basket yourself. So to prevent blur I would recommend keeping your shutter speed above 250.  Be prepared to regularly adjust the ISO to suit the changing light.


A hot air balloon photo shoot is unique in that everything is constantly moving and changing in an unpredictable way.  It might feel like slow motion but things can happen fast.

Anticipate shots as best you can and get the settings correct before the balloon appears into the frame.


The photo opportunities are going to come thick and fast.  But as with any photo shoot, think outside the square and don’t get bogged down in the obvious.

Aerial photo of Siena, Italy



Look up –      the balloon above is always a good for a wide angle.

Where’s the moon? Balloon flying past moon?  Or jets overhead leaving vapour trails?

Look Down – Are there patterns in the fields or nature?

Get shots with balloons and landmarks or buildings for scale.

Cover the time on the ground with the colourful; balloons and excited passengers boarding.

Finally, while you’re checking out the amazing views, don’t forget some shots without balloons.

Passengers boarding a balloon for a journey over Tuscany

Hot air balloons over Tuscany, Italy

Corporate Keynote Speaker