I am an airline pilot and as the winter is coming and we get nice clear nights I am seeing masses of stars out the flight deck windows. At night we have dim lighting in the flight deck and when I try to take a picture I just get interference because of the reflections.

I see other pilots that take excellent pictures, so I am wondering if someone can share any good techniques or setting on the Galaxy S21 Ultra to take these kind of pictures. Or even an addon to the camera.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you referring to stars or engine starts? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2023 at 4:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you know that these other photos are taken with a mobile phone (of any description)? While we're quite keen on emphasising around here that the gear doesn't make a photographer, there are some things where you do need more specialised gear than a phone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Oct 8, 2023 at 12:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RossMillikan stars \$\endgroup\$
    – pilotman
    Oct 8, 2023 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ You'd probably get better results if you fly to the Bahamas or Aeropuerto Desierto de Atacama, and bring a tripod + camera. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2023 at 16:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @EricDuminil sure, but its really nice flying over here especially over northern Europe when the Aurora is out in play. And during cruise it gives me something to do haha \$\endgroup\$
    – pilotman
    Oct 8, 2023 at 16:37

2 Answers 2


You just need to block the reflections from the lens' FOV...

Probably the best answer for use in a cockpit is a rubber lens hood.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the suggestion, I will give this a try next time I get a chance. Cheers \$\endgroup\$
    – pilotman
    Oct 7, 2023 at 23:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ In absence of a lens hood, placing the camera against the window may be helpful at blocking reflections - although it restricts the direction you can point too. There are a few tips about museum display glasses (which pose reflection problems similar to windows) in en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Museum_photography#Practical_cases \$\endgroup\$
    – Pere
    Oct 8, 2023 at 9:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have this - "Ultimate Lens Hood" - in fact I have two, in different sizes. I had great hopes for it, but it works best through single glazing. If you take a photo through double-glazed windows, you still get some reflections. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Oct 8, 2023 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @osullic, probably the best solution is a large piece of black fabric, but probably not suitable in a cockpit. And the aircraft I've flown have all had single pane windows... sometimes laminated, but no air gaps (double reflections). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 8, 2023 at 21:36

I never tried to make photographs of the stars from a plane, but the problems I see are (independent from the camera being used):

  • Shake and vibration
  • Reflection though the windows
  • filtering effect

So you might consider these tools:

  • Get a gimble (unless you can get very short exposure times at rather low ISO)
  • Try to avoid light between the windows and the lens (maybe wrapping some black cloth around, or the cited rubber lens hood
  • If possible "shoot raw" and try to optimize the results afterwards

I did not have a chance to inspect the cockpit windows closely, but "passenger windows" typically have "double glass" with significant distance (like 3cm) in between, so there will be reflections (not to talk about scratches). Furthermore at high altitude there frequently is condensation or ice on the side of the glass you cannot reach.

Also consider whether it has to be from the cockpit and with a smartphone: Maybe get or lease some photo equipment and make a short holiday at some good locations, like on islands like La Palma or Hawaii (if money permits ;-)).

The other thing is why you want to take photos of the stars at all: Maybe use an app like Stellarium an simply enjoy what you can see with your eyes ;-)


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