How to take a Photograph out of a Plane Window

How to take a Photograph out of a Plane Window

Here’s a quick set of tips for those of us lucky enough to be taking a trip in a plane and wanting to get the classic ‘out of the window shot’ that often is featured early in a travel photo album.

plane-window-photography-1.jpgImage by mbshane

One common mistake that people make with taking this shots is to put their camera’s lens right up against the glass of the plane window in the hope that it will help cut down on reflections and in the hope that it will steady their shot.

While it might help a little with reflections it generally does anything but steady the shot and will often usually increase camera shake’ due to the vibrations of the plane.

A better strategy, if you’re using a DSLR with a fitted lens, is to attach a lens hood to your lens and get in as close as you can to the window without actually touching it.

Alternatively, use your free hand to cup around the lens as much as you can to shield it from reflections.

Of course for high quality aerial shots you’ll want to shoot out an open window from an appropriate altitude – but then most of us are not in that league so the window seat on an airliner is our best option.

plane-window-photography-3.jpgPhoto by Tim Caynes

Here are five more tips that come to mind on photographing out a plane’s window:

1. Switch to Manual Focus

Quite often cameras get confused when shooting through glass (and on most planes its two or three scratched and marked sheets of glass). Switching to manual focussing mode and locking your focus on your main focal point can help a lot.

2. Shoot early in the Flight

Windows tend to ice up or get condensation on them once you’ve been flying for a longer period of time. Shoot early when you’re window is clearer and your shots will be better for it.

plane-window-photography-2.jpgPhotography by betta design

3. Be ready for the Plane Banking

It is difficult from an airliner to take shots of the ground (due to window size and the angles that are possible through them) but opportunities do present themselves for such shots on the few occasions that the plan banks before landing and after take off. The key is to be ready and to shoot fast as these moments don’t last long.

4. Turn off your Flash

For starters it’ll have no impact on your shot (its not strong enough to have an impact beyond a few meters) and secondly it’ll just cause reflections against the window.

plane-window-photography-4.jpgImage by igorms

5. Look for points of Interest

Sometimes the scenes out of plane windows seem quite spectacular to the eye but when you look at your photos they can be a little empty and un-inspirational. Look for a point of interest to bring your shot to life. It might be the wing or engine of the plane, it could be a cloud formation, another plane, a coastline, a change in the landscape below or a setting sun etc. It could even be something inside the plane.

plane-window-photography-5.jpgPhoto by Bill Liao

Update: Get everything You need to Know about Travel Photography in our New Guide

Since publishing this post we’ve put together an eBook specifically on Travel photography called Transcending Travel: a Guide to Captivating Travel Photography.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Joseph de Sousa September 20, 2013 01:02 am

    I took this photo with a Samsung phone flying over Kenya on my way to India. The condensation on the window added the effect of micro lenses.

  • RockinRita July 30, 2013 05:53 am

    Flying into Salt Lake City from Vegas. Taken with my Droid phone, the flight attendant made me put my DSLR away. I was not going to be denied!

  • AJ Dooley April 8, 2013 09:15 am

    Shutter speeds - kept them up. I recommend at least 1/1000 for all the small issues that can creep in. Using a large f/stop if necessary (say, f/4 or so) is OK, as DOF should not be an issue. Do NOT brace the camera against the plexiglass. That will transmit small vibrations to the camera and soften the image. The idea of a rubber lens hood that is sift and can be touched gently on the window is good, as it will eliminate reflections.

  • Ze Carrapichano March 15, 2013 03:55 am

    I always shoot out of plane windows especially when I fly little safari planes. You get great shots. Your advice is great but could you tell me what is the best way to gage what shutter speed to go for when shooting landscapes below? I end up shooting at probably unnecessarily fast speeds increasing ISO. Any tips?

  • Brent Gale February 22, 2013 09:36 am

    I shot the snow covered Andes Mountains from my window seat on a trip from Lima Peru.

  • timgray February 22, 2013 08:33 am

    My problem is that all the photos I want to take, I have to break the law to take them, or buy a Film camera without a light meter.

    DPS is not condoning breaking the law to take photos below 10,000 feet with a digital camera or camera that has electronics in it.... are they?

  • Gerry February 22, 2013 07:00 am

    Here are some shots I took on a recent flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

  • Dayv October 23, 2012 04:30 pm

  • Dayv October 23, 2012 04:26 pm

    Leaving San Diego for Sacramento. I used my hat to block reflections.

  • Vanita March 30, 2012 03:29 pm

    Please provide feedback! Thank you in advance :)

  • Ausdoc January 6, 2012 07:59 am

    #skvo Very Nice. Try using a Circular polarizer filter. Keep it up!

  • skvo December 30, 2011 03:48 pm

    Thanks! Here are my first tries:

    Can't wait to try more!

  • Ausdoc September 27, 2011 10:11 pm

    There is a often nice low window over the rear emergency exit near the toilet that usually has the best unobstructed view and you can rest your elbows on the emergency chute compartment. Just pretend you are waiting for the toilet.

  • Ashutosh July 1, 2011 02:30 pm

    Thanks for the article,
    Here's a pic that I took on my last visit home... hope you guys will like it..

  • Fran May 5, 2011 10:23 pm

    Avoid sitting close to a jump seat in order to avoid too dedicated crew telling you how dangerous camaras are.

  • John April 22, 2011 03:38 am

    Good point of view. Thanks Darren

  • Naik April 20, 2011 09:52 pm

    This is really nice to take it. Few days back I took a good one.

  • Paul April 20, 2011 01:43 am

    Interesting, this is something I've never experimented with much?

  • Dwayne Sealy April 19, 2011 07:25 am

    City of Toronto at night. Shot with a Nikon D5000 with the standard 18 - 55mm lens^_into^_toronto.jpg

  • Milton Vieira April 19, 2011 01:39 am

    Also check out the many "seat guru" or "seat expert" sites to find the ideal seat before you buy your ticket, for the ideal seat to take that photo that's in your head.

  • SooSing April 18, 2011 07:47 pm

    Here's a picture of Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City as the plane was about to land.

  • Francis Koo April 18, 2011 08:40 am

    Get a drian plunger from a hardware store; then cut a hole a liitel larger than the lens; press the plunger against the window to cut off the reflection.

  • Rahul April 17, 2011 01:40 pm

    Weird. My comment went live but the pic didn't.

    Here's another attempt, but if it doesn't then Darren has some homework to do. lol

    [eimg url='' title='IMG_0050.jpg']

  • Salim Abdulla April 17, 2011 05:33 am

    please click on the pic to see the series of photos that was taken over India

    Read more:

    One more pic

    [eimg link='' title='Off to Arabia via Air Arabiya - A series' url='']

    [eimg link='' title='Express with Air India ' url='']

  • Salim Abdulla April 17, 2011 05:31 am

    please click on the pic to see the series of photos that was taken over India

    One more pic

  • Jennifer Lycke April 16, 2011 03:48 am

    I was able to get this shot with my point and shoot camera when we our plane detoured over the northern part of Iceland (due to the volcano eruption last year)

  • Lindsey April 15, 2011 09:36 pm

    I love love love airplane window shots. A few examples:

    Norfolk, VA:

    Virginia Beach, VA:


    Thanks for sharing the tips!

  • Ginger Sanders April 15, 2011 05:57 pm

    Mona lake with a point & shoot.

    Allegiant Air
    Redmond, OR to Mesa, AZ.

    Working mine in Nevada. Same flight.

  • Rahul April 15, 2011 01:13 pm

    Flying always presents an opportunity with what's happening around your ride. Once I saw a thunderstorm in a distance with big gray clouds and lightening while our plane detoured to the clear side of the weather. I took following pic in one of my frequent trips using my P&S camera (wasn't carrying my SLR).

    Here's how it came out:
    [eimg url='' title='IMG_0050.jpg']

  • nick April 15, 2011 08:56 am

    i have a rubber hood for my fave lens only for this travel purpose and that's is the best advice to eliminate reflection.

  • rygyb April 15, 2011 08:04 am


  • Nick April 15, 2011 06:00 am

  • Joe April 15, 2011 05:15 am

    Good article. I take photographs out of airplane windows all the time. I am also a pilot, and do a fair amount of aerial photography (with light aircraft of course) The only airline that gave me grief about taking pictures out the window has been Jet Blue. Not up high, but still 15 minutes from landing - when you will get the best photos as the aircraft is lower, slower, and engines throttled back, the FAs come through and say "YOU HAVE TO TURN OFF THAT CAMERA BECAUSE IT HAS AN OFF/ON SWITCH" What a bunch of goof offs. Only on Jet Blue.

  • Daryl Wilson April 15, 2011 02:47 am

    one thing I have found when shooting from a plane is to not have a polarizing filter on, as many times it will record the stess in the glass or plastic as a rainbow effect in you photo ruining the scene. However it can also be a good shot when focusing just on this rainbow close up

  • Ricardo Burgos April 13, 2011 11:12 pm

    This was taken coming down the Andes, arriving in Santiago, Chile. Some hillside plantations. LAN airlines.

    [eimg link='' title='Siembras en laderas al Norte de Santiago' url='']

    This other was taken from a Cessna 150 further South in Chile.

    [eimg link='' title='Volando al Weste' url='']

    As they say, the best camera is the one you carry with you. I always carry my Nikon DSLR with me, and never leave it on the overhead bin, or back with the luggage in the Cessna.

  • anupartha April 13, 2011 06:38 pm

    Ok the link failed to show up, will try again..
    [eimg link='' title='A bit of London from air..' url='']

  • Mark April 13, 2011 06:46 am

    Sunrise at 32,000 feet

  • Rabbit April 13, 2011 06:44 am

    Some pics of a flight from Cancun to Memphis.

  • JesseAdams April 13, 2011 04:38 am

    Here is a shot of some beautiful cloud formations over the Atlantic Ocean on a flight from Calgary to London

  • anupartha April 13, 2011 03:30 am

    Yes the point & shoot camera works well in the window seat shots Thanks for the tutorial. One of my shot from the window seat.

  • Matthew Woodget April 13, 2011 03:03 am

    Selecting photos to showcase can be hard, speaking of which – I need your help can you vote on your favorite three photos here:

    Being the artist I'm struggling to select just three to submit to a charity photo book project. This is year three of the project and we've raised ~$50K+ a year for United Way of King County.

    Thanks for your help!

  • Gen McKeiver April 12, 2011 11:55 pm

    I can't wait for my next flight to try out your tips. Would have been awesome when I was flying into the Bahamas last month.

  • Vijay April 12, 2011 05:26 pm

    Here's a shot of sunrise that I had to plan even before the plane took off...
    and I am quite satisfied that it paid off... ----

    Feel free to explore my website..

    and few others are here --


  • Chandu April 12, 2011 02:47 pm

    Nice the article

  • fotomate April 12, 2011 02:37 pm

    or like this high in the sky picture

  • Sigit W.Wijayanto April 12, 2011 01:05 pm

    ..just sharing one of my shot, during a return flight to Jakarta...

  • ScottC April 12, 2011 12:22 pm

    A shot out of a plane window of the Niger river in Africa. Sometimes the Point & Shoot comes in handy:

  • Mandeno Moments April 12, 2011 09:07 am

    One common mistake that people make with taking this shots is to put their camera’s lens right up against the glass of the plane window in the hope that it will help cut down on reflections and in the hope that it will steady their shot.

    While it might help a little with reflections it generally does anything but steady the shot and will often usually increase camera shake’ due to the vibrations of the plane.

    A rubber lens hood is pressed against the window is good. It helps with reflections (interior lights reflecting off the window) and won't transmit vibrations from the plane to the camera.

    Rubber lens hoods are also good when photographing fish in aquariums.

    I avoid rubber lens hoods for general use because they don't give protection when you bump your lens against something.

  • June Pryor April 12, 2011 09:01 am

    Great tips once again! Thanks!

  • shensicle April 12, 2011 08:35 am

    Descending into Whitehorse.Taken with an iPhone 3GS as the flight attendants had already made me put away my DSLR for landing.

  • marty April 12, 2011 08:12 am

    There is that rule about electronic equipment off below 10,000. However, if you can wait until after the FA's sit down for landing, you can get a number of pictures through the windows - as the take off and landing videos on youtube indicate.

  • Pankaj October 7, 2010 12:33 am

    Nice tips. Will try and work on them. Thanks a lot:)

  • PhotoshopPrincess October 4, 2010 08:28 pm

    great tips...

    sometimes the plane flys to its side... hen you can sorta take a picture of the ground... or whatever is under the plane... :)
    though i dont think ill be able to be settled at the start of the flight... xP

  • Nicholas Fenner July 8, 2010 03:48 pm

    Be sure to get pictures taken above 10,000 feet. There's a rule about using electronics just after takeoff and before landing. On my last flight, I was asked to turn my camera off while nearing landing. It made me miss out on some cool in-cloud shots.

  • Scott July 1, 2010 06:43 am

    As someone else mentioned, skip the polarizer. I got a weird bluish tint when that could only be corrected by going to black and white.
    [eimg link='' title='Mountain Peak' url='']

  • Coble May 15, 2010 10:31 am

    Seems like every time I'm on a plane, the window is filthy!

  • Dan Ketcham April 22, 2010 04:24 am

    Thank you for this... I recently used this, and remembered all of your little tidbits... really helped!

    heres one of my faves from my recent trip! [eimg link='' title='DSC_6717' url='']

  • ktown March 17, 2010 02:48 am

    Thanks for the tips. These will come in handy on my next trip.

  • M Tully February 8, 2010 02:46 pm

  • Gaby January 23, 2010 11:56 pm

    thanks so much for the tips! :)

  • Chris November 13, 2009 10:08 am

    Sometimes you get something really interesting to shoot inside the aircraft, especially on long and/or overnight flights when the hideous interior lights are switched off. On a recent trip to Africa I was mesmerised by this rabbi doing what rabbi's do, quietly, with dignity and without disturbing anybody - it was one of those "special moments" that a photographer will never forget.

  • David November 5, 2009 11:05 pm

    nice tips, thanks. I tried out some night photos last week with my sigma 30mm 1:1.4 lens. I found it best to use manual exposure as the camera (Canon 400D) tended to overexpose photos of cities. My favourite shot was of Terminal 5 @ Heathrow as we came into land

  • SWP November 4, 2009 10:38 pm

    gonna have to try this out next weekend as I fly over the Rockies!

  • Arvind June 25, 2009 09:27 pm

    one can make a nice lens hood using Styrofoam cups blackening those from inside - works wonders
    and not just the photos but even the movies in mov or avi format are quite interesting.

  • amir June 4, 2009 05:22 pm

    so, is a PL filter good for avoiding the reflections of the glass or not?

    i haven't tried it yet and am flying next week to europe and would love to bring back home something i can

    be proud of...

    and what lens is prererable? does a prime lens 50mm f1.8 do the job? or should i use the 18-55 VR ?

    i use NIKON D80

    and what about light, if in order to maximize DOF i increase the aperture, what is a recomended ISO value

    during day time?

  • Hans May 29, 2009 07:26 am

    Nice shots from all of you but I have a question. How do you take shots in a plane when it is still a bit dark? Everything will be blurry because of camera shake. I cant hold the camera still in my hand. Not even outside a plane

  • Rob May 28, 2009 12:29 am

    ok, since you all have done it ,I'm gonna throw a few in.

  • Eric Mesa March 27, 2009 04:01 am

    I've taken shots both inside and out of the plane, but these techniques are really awesome. I hope to give them a shot next time I fly.

  • M Tully March 2, 2009 12:06 am

    Great pictures I have tried some which has been posted on flicker

  • itsolga December 13, 2008 06:51 am

    And finally, this one was taken from a 777 somewhere over Kansas.

  • itsolga December 13, 2008 06:48 am

    And this picture was taken over the Atlantic ocean on my way to London for Thanksgiving 2008.

  • itsolga December 13, 2008 06:45 am

    I took this picture on approach to DFW airport from the seat of a 777.

  • themisfit December 13, 2008 03:17 am

    I can't wait to try some of these tips out, they are great.

  • Alex Lanz December 13, 2008 02:45 am

    My photos:

  • william December 12, 2008 12:55 pm

    Some pics i took on the plane with awesome cloud formations.

    It's possible to use a Cir-Pl, just that turn the front element until u see a low level of cross polarization.

  • Matt Smith December 12, 2008 12:18 pm

    Here is one I took. Lots of fun taking these types of pics.

  • Dustin Barbour December 12, 2008 10:21 am

    Side note... can we get a little proofreading before publishing?

    "...often usually increase camera shake’ due to the vibrations..."

    "Switching to manual focussing mode and locking..."

    "Shoot early when you’re window is clearer and your shots will be better for it."

    "...on the few occasions that the plan banks before landing..."

    Not to be a Nazi about it, but come on... With readership like this blog gets...

  • Jen December 12, 2008 06:43 am

    I love to take photos from the window seat -
    Great tips! I used my polarizer filter once and it created some lovely rainbow tones in the image.

  • Davejwiz December 12, 2008 06:31 am

    I travel frequently for business and taking photos from the window seat is a big hobby of mine. Enjoy.

  • hazel erikson December 12, 2008 06:26 am
    This one is Denali above the clouds taken from our plane.

  • hazel erikson December 12, 2008 06:22 am

    OOPS, not sure how to do this.

  • hazel erikson December 12, 2008 06:21 am

    We were flying into Fairbanks when I noticed our planes reflection on the ground and took this photo.

  • Tom Leparskas December 12, 2008 04:22 am

    Nice tips - shooting outside an airline window has always been frustrating. I never have my camera in my small bag - always in the upper bin.
    Here are two shots that I can say I'm happy with - just lucky to catch great clouds and sun.

  • zulfadhli December 12, 2008 03:40 am

    I am not sure why, but almost all the time when I fly on an airplane I will get a seat besides the wing. So most of my airplane shot will have the airplane wing inside it. Hope to get a seat far from an airplane for my next flight. When I shot inside an airplane for the first time, I tend to take out the window from my shot, but after a while I realize the windows, the wings, the engine is what makes the shot interesting and unique because the moment people see the photo, they will know this shot was taken from an airplane and that is the purpose of a picture right? to tell the story by itself...

  • Eric L. December 11, 2008 11:29 pm

    Here's a link to some out the window pics:

    And some in B&W Infrared:

    In addition to previous suggestions, here's a few more.

    Don't use a polarizer of any kind when shooting out an airplane window as the glass is already polarized and you will get cross-polarization, a purple rainbow effect.

    Sit in front of the engines as the heat from the exhaust can cause distortion.

    Try B&W IR, it really cuts down on atmospheric haze.

    Ask the flight crew if anything particularly photogenic is visible on the flight and which side of the airplane to see it from.

    Wide is better than tele, both for depth of field and minimizing blurriness.

    For the cost of an airplane ticket and the hassle of security, I don't fly without taking photographs out the windows.

    When people ask me how my photos come out so clear, I tell them that I roll down the window, take the shot, and then roll it back up again. It usually has about a three second delay before they get the joke ;-).

    Have fun,

  • Rui Alves December 11, 2008 11:24 pm

    Hi there,
    I'll add a few more tips:

    - Avoid backlit:
    Select your seat window, according to your flight path (for instance, if you're flying on the North hemisphere, heading North, in the morning, you'll have to choose an "A" seat, because the sun is rising from East to West).

    - Avoid seats behind the wings:
    Engine's exhaust will "blur" your photos.

    - Night shots, over a wing:
    While the aircraft banks, use the wing as your focal point.

    Thanks for this thread!
    Rui Alves

    For those interested, some of mine window views:|-2|-2|-2|15||15|2|||||||-2|-2|-2|15|||15|1||-2|5604||||all|2||||||-2|||1|||||||||&newdisplay=4

  • Kurakensama December 11, 2008 11:06 pm

    I hate using the lens hood on plane... the space is too narrow and usually I try to aim to a very small place where the hooded lens doesn't fit. I prefer removing the hood and killing reflections by hand. I use a closed aperture and manual focus.
    The "Tone" filter on Picasa have worked great with me fixing the tonal range, greatly distorted by the acrilic window.

    Here are some of my best aerial pictures:

    I hope you like them.

  • Ion Lacatus December 11, 2008 10:01 pm


    In my previous post i accidentaly inserted teh image code rather than the direct link.

    sorry about that (here's the direct link)...

  • Ion Lacatus December 11, 2008 09:29 pm

    I don't know if the photographs here were post-processed or not. This one is.

  • Paul Drumm December 11, 2008 09:22 pm

    I took a few shots recently on a flight from London - Singapore on the Airbus A380. My first attempts at in air photography!

  • Tim Caynes December 11, 2008 08:22 pm

    I love taking shots out the window. The one of mine used in this article is one of my favorites and a good example of how tip #3 really makes for some added drama.
    I took that one with a 5MP Sony W1 compact. The depth of field I can get with it is incredible (quite how the engine and the field below are both in focus I don't know). It's also much less likely to get unwanted attention.
    My top tip is: clean the window. It might look odd to the person sat next to you when you're scrubbing the window with a wet wipe and a tissue before you take off, but it's worth it.
    Take off and landing are definitely the most dramatic, but a good view over mountains is also very nice.
    (also with the Sony W1)

  • skka December 11, 2008 07:58 pm

    Find out which side you will get to see the sunrise/sunset.

  • Florian December 11, 2008 07:55 pm

    Nice topic !

    I would add that an airplane is a great place to shoot clouds from an original point of view, see example below :


  • Smitty December 11, 2008 10:57 am

    How a propos that I'm reading this from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport!

  • kyle everson December 11, 2008 10:45 am

    ya i have the same problem cabrown has, each time i take out my camera during takeoff or landing the steward or stewardess tells me to put it away because it's electronic. It really disappoints me because thats the best time to take pictures. I just look out the window and say "oh i could've taken a picture of that" and such.

  • jordan Oroshiba December 11, 2008 10:09 am

    just read the airline fliers... its usually not against their rules as long as its for "personal use only"

  • Lander December 11, 2008 10:04 am

    Great post! I think the most important thing is to be lucky enough to be able to choose a great place, and to remember that you have a camera. Of course, the weather is also important, and the cleanliness of the window!

    I feel lucky to capture this great sky between Belfast and London!

    Take care!

  • David December 11, 2008 09:38 am

    Try taking photos through the window in one of the doors. They are sometimes lower down the side of the plan than the windows at the seats and so have a better view of the ground.

  • Fletch December 11, 2008 08:28 am

    I like to include some of the surround of the window. It gives context showing that you are starting your journey rather than trying to take a great shot of the landscape.

    Like this
    Or This

  • ilovephotoblogs December 11, 2008 07:47 am

    nice post.....and try putting a jacket over your head while photographing to kill reflections..

  • Kristi December 11, 2008 06:55 am

    And watch out for turbulence! ;)

  • cabrown December 11, 2008 05:24 am

    Each time I've tried taking photos from a commercial aircraft window, I was sternly told to stand down and that I was violating some aviation security laws of some sort.

  • sebastiaen December 11, 2008 05:19 am

    I'll add this tips although I am not sure about the first one:

    *You can use a PL filter to control the reflections from the window.

    *To avoid reflections, switch off the lights over your head.

    *Prefer to use a faster shutter if you want to make a picture of something that you can see out of the window that is moving very fast.

    And I hope you don't mind me posting this picture I took on a plane:

  • Paul December 11, 2008 05:17 am

    I am going to have to try this next time I fly. I am always a little worried about pulling out a DSLR on a flight but, why not?

  • John December 11, 2008 02:39 am

    Excellent suggestions. One ward of caution--some airlines in the US can get snippy if you're shooting while the plane is <10,000 ft on takeoff or landing. Since the camera is an "electronic device", it falls afoul of the rule that all such devices must be switched off at that portion of the flight.

  • Millard December 11, 2008 02:38 am

    Geez, those are much better than anything I ever got looking out a plane window.

  • Sime December 11, 2008 02:17 am

    This was one of my faves on a little local flight over Peru...

    Hope you don't mind me sharing!!

  • Scott Rouse December 11, 2008 01:30 am

    Julieanne Kost, who works for Adobe Systems, has published a wonderful book of images taken out of a plane window called Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking. The images are stunning and the writing is quite inspirational.

  • jordan Oroshiba December 11, 2008 01:28 am

    I took this photo out of an airplane window, great result

  • sanders December 11, 2008 12:20 am

    Thanks for sharing.

    The technique to attach the lenshood to the window of the plane works also by taking photographs in the zoo where you have cages.
    If you don't what the cage on your photo just attach the lens to the cage.