Hundred Islands | Photo by Mia Santos

An orthophoto map is produced from aerial photos which are taken from a specially designed camera carried on a plane. One main difference between an aerial photo and an orthophoto map is that an aerial photo shows perspective. To give the viewer of the photo a sense of perspective (i.e., scale and height), the photographer can tilt the camera up and down. While an orthophoto map fixes any camera tilt and removes any sense of perspective. For instance, a photographer can make skyscrapers look tall in an aerial photo; while in an orthophoto map skyscrapers look all the same in size.

Using a photo manipulation program, a cartographer creates an orthophoto map by removing the effects of camera or plane tilt and terrain relief (vertical and horizontal dimension of land surface) from the map. These items distort the scale of the map. Thus removing these effects, the cartographer creates an orthophoto map that has a uniform scale which looks like an aerial photo. The user can measure directly from the orthophoto map without even correcting the distortion unlike in other maps.

Moreover, a cartographer can overlay additional information on an orthophoto map unlike in an aerial photo. He/She can use the orthophoto as a background image or source in GIS. He/She can also use it to review, revise, or collect more information on another map. An orthophoto is often used as either a map or in combination with GIS. Conversely, an aerial photo is usually used when a photographer wants to show a different perspective of the Earth.

Building owners use aerial photography to give their clients an unusual view of the property. While some photographers use kite aerial photography to show people a different viewpoint than what they normally see.