Obtaining Aerial and other historical photographs

Public Aerial Photographs

Satellite and aerial photographs were taken in the past by a variety of organisations for various purposes and there are now commercial organisations which have collections of them. These include, for example, photographs originally taken to be sold door-to-door to householders, photographs taken to plan civil engineering projects such as roadways and irrigation schemes, and photographs originally taken for military purposes which have now been declassified.     

Free copies of historical satellite/aerial photographs can be obtained from Google Earth. Google Earth images are taken vertically and can be particularly useful if the exact route of a known linear object such as a wall or fence is of interest. But often aerial photographs taken obliquely (rather than vertically) are necessary to identify what an object is and these are not available from Google Earth and will have to be obtained from another commercial supplier for a fee. A fee-charging commercial supplier will also need to be used if it is desired to obtain a vertical photograph taken at a date earlier that the oldest date available on Google Earth. Commercial suppliers understandably do not want to provide photographs on a "sale or return basis" but some providers allow you (either free or for a nominal subscription) to browse online low-resolution copies before ordering the full-resolution copy for a fee. This can be very useful in allowing you to check whether an image is likely to show relevant detail before you pay for a copy. For example, you may be able to check whether or not the area of interest is completely obscured by tree cover or, alternatively, is open. Suppliers include www.ncap.org.uk and www.skyscan.co.uk 

When ordering and downloading images from such sites it is important to preserve details of the date the image was originally taken as often the image itself will not contain a date. This can be done by, for example, making a PDF copy of the order screen showing this information (as shown in the example above). For images from well-known commercial suppliers it is not usually necessary to obtain a formal statement from the company for use in legal proceedings because the procedures in most civil courts and tribunals provide for one party to give notice to another of photographs it intends to rely on with the onus usually being on the other party to raise an objection if it disputes the authenticity of a photograph - and if a PDF of the order screen confirming the date is provided, there is rarely a dispute about whether a photograph can be used.

Public Ground level photographs

Google Street View is a well known source of street level photographs taken by the Google car which, periodically, is driven round the roads. To access Street View images, first go to maps.google.com and find the road you are interested in, then click and drag the yellow man symbol to the desired position and a historical image of that position will be displayed. You can click to move up the road and click-and-drag to rotate. The month and year of the latest available image will be displayed it the top left hand corner. If you are using a computer you can click on the clock symbol to display historical images (not available on tablets and phones). 

Privately taken photographs

In addition to public sources of images, such as Google Street View, the current or previous occupants of land, or neighbours and relatives who may have stayed, may have historical photographs.


This information page is designed to be used only by clients of John Antell who have entered into an agreement for the provision of legal services. The information in it is necessarily of a general nature and is intended to be used only in conjunction with specific advice to the individual client about the individual case. This information page should not be used by, or relied on, by anyone else.

The information on this page about specific computer techniques is provided for information purposes only. Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate and up to date at the time it was written but no responsibility for its accuracy, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by me. You should satisfy yourself, before using any of the techniques, software or services described, that the techniques are appropriate for your purposes and that the software or service is reliable.

This page was lasted updated in July 2017 Disclaimer