I am trying to locate the best aerial imagery to use to assess a small area in Virginia using QGIS 3.6. I need to buffer features around water features and overlay onto aerial imagery to show potential impacts to the existing landscape.

What is the best source to use for aerial imagery?

Is there a good open source?

I need a very small area and could clip from a larger file but have been having trouble accessing the large national datasets.

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    If it is open data that you seek then I think the place to ask is the Open Data Stack Exchange. – PolyGeo Jun 11 '19 at 7:39

There are lots of places to download GIS data and imagery around the web but they can be tricky to find. Earth Explorer is a good option that searches by location, time, and data set, giving you access to lots of imagery for free. This includes imagery from NAIP / NAPP, which is probably the most applicable to your project.


Use the form on the left pane to set location and date range (choose the last few years to see some options), and in the data set tab choose NAIP and NAPP, then search. If you know your location quite specifically, you can use the coordinates to narrow down the imagery results to just that which covers your area.

Use the download options button on your image of choice to get a download link for the full size.

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  • Thank you so much - that was really helpful as I have searched for awhile and was coming up with sources that didn't work very well. I have downloaded the tile for the area I'm interested in. Can I further clip this in QGIS to just the particular area I need? Otherwise the file is quite large. – km442 Jun 11 '19 at 2:06
  • @km442 Yes you can clip. I'm not 100% familiar with QGIS so I recommend google "clip raster qgis" (you probably already have...). It is not uncommon to have very large imagery files, and most GIS software will have a way of geographically constraining the active region for processing tasks. If you are familiar with ArcMap or the other Esri software, this is done using "environment" settings and setting raster processing to use only a defined area. I imagine QGIS can do something similar. – EatTh3Path Jun 11 '19 at 17:30

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