Purpose To investigate the replacement of conventional grid by air gap in axiolateral hip radiographs. The optimal air gap distance was studied with respect to radiation dose and image quality using phantom images, as well as 26 patient axiolateral hip radiographs. Methods The CDRAD phantom, along with polymethylmethacrylate slabs with thicknesses of 10.0, 14.6, and 20.0 cm was employed. The inverse image quality index and dose area product (DAP), as well as their combination, so called figure‐of‐merit (FOM) parameter, were evaluated for these images, with air gaps from 20 to 50 cm in increments of 10 cm. Images were compared to those acquired using a conventional grid utilized in hip radiography. Radiation dose was measured and kept constant at the surface of the detector by using a reference dosimeter. Verbal consent was asked from 26 patients to participate to the study. Air gap distances from 20 to 50 cm and tube current‐time products from 8 to 50 mAs were employed. Exposure index, DAP, as well as patient height and weight were recorded. Two radiologists evaluated the image quality of 26 hip axiolateral projection images on a 3‐point nondiagnostic — good/sufficiently good — too good scale. Source‐to‐image distance of 200 cm and peak tube voltage of 90 kVp were used in both studies. Results and conclusion Based on the phantom study, it is possible to reduce radiation dose by replacing conventional grid with air gap without compromising image quality. The optimal air gap distance appears to be 30 cm, based on the FOM analysis. Patient study corroborates this observation, as sufficiently good image quality was found in 24 of 26 patient radiographs, with 7 of 26 images obtained with 30 cm air gap. Thus, air gap method, with an air gap distance of 30 cm, is recommended in axiolateral hip radiography.