Aircraft Photography is as difficult as it looks. The speed, the lighting and the altitude, all add to the rigors of airplane photography. Aircraft photographers practice various techniques to capture the best image. For best aircraft photography you need to keep in mind various elements and converge them all together to pan out the best results.

The Anchorage CAF’s Vultee BT-13 wing down over the Yentna River yesterday Tuesday June 5, 2018. Flying the aircraft is Ace Pilot Alex Roesch. Photo by Rob Stapleton/Alaskafoto

Get up early

If you want best aircraft photography you have to work for it, and getting up early goes with the territory. The light when shines directly onto the approaching aircraft, and the body and engines are lit perfectly. Once the plane passes you, you can take amazing silhouette photographs if you turn quickly. Underexposing by a few stops can be a solution to heighten the silhouette effect.

Brave the cold!

Winter is a great season for photography. The sun stays relatively low throughout the day. As a result, light falls beautifully onto the subject: the aircraft and you get the best aircraft photography possible. Dress warmly; if the cold grips you, operating your camera with a steady hand becomes practically impossible. Preferably use gloves that enable your fingers and palms to grip firmly, preventing the camera from falling out of your hands. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a bed of snow. This can be useful because snow serves as a brilliant reflector, giving the belly of the aircraft extra light as the sun reflects off the ground. You can introduce more detail by overexposing by one stop.


If you need best aircraft photography to learn to use the water and the sun – preferably a combination of the two. Why? Because water reflects the sunlight onto the belly of the aircraft.

It also makes a difference if the water is calm or agitated. You can make good use of large water bodies, especially when photographing landings. Also, fiddle around with your exposure compensation settings; you can experiment with this option depending on the level of the sun. And even if you often shoot into the sunlight there, overexposure by one stop can produce good results. Use an average aperture value (F/6.3 ~ F/8.0) in combination with a fast shutter speed.

Search for the setting sun

Those of you who cannot find the strength to leave your nest before dawn can always wait till sunset to get the ultimate shot for the best aircraft photography – the setting sun as it dips beyond the horizon can produce amazing images. The low slung, golden rays of light generate a pleasant feeling of warmth in the photographs. Finding a location where you can see the aircraft taking off into the sun can produce brilliant results.

The Anchorage CAF’s Vultee BT-13 wing down over the Yentna River yesterday Tuesday June 5, 2018. Flying the aircraft is Ace Pilot Alex Roesch. Photo by Rob Stapleton/Alaskafoto

Slow shutter speeds

To introduce speed and action to your photographs, you could try taking some panning shots. You move the camera at exactly the same speed as the subject, keeping it in perfect focus while the background fades. This technique does take some skill in using your equipment, along with loads of practice in advance. Set your camera to the semiautomatic ‘shutter priority’ mode, usually denoted by the letter ‘S’. Start off slowly with a shutter speed of 1/100. The camera calculates the correct aperture value for you. If you get the feeling you have command over this setting, you can explore your skills and raise it to 1/80 or 1/60. If your lens offers this option, deactivate the image stabilizer setting. If you decide to take shots like this, pick a feature on the aircraft to use as your main point of focus. This could be a door or a logo.

This option produces best aircraft photography if you take shots of a propeller-driven aircraft. The slow shutter speed ‘catches’ the spinning propeller blades making the photograph far more dynamic. Otherwise, it looks like the aircraft is hanging in mid-air with stationary engines.

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