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Top Tips for Professionally Photographing Air Shows

Top Tips for Professionally Photographing Air Shows

Air show
Air show

Air show season is upon us, which means that sizzling heat, high-decibel noise, and a whole lot of photographs of hazy little specks in the sky are on the horizon.

Photography during air shows is challenging! When attending an air show, it can be difficult to capture a good image of the performers unless you can do it from above, gazing down at them. But there’s no need to be concerned; we have listed some tips you can follow to make the most of your time there, especially with a specific air show schedule.

Freezing the Action

Here come the aircraft; how do you take photographs that are nice and clear and interesting? First and foremost, you need to freeze. This calls for a quick shutter speed as well as the ability to pan in sync with the movement of the aircraft.

Instead of using the automatic or program mode on your camera at air shows, we suggest switching to the aperture or shutter priority option instead. This will allow you to achieve a faster shutter speed. Put the camera in shutter priority mode, then, with the lens facing upwards, choose the quickest possible shutter speed on the dial. Or, if you want to work with aperture priority, choose the lowest feasible f/stop value; this will allow you to work with a high shutter speed. No matter how you go about it, the minimum shutter speed that you use should be at least twice as long as your focal length.

Therefore, you should be shooting at a speed of at least 1/400 of a second if you are using a 200mm lens. It’s more of a rule of thumb than a mathematical concept, but if you use a lens with a focal length of 200 millimeters and a shutter speed of 1/60 second the resulting picture will be fuzzy. It is recommended to use a shutter speed of 1/800 of a second in conjunction with a 400mm lens to take this picture. Increasing the ISO will make the camera more light-sensitive, which can help you achieve a faster shutter speed if you are having problems getting there.

Finding the Perfect Position

Make sure you are familiar with the airshow’s schedule before attending; some airshows have aerobatic shows many times during the day, while others focus more on static displays and ground entertainment but culminate with a single aerobatic performance. Make sure you get a good place to stay before the performance that you want to witness.

What’s the deal? In most cases, the optimal location for observing an event is as close to the geographic center of the viewing region as possible. That is the location of the announcer’s booth, and it is also the area where the planes are most likely to do their most exciting maneuvers. Because this is where most people will congregate, you should probably start looking for a place to stand as soon as possible.

Experiment with Different Levels of Exposure

You should take a few test photographs to check how well your camera manages to keep the exposure balanced between the aircraft and the sky. You’ll discover that the camera underexposes the aircraft rather often, which causes detail to be lost. If this is the case, turn the exposure compensation slider on your camera so that the scene is exposed one or two stops higher than normal. You may wind up with a sky that is less dark and brighter than you would want, but you will get better exposure and more detail in the aircraft, much like in the picture that is displayed below. You can do some magic using picture editing software to make the sky seem better.

Move the Camera Around

Keep the aircraft focused in the viewfinder and push the shutter release as you continue to follow through, much like a golfer would do while continuing to follow through on a swing. Track the aircraft as it gets closer. That indicates that you should not set the camera firmly on a tripod to avoid shaking. Tripods are OK, but the head of the tripod has to have a lot of slack in it so that you can track and pan without being hindered by the movement.

There is an intriguing exception to this faster-is-better rule: if you are photographing aircraft that are pushed by propellers, using a slower shutter speed will give you quite an appealing prop blur. If you freeze the remainder of the aircraft, you can have a great look, but it will be difficult to create. When the shutter speed is slowed down, having a panning motion that is smooth and precise is of the utmost importance.

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