Aviation Photography. Capturing the essence of flight through the lens of a camera

Aviation Photography is about speed, action, safety, and the great feeling of flying. Before you take this road, there are a few things to keep in mind: types of aviation photography; photo equipment, access to photography locations; post-processing the images; make your photos visible to other people. There are four types of aviation photography: ground-to-ground, ground-to-air, air-to-air, air-to-ground:

1. Ground-to-Ground Photography – it can be practiced by anyone visiting an aviation museum, airfield, airport spotting area, aviation events or airshows. The phone, the mirrorless camera, or any other type of camera can be used. This type of aviation photography has been the starting point for most photographers in this field, myself included.

aviation photography

2. Ground-to-Air Photography – Capturing images of flying aircraft by a photographer on the ground. In this case, we are talking about an airplane flying at high speed, with sudden changes of direction and altitude. A better photo gear is needed. Considering all these aspects, using a DSLR (digital single-reflex camera) or mirrorless camera that allows manual or semi-manual settings would be more appropriate. A zoom lens is also recommended. This type also includes what is known as contrail spotting, that is, photographing aircraft flying at cruise altitudes.

aviation photography

3. Air-to-Air Photography – take photos of an aircraft in the air from another aircraft. It requires good photo equipment, experience, and a minimum of aviation safety knowledge. It is also expensive because flying is costly. Few photographers have this chance. Most are professionals or people with access to flying. A drone can be used, but that implies that you are an outstanding drone pilot because safety is most important.

Aviation Photography

4. Air-to-Ground Photography – taking photos of subjects on the ground from the air. It can be done with the help of a drone that has a camera attached to it or from a flying aircraft. In this case, the drone is your best solution. It’s cheaper, easy to operate and drones existing today can help you get some really amazing photos

Aviation Photography

What photo equipment do you need for aviation photography?

You can use anything, starting with a smartphone and ending with professional cameras. Depending on the equipment, the results will be good, less good, or not good. However, you must also keep in mind that a successful photo is not only the result of expensive photo equipment but also of the photographer’s experience and the context in which the images are taken. A DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses is advisable, especially for ground-to-air or air-to-air photography. This type of camera allows you to control the shutter speed, ISO, and other settings. For example, in the case of propeller planes, a longer exposure is required to not “freeze” the propeller. This avoids the situation in which the photo seems motionless because the plane seems to be frozen in the air. It is advisable to use zoom lenses. For example, a wide lens of 15-30 mm or 24-70 mm is more practical when photographing aircraft on the ground. A 55-200, 70-300 mm telephoto lens, or even bigger, is recommended for the aerial display. Depending on what you shoot, drones are also excellent. You can find drones from a few hundred euros to as much as your wallet can hold. But again, it all depends on what you want to achieve.

Photography Location Access

Until you gain some experience and create a portfolio, you can “take advantage” of the many airshows in the country and abroad. If there is an airfield in the area where you live, you can take photos there, obviously with the owner’s consent. Visiting a museum or airport with a spotting area can be a good source for photo subjects. Another way is to take photos of an aircraft flying over where you live (contrail spotting). You can do this with the help of websites like flightradar.com or radarbox.com.

Aviation Photography

Photography Post-Processing & Visibility

It is up to each photographer to decide whether or not to edit their photos. If you want to do that, you can do so with the help of professional editing software such as Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, or Adobe Photoshop. Their use requires additional costs, as they are accessible on a monthly subscription basis. There is also free, open-source software such as GIMP. Editing photos implies a few essential steps: cropping, adjusting brightness, saturation and sharpness. After some editing is done you need to make your photos visible. The easiest way to make your photos visible to other people is through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). Register in various forums and aviation websites or publish them on your website. It depends on your budget, time, and interest in making them public. Aviation photography is a vast domain and there is much more that  can be said about each type. But we will do this in future articles.

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