Thursday, September 2, 2010

60+ Awesome Aviation Photographs (And How to Shoot Your Own!)

Enthusiastic aircraft photographers can often be found at any flying display, and with their trusted telephoto lenses are able to get glorious photography from up in the sky. Planes come in all shapes and sizes, and this article shows you a selection of inspiring photos along with offering some brilliant tips on how to capture your own awesome plane and aircraft images!

Aviation Photography

The definition of aviation photography is simply “the photography of planes either in flight or on the ground”. As with most forms of photography it is a specialist subject and requires a lot of thought to get correct. There are many different types of aircraft photography including air to air, ground to air and ground static:

Air to Air photography – This is simply capturing an aircraft in flight, while you yourself are on a separate aircraft not far from the subject. Unless you own your a plane, this type of photography is often too expensive or near impossible to capture as an amateur. Points to keep in mind are the sun’s position and the weather!

Ground to Air photography – Ground to air is simply shooting a photo from the ground at a plane in the air. This is the type of aviation photography you will most commonly see.

Ground-Static photography – Taking photos of static aircraft from the ground. This is the other common type you will often see.

Remote Photography – A camera is mounted to the aircraft and fired remotely. The disadvantages include that the composition of the photo has to be completed before the flight.

This article has examples of all these different types from amateur photographers to professional military photographers. See if you can point out the different types in this article.

40 Inspiring Examples

Credit goes to the original photographers, please click on each of the pictures to view more of the photographer’s work and see an enlarged version of the photo!

Michal ‘cyrjo’ Podkowa – Another Plane

Doncon402 – Aircraft at St Maarten

Doncon402 – Aircraft at St Maarten

Silverdragon – You to close

Matt.hintsa – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Sandwedge - Up Up Up

Radaroneone - Peachtree Dekalb Airport 2010

Radaroneone – ShawFast 2010

Brokk66 - Airshow

Lotrdeana17 – Skydive

*Lotrdeana 17 was the woman in the image. The photographer is unknown.

Ninja06 – Backseater Panavia Tornado

Lin Pernille - Love is in the air

J.C. Ledbetter - Chicago

Antoine - Airshow over Lake Geneva

Antoine – Airshow over Lake Geneva 2

AndreMaillet – HDR T-33

Philippe Pennec – Vatry 0029

Department of Defense Public Domain – Silhouette of an Aircraft

Department of Defense Public Domain - Supersonic

Department of Defense Public Domain – Military Jet in flight

United States Air Force – Midair refuel

*This photo is under public information and allowed to be distributed, credits go to

United States Air Force - A burst of power

*This photo is under public information and allowed to be distributed, credits go to

Toosas – Red Arrows V

Vallo Pooler – Jet

Dalyjk – Spitfire air to air

Deepest wonder – Airshow

John Miles – Flight

Cal Gecko – Old plane

Department of Defense Public Domain – MOROCCAN PROBE

Amab7 – Skydiving

Itagua – Red Arrows

Mitchell Steinhardt – Form Up

Mike Lynaugh – F15 Stike Eagle

Mike Lynaugh - USAF Heritage Flight – Andrews AFB 2008

Indigo76 – A Six Pack of Bad Asses

Indigo76 – Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Carlsilver – Silhouette Plane 2

Csipesz – Red Bull B-25 Mitchell 5

Buddystyle – Smoke on

AJcsF – Breitling team – I

{Away until inspiration comes} – Miniature Airport

TailspinT – F-15E Strike Eagle

MATEUS – USS Harry S. Truman

Marcos Vasconcelos - F/A – 18F HORNET

Two Big Paws -RAAF F/18 Hornet

Fly for fun – Wide Angle approaching Providence, RI

Stuck in customs – Connecting the community

Shortbread1015DT – The reds

Vissago – 2008 MCAS Miramar Air Show

Alive in Calgary – Miss Mitchell

Matt.hintsa – C-17 Globemaster

Berry Photography -Biggin Hill International Air Fair 2009 Virgin Atlantic 747-400 & Red Arrows

Archangel 12 – RNLAF Open Day 09

C. Strife – Sweetness and Light

Monkeyleader – Red Arrows at dusk

Monkeyleader – Red Arrows




Matt.hintsa – Roaring Hornet

[bastian.] -Into the sun

Kanegen -Tokyo Haneda International Airport

Nixter – Breakout

Nixter – Downward

Quick Tips

1. Use a telephoto lens for ground to air shots

If you can afford anything between 200-400mm you will really see the benefits (anything else and the photos will be tiny!).


Canon have a fabulous range of professional lenses available, starting at around $550 and ranging up to $15,000.

I would recommend the Canon 100-400mm at the retail price of $3000 for anyone truly interested in the subject. Sigma’s 50-500 mm Super Telephoto Zoom Lens is fantastic lens for both brands at the much cheaper price of $1300.

If you already own a 200mm lens and don’t want to buy a new one, why not look into purchasing a teleconverter? These can often double the distance of your lens, a 2X converter can turn your 200mm into a 400mm.

2. Get to an air event early

You can take static ground pictures without huge crowds of people walking past and in front of the planes. If you plan to do anything involving HDR, this is a must. Also you can get a better place in the stands (or find a place with more space and better lighting). Often you want to position yourself with your back to the sun.

3. Research your subject

You only have seconds to get your settings correct. Research before can help overcome this. Simple tips like checking the weather and also having a look at other photos of the same subject can help you understand what settings you need.

4. Don’t forget the people

Including the people at an airshow along with the planes adds that extra depth to an image. This rule also includes the pilots! If you can get pictures of pilots entering the plane, then do so!

5. Keep your finger down

Keep your finger on the shutter, pan with the aircraft and shoot multiple shots. Also while the planes are in the air – no chimping! (Read number 6 here for a full explanation!)

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