Tips for Photographing Airplanes: A Guide for Aviation Enthusiasts

Capturing the beauty and power of airplanes through photography is an exciting hobby for many aviation enthusiasts. Whether you’re photographing a vintage biplane or a sleek commercial jet, there are several tips and techniques that can help you achieve stunning results. This article will provide you with valuable insights to improve your airplane photography skills.

  1. Choose the right equipment

A digital SLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses is ideal for airplane photography. A telephoto lens (200mm or higher) is essential for capturing aircraft from a distance, while a wide-angle lens can be useful for shooting at air shows or in confined spaces. A tripod or monopod can help stabilize your camera for sharper images, especially when using longer lenses.

  1. Learn the best settings for your camera

Understanding how to use your camera’s settings effectively is crucial for capturing high-quality images. For airplane photography, use a fast shutter speed (1/500s or higher) to freeze motion and avoid camera shake. Set your camera’s ISO to the lowest setting possible to minimize noise and achieve optimal image quality. Aperture settings will vary depending on your desired depth of field and available light.

  1. Understand the importance of lighting

Good lighting is essential for capturing stunning airplane photos. The golden hours (shortly after sunrise and before sunset) provide soft, warm light that enhances the colors and textures of your subject. Overcast days can also produce excellent results, as the clouds act as a natural diffuser, reducing harsh shadows and glare.

  1. Scout the location beforehand

Visit the location where you plan to photograph airplanes ahead of time. Familiarize yourself with the layout, and identify the best spots for capturing different types of shots. Keep in mind the position of the sun, as this will greatly impact your lighting. It’s also essential to research any rules or restrictions at the location to avoid potential issues.

  1. Capture different angles and perspectives

Experiment with various angles and perspectives to create unique and interesting images. Look for opportunities to shoot from above or below the aircraft, or consider capturing reflections in water or windows. Zoom in on details such as engines, landing gear, or cockpit instruments for close-up shots that showcase the intricacies of airplane design.

  1. Utilize panning techniques for action shots

Panning is a technique used to create a sense of motion in your images. To achieve this effect, set your camera to a slower shutter speed (1/30s to 1/125s) and follow the aircraft’s movement while pressing the shutter button. This will result in a sharp subject against a blurred background, effectively conveying the sense of speed and motion.

  1. Attend air shows and events

Air shows and aviation events provide an excellent opportunity to capture a variety of aircraft in action. They often feature dynamic displays, such as aerobatic performances, formation flying, and low-level passes. These events also offer a chance to photograph rare or historic aircraft that may not be accessible at other times.

  1. Edit and post-process your images

Post-processing is an essential part of creating stunning airplane photographs. Use photo editing software to adjust exposure, contrast, and color balance, as well as to remove any unwanted elements such as sensor dust or lens flare. Experiment with cropping and composition to create more dynamic images.


Capturing the beauty and power of airplanes through photography is a rewarding pursuit for aviation enthusiasts. By choosing the right equipment, understanding camera settings, and utilizing proper techniques, you can take your airplane photography to new heights. Remember to consider lighting conditions, scout your location, and experiment with different angles and perspectives to create captivating images. Attending air shows and events can provide unique opportunities to photograph diverse aircraft, while post-processing allows you to refine and perfect your shots. With patience, practice, and a keen eye for detail, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an accomplished airplane photographer.