How to Take Pictures of Aircraft

Written by t.j. black
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Taking pictures of aircraft can be a fun and rewarding hobby for an amateur photographer, and it can bring in income for professional photographers. Getting quality photos takes more than pushing a button. It requires a basis understanding of photo composition. Other factors to consider if you want to achieve quality photos include the type of equipment and knowing basic photography techniques.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Start with the right equipment. Aviation photo experts like Richard Seaman say you don't need special equipment other than a long lens. If you have trouble focusing a camera or holding it steady enough to take a picture, you may want to look for a camera with features such as autofocus or vibration reduction to compensate.

  2. 2

    Check the shutter speed for your camera. While you can take aircraft pictures with any camera, slower shutters may miss certain shots. Use a camera with a shutter speed of at least f5.6, or 1/500th of a second, for optimal photo capturing.

  3. 3

    Understand how to focus the camera correctly in order to get the proper exposure for the aircraft. Auto settings often focus on the sky rather than the aeroplane, reducing the quality of the photo. Learn to use the manual settings for the aperture to correct this problem.

  4. 4

    Consider the angle of the aircraft in relation to your position. Aviation photography often takes advantage of the composition caused by a banking aircraft. When possible, take advantage of shots maximising the wing span of the plane.

  5. 5

    Work to fill your lens with the aircraft. As a general rule of thumb, leave more sky in front of the plane than behind it. This allows the viewer to get a sense that the plane has somewhere to go. You may want to practice taking off-centre photos to help you with this concept.

  6. 6

    Avoid distracting backgrounds or foregrounds. Power lines or other large items in the background can detract the attention from the aircraft. Taking shots of aircraft with people standing by a plane will draw attention to the people rather than the aircraft.

  7. 7

    Consider the weather. High temperatures can cause a haze around the plane, as can humid weather conditions or smog. You are likely to get a better photo on a clear day free of these conditions.

  8. 8

    Take photos and learn from your mistakes. With digital cameras, it's easier to practice with less cost involved than when the majority of cameras relied on film. By snapping more photos, you increase the odds of getting a quality shot.

Tips and warnings

  • Use photo-editing software to touch up minor issues on your aircraft photos.
  • Some airports have regulations prohibiting photography in certain parts of the facility.

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