SPIRITofFLIGHT Photography

I've been asked many times what camera settings I use for the various kinds of aviation photography I participate in. Hopefully this little guide will help you but please remember that these are not hardened rules, they are just the ones I tend to favour. My advise to you is get out there, play with the settings and see what suits you best.

Now down to business...

For a Static  shot i.e. museums/dispersal etc I will always use manual mode but if it's a moving aircraft then I tend to favour the Shutter Priority (TV) control on the camera and adjust the ISO setting to control any light issues that might arise. Just bear in mind that the higher the ISO the nosier your image will be.

Now for shutter speeds:

For Fast Jets I will normally shoot at between 1/1000 & 1/1250 & for Jet Airliners  between 1/700 & 1/1000

Rotary and Props vary between 1/200 to 1/250 or even as slow as 1/30 depending on how much prop Movement I want to see and of course how long I can keep my camera steady. For the slower shutter speeds I'd strongly recommend using a tripod.

Remember there is nothing worse than taking what you think is a great picture then finding out that the props/rotors look like they've stopped in mid air. Don't worry we've all been there! 

Here are some examples


This image was taken at 1/250 and you can see some tail rotor movement.

I've now slowed the shutter down to 1/125 and again if you look at the tail rotor you'll notice that there's more movement captured.

Now we've slowed things down to 1/80, and we can see considerably more movement in the tail rotor. 

I shot this image at 1/30 and its at the maximum end of where I can hold the camera, even so the aircraft clarity has been degraded.  The tail rotor is now showing the full circular movement.

And finally just to prove the point about how bad a picture can look when you get the shutter speed all wrong. The camera was set in sports mode which meant the shutter speed ended up as 1/2000. As you can see the rotor blades now give the impression that they've stopped. So bad in many ways but you learn by your mistakes!