How to Photograph Airplanes

The photography subgenre known as “photographing airplanes” is one of a kind because it mixes the excitement of catching things in motion with the artistic challenges of composing a picture and conveying a story.

Learning how to shoot airplanes may introduce you to a whole new realm of creative opportunities, regardless of whether you are more interested in aviation or photography.

Understanding the Equipment

It is imperative that you have a solid understanding of the necessary equipment before you go out on your quest to shoot airplanes.

The following are some important factors to take into consideration:

  • Invest in a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) or mirrorless camera of high quality that has manual settings and accepts interchangeable lenses. You will be able to have stronger control over your settings as a consequence, which will help you to obtain better outcomes.
  • Lenses: For aviation photography, a telephoto lens is absolutely necessary since it enables you to catch distant planes in all of their intricate detail and clarity. If you want the best possible results, look for lenses with focal lengths ranging from 200 to 400 millimeters.
  • The use of a stable tripod will assist in the stabilization of your camera and the elimination of blurriness, particularly when photographing in low light circumstances or when using slower shutter speeds.

When photographing airplanes against a bright sky, utilizing polarizing filters can help decrease glare and increase color. Thus they should be among the filters you consider using.

Finding the Perfect Location

When it comes to taking appealing images of airplanes, selecting the ideal location is of the utmost importance.

Listed below are some ideas to consider:

  • Airports: Airports provide some of the best possibilities for taking photographs of airplanes when they are taking off, landing, or navigating the terminals. To acquire the most excellent possible vantage position, look for public viewing places or locations dedicated to photography that are close to airports.
  • Airshows are fantastic events for those who are interested in aviation as well as photographers. These events allow access to a variety of aircraft and exciting aerial displays, making them excellent for obtaining dynamic and action-packed photos, thanks to the combination of these two factors.
  • Aviation Museums: Museums devoted to aviation typically include antique aircraft that have been meticulously kept.

These locations provide one-of-a-kind possibilities for getting up close and personal with vintage aircraft.

Mastering the Technique

You need to become an expert at the method if you want to take amazing images of airplanes. The following are some helpful hints for you:

  • Shutter Speed: Play around with different shutter speeds to see what happens when you try to freeze the moving aircraft or create an artistic effect with motion blur. While a more incredible shutter speed is good for capturing the action, a slower shutter speed can give the impression that the subject is moving quickly and dynamically.
  • Focus: Make sure that you are using continuous autofocus (AI Servo/AF-C) so that you can correctly follow the moving aircraft. You also have the option of using manual focus, which will give you more control over where the emphasis is placed.
  • Composition: Make sure that you give careful consideration to the composition of each of your images. To design photos that are aesthetically appealing and balanced, you should make use of the rule of thirds, leading lines, and negative space.
  • Timing is everything: you need to anticipate the action and seize the defining moment. In aviation photography, timing is everything. Therefore, you need to be patient and ready to press the shutter button at just the right moment.

Dealing with Lighting Challenges

Lighting is extremely important in photography, and taking pictures from an airplane is no exception to this rule. The following are some things to keep in mind while addressing issues with lighting:

  • Golden Hours: The golden hours are considered to be the time period immediately after dawn and immediately prior to sunset. During this time, the light is soft and warm, making it ideal for taking pictures. Make use of these opportunities to take some amazing photographs from the flight.
  • Backlighting is when you shoot into the light to produce silhouettes that are dramatic and accentuate the form of the aircraft. Experimenting with backlighting is a great way to create a sense of depth and atmosphere in your photographs.
  • The overcast sky may give a diffused light that reduces sharp shadows, making cloudy days ideal for outdoor activities. Take advantage of this opportunity to get photographs of airplanes that have even lighting and vivid colors.
  • Night photography Taking photographs at night from an airplane may be difficult but also very rewarding. Try out different lengths of exposure and see if you can capture the light trails left behind by the aircraft’s navigation lights or the airport runway lights.

Post-Processing and Editing

After you have taken the images of the airplane, it is time to improve them by post-processing and retouching them. Here are some pointers to consider:

  • Raw Format: Make sure to shoot in RAW format, so you have greater leeway when post-processing your photos. RAW files provide a greater capacity for information storage and offer improved editing capabilities without compromising image quality.
  • Adjust the exposure by playing about with the contrast, brightness, and exposure sliders to get your images to appear and feel the way you want them to. It is important to remember to carefully preserve the features of both the airplane and the background.
  • Crop and Straighten: To refine the composition and get rid of distracting elements, you may use the tools that crop and straighten images. Put your attention on the airplane, and take out of the picture anything that isn’t required.
  • Sharpening and Noise Reduction: When shooting at higher ISO settings, it is essential to apply sharpening techniques in order to improve the details and minimize the amount of noise. Take care not to over-hone the edge, as this might cause artifacts to appear.


Taking pictures of airplanes is an exciting hobby that enables you to combine your passion for flying with your interest in photography. You can take breathtaking photographs of airplanes if you are familiar with the necessary gear, aware of potential shooting sites, proficient in the method, and prepared to address any lighting issues.

Always keep in mind the importance of experimenting, remaining patient, and taking pleasure in the process of catching these flying miracles.


Q. Can I photograph airplanes with a smartphone?
A. While smartphones can capture decent airplane photos, the limitations of their fixed lenses make it challenging to achieve the same level of detail and reach as dedicated cameras with telephoto lenses.
Q. Do I need permission to photograph airplanes at airports?
A. It’s essential to research and respect the rules and regulations of each airport. Some airports have designated areas for photography, while others may require permits or special permission.
Q. What settings should I use for airplane photography?
A. The settings will depend on the specific conditions and desired results. However, starting with a fast shutter speed, continuous autofocus, and an appropriate aperture for depth of field is a good baseline.
Q. How can I capture unique perspectives in airplane photography?
A. Explore different angles, experiment with wide-angle lenses, and consider shooting from elevated positions such as hills or rooftops to capture unique perspectives and add variety to your portfolio.
Q. Are there any safety precautions I should take when photographing airplanes?
A. Always prioritize your safety and the safety of others. Follow instructions, stay in designated areas, and avoid obstructing any operational or restricted zones. Be mindful of your surroundings and maintain situational awareness at all times.


Peter is an accomplished and passionate photographer whose captivating images have garnered global recognition. With a remarkable ability to capture fleeting moments and convey profound emotions, his work transcends boundaries and tells compelling visual stories. From stunning landscapes to intimate portraits, Peter's expertise in various genres of photography showcases his artistic vision and technical mastery.