A Beginners Guide to Aviation Photography

This has been something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time now. Years in the making and I’m finally wrapping my head around how to present it into easily digestible and snack-size portions. It’s something I wish I had when I started my journey into Aviation Photography myself. A guide driven by years of experience to steer my boiling-over energy in an enlightening and fruitful direction. If you shoot Canon, Nikon, Sony, or whatever, I want this guide to offer the same advice for any aviation enthusiast that wants to begin photographing aircraft.


This is not the only way to photograph aircraft and aviation events. This is information that I have learned over the years that helped me better my skills while photographing aircraft and it may or may not work well for you. If you’re just getting into photography, this is not for you. This is not a guide on teaching the fundamentals of photography. But it is intended to guide someone who has an understanding of the principles of photography and wants to start photographing aircraft and aviation events.

Part One: Starting Your Journey

I’m sure you have a great many questions, and I will try my best to answer them all. But I want to begin by asking you some of my own. And hopefully, with your answers, you can use them as a compass as you begin this adventure. Questions such as, how do you define Aviation Photography? What are you trying to accomplish? And finally, what type of Aviation events are you interested in photographing?

When I ruminate about Aviation Photography, I don’t think about the countless airshows and aviation events I want to attend. But I do continually ponder how am I going to capture unique photos of vintage aircraft from my ever-growing list. From new restorations to specific heritage flight combinations. For me, it is a passion that is an inseparable part of my being. So much so, that somehow if it became illegal to photograph aircraft, I would be an enthusiastic hardened criminal. I would fight to the bitter end to continue to do what I love. It is something that I’m never going to stop trying to master. But that’s how I define Aviation Photography. So, “How do You define it?” There’re no wrong answers. Make it whatever you want it to be. If it’s seaplanes, gliders, helicopters, warbirds, commercial airliners, business jets, or whatever…. Shoot what you love. It will show in your images.

On to the next important question, What are you trying to accomplish with your Aviation Photography? Are you trying to capture every major airliner that flies in and out of your local airport? Or do you want to capture your experiences at air shows and aviation events? Maybe you’re combining your love of aviation with photography. It could be as simple as wanting to try something outside of your comfort zone. Again, only you can determine what it is you’re trying to achieve. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish but you still have the urge to go photograph aircraft, don’t give up. Keep experimenting with different events and venues until you discover Your Path on this new photographic journey. I’ve always felt having a sense of purpose while behind your camera is important when creating images and produces far better results than aimlessly wandering around hoping for something interesting to happen.

And the last question I want you to consider is “What type of Aviation events are you interested in photographing?” Aviation Photography offers many different perspectives and opportunities to photograph aircraft and they each have their own unique challenges. Some are fast-paced, and others are laid back and slow. If you’re unsure about what type of events you want to attend, I would say go to as many different types as possible. Just don’t restrict yourself to just one type. In Part Two of this series, I will at length discuss the many types of events within Aviation Photography.

With your answers, hopefully, you have discovered Your definition of Aviation Photography, have some sense of purpose, and have an idea of the type of subjects you’re interested in photographing. If you’re asking yourself, why did I start with a series of questions and not jump into what’s the appropriate settings to shoot jets along with a list of must-see shows or events? Because you wouldn’t learn anything, nor would it help you grow as a photographer. To creatively envision a shot, then relentlessly chase after it and successfully capture it is far more rewarding than hoping on getting lucky. Like other art forms, this is a learning process and it’s going to take time. Some learn faster than others but remember it is not a race. This is YOUR journey into Aviation Photography. Travel it well at your own convenient pace. But understand along the way you’re going to screw up a bunch of shots, use the wrong settings, pick terrible shooting locations, and totally forget about the sneak pass. And that’s absolutely fine as long as you learn from your mistakes. Remember, anyone who calls themselves an “Aviation Photographer” has made the same mistakes you’re going to make. And if they say they haven’t, they’re a fucking liar.

Until next post,


All images in this post were shot on iPhone 11 Pro Max.

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