Tips for taking good shots at an Air Show

Each year, in Romania, during summer takes place "Bucharest International Air Show", for short BIAS, the largest air force show rally and mathematical precision, where the best pilots from civil and military air force meet.

Many countries are present at the event, usually the ones that are present are: Romania,Turkey, Poland, Hungary, UK, Germany, USA, Greece Austria and Lithuania with Jurgis Kairys, the aviation legend, aerobatic pilot and aeronautical engineer, recognized as the best master of unlimited flights in the world. One of his well known man oeuvres is the “Kairys Wheel”, when I see him on air, I always get speechless.

Jurgis Kairys Aviation Legend

People can enjoy a great show on the sky with astonishing aerial acrobatics and elite demonstrations.

Spiral smoke on blue sky Airplane outline air show

For the ones that are curious, I will mention the special guests, so you can also know, what type of plains and jets perform:

- Turkish Air Force: the acrobatic team "SOLOTURK" with the aircraft F16 Fighting Falcon;

- Poland Air Force: MiG 29 Fulcrum and F16 Fighting Falcon;

- Hungary Air Force: Saab Jas 39 Gripen modern multi-hunting aircraft, used for all military air operations: ground attack, aerial fights, recognition, etc.

- USA Air Force: F15 ”Eagle”;

- Greece Air Force: Mirage 2000;

- UK Air Force: Eurofighter Typhoon;

- Germany Air Force: Eurofighter Typhoon and Tornado;

- Romania Air Force: Hawks of Romania, The Pelicans, White Wings, Blue Wings with MIG 21 Lancer, IAR 99 Soim, IAR 316 B, IAK 52, IAR 330 PUMA, C130 Hercules, C27 Spartan;

- Austria Air Force: the acrobatic team "Flying Bulls" with Mitchell, T28 Trojan, Vought F4U Corsair, Dornier Alpha Jets.

YAK-52 on Bucharest International Air Show 2017

This event requires clear sky and good weather and this is very useful for photographers too. As you all know, the light is very important while you shoot and if you shoot into the sun, your photos will be way too dark.

Synchronized Airplanes on air show

You can use any kind of camera to take amazing Air Show pictures, the most important is to find the right spot, from where you can take your pictures.

So, you can start by doing a recon, for searching the right place from where to shoot, do not forget about water, extra batteries, enough memory card and set your camera to snap RAW.

Use Exposure Mode Evaluative Metering or Center-weighted Average (Matrix for Nikon).

I use a DSLR camera with long lens 70–200mm, but a wide lens helps you to take great photos from the ground with people crowds including the plains in the sky.

You need to take in consideration that jets fly over 500 miles/hour and it is helpful to use the Center Autofocus Point and to set Autofocus to Continuous Tracking Mode (AI Servo for Canon), so you can have the jet in focus as you follow it.

Airplane air show team smoke trail Synchronized

If it is sunny day with clear sky, for fast plains, I like to use Manual Exposure Mode, Matrix Meter, Continuous Autofocus, around 1/1000 to 1/2000, ISO 100 and f/8 up to f/16 depending on how bright is the sun. Another good setup can be 1/1000, ISO 400, f/5.6, depending on the weather.

If the light is changing, Aperture Priority Mode is recommended at f/4 to f/8, depending on how bright it is, for fastest shutter speed and ISO 400 to ISO 800, to help you avoid blurry camera shake, depends on what DSLR you own, so you don't loose image quality.

In Aperture Priority Mode do not forget to use +1 compensation for the sky, or -1 if you want a more dramatic sky or silhouette plains.

Aircraft in the sunset

Also, you need to take care, not to freeze the propellers using a shutter speed way to high. For plains with propeller, you need to use a shutter speed of 1/90 as a start, up to 1/125, also 1/250 it is still fine for me, so you can have in picture the appearance of motion, dynamic blur of the propeller, for realistic look, otherwise the plain motionless, will look like an airplane model/ layout.

For helicopter, you can set a shutter speed between 1/60 to 1/125 and the propeller will have the perfect spinning.

For this Aircraft Event, I like using High Speed Continuous Shooting (Burst Mode), when are more plains on sky and they are intersecting each other, this way I increase the chance for more good snaps.

Airplane air show team smoke trail Synchronized

There are Air Shows everywhere in the world and they are free, so anyone can see them!

In hope, that you enjoy this post and you find it helpful, I'm thanking you for your time and please don't forget to hit the "Like" and "Useful" buttons.

Thank you and good light!

Photo credits: Alexandra Barbu.

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January 08, 2018


Glad to hear, thank you!

January 08, 2018


great article, thanks for sharing.

December 15, 2017


Thank you, Ionascugeorge45! That one is my favorite too!

December 13, 2017


Even if it is not free it can't cost so much and it is worth it! (an amazing day with things that you do not see all the time and great memories captured in photos). The sky is big and even you are in the surrounding area you can see most of the show for free, but for sure you will need a long lenses for that.

December 13, 2017


Airshows are not always free everywhere in the world.

December 13, 2017


The plain with the fire under is WOW. And nice portfolio if I may say that.

December 08, 2017


Thank you!

December 08, 2017


Great article and keep up the good work.

December 05, 2017


Thank you, I am glad you like it!

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