How to shoot (and edit) pictures of planes in flight

How to shoot (and edit) pictures of planes in flight

Edit your pictures of planes


Our start image

Our start image

Now that you’ve taken your pictures of planes, here are a few simple edits you can make to enhance them.

How to edit pictures of planes: step 1

01 Boost colours
Open your image  in Adobe Camera Raw. The image is a little underexposed, so increase Exposure by a stop to +1. Take boost the contrast and colours, increase Contrast to +70 and set Saturation to +10.


How to edit pictures of planes: step 2

02 Reduce the noise
Zoom into the image and you’ll see that there’s some luminance noise in the sky. To reduce this, click the Detail tab to access the Noise Reduction sliders, and set the Luminance slider to 50. This slider will also soften detail in your subjects, so you want to keep it to the minimum amount you can get away with.


How to edit pictures of planes: step 3

03 Crop in
Next select the Crop tool, click and hold on the tool icon to open a menu of options and select the 2:3 aspect ratio. Draw out a crop to remove some of the empty sky and make the planes more prominent in the frame; make sure you leave some space for the left-hand plane to ‘fly into’. Hit Enter to apply the crop, and click Open Image to bring the image into Elements.


How to edit pictures of planes: step 4

04 Sponge tool
Next we’ll subtly increase the saturation of the purple smoke trails (but not the red or green, as they’re saturated enough). Select the Sponge tool, set Mode to Saturate and Flow 15, and brush over the purple smoke to boost its colour.


How to edit pictures of planes: step 5

05 Boost the contrast
Now we’re going to bring out the detail in the planes. To do this duplicate the ‘Background’ layer and label the new layer ‘Planes’. Press Ctrl+L to bring up Levels and set the Midtones slider to 1.17 and the Highlights slider to 224. Add a mask to hide the effect by going to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All.


How to edit pictures of planes: step 6

06 Make a selection
Select each of the planes using the Quick Selection tool. Set the brush size to 10-15 pixels, and click and drag over each plane to paint a selection marquee. The selection will snap to contrasting edges, but if you select parts of the sky or smoke by mistake press Alt to switch to ‘Subtract from Selection’ mode, and paint over those areas to deselect them.


How to edit pictures of planes: step 7

07 Remove the Mask
When all the planes are selected, target the mask by clicking its thumbnail, then go to Edit > Fill Selection. Choose White from the Use menu and click OK to fill the outlines of the planes with white and reveal the contrast boost. Press Ctrl+D to Deselect the selection, then tidy up the edges of the planes by painting on the mask with black and white brushes.


How to edit pictures of planes: step 8

08 Clone the smoke
Next we’ll tidy up the red smoke at the bottom-right of the image. Select the Clone Stamp tool, and Alt-click on the edge of the smoke trail about half-way up, where the smoke looks more even, to sample those pixels. Click and drag to clone these pixels over the messy area, taking care to align the edges of the smoke.


How to edit pictures of planes: step 9

09 Adjust the levels
To boost the contrast in the image add a Levels adjustment layer, and move it between the ‘Background’ and ‘Plane’ layers in the Layers panel. Set the Shadows slider to 30, the Midtones slider to 0.88 and the Highlights slider to 238.


How to edit pictures of planes: step 10

10 Add a Vignette
To finish off we’ll add a vignette to darken the light corners of the image and frame the planes. Select the ‘Background’ layer and go to Filter > Correct Camera Distortion. Set the Vignette Amount slider to -20 and the Midpoint slider, which controls the size of the effect, to +40. Click OK to apply the effect.

Our final image

Our final image


PAGE 1: How to shoot pictures of planes
PAGE 2: How to edit pictures of planes


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