Aviation photography: tips for taking first-class pictures of airplanes

Aviation photography: tips for taking amazing pictures of airplanes

How to edit your aviation photography for best results: steps 1-5

How to edit your aviation photography for best results: step 1

01 Boost the exposure
Download our start image and follow along! Open the image masterclass_start.dng in Adobe Camera Raw. Our shot is a little underexposed, and lacks contrast, so set Exposure to +0.40 and Contrast to +22. You need to take care not to clip the highlights in sunlit shots of light subjects, so turn on the highlights clipping warning by clicking the red triangle at the top-right of the histogram.

 

How to edit your aviation photography for best results: step 2

02 Highlights and shadows
The clipping warning shows blown highlights on our plane, so set the Highlights slider to -49 and Whites to -35 to pull these areas back. To bring out some of the detail in the shadows set Shadows to +38 and Blacks to +18. Open the image in Elements.

 

How to edit your aviation photography for best results: step 3

03 Crop and clone
To add impact to our shot we’ll crop it at an angle to create a ‘Dutch tilt’ effect. Take the Crop tool, crop the image so the plane is on the left of the frame flying into the shot, then click-and-drag outside a corner of the box to rotate it and hit Enter to apply the crop; if the rotated crop extends beyond the edges of the canvas you can use the Clone Stamp tool to fill in the missing areas of grass and/or sky at the corners.

 

How to edit your aviation photography for best results: step 4

04 Make a selection
Next we’ll darken the sky to make the plane stand out more. Take the Magic Wand tool, disable Contiguous and set Tolerance to 23. Click once in the sky: this will select most of it, and you can select areas you’ve missed by holding down Shift and clicking on them. If you select parts of the plane, hold down Alt and click to subtract those areas from the selection.

 

How to edit your aviation photography for best results: step 5

05 Create a mask
When you’re happy with your selection click Refine Edge, and in the Refine Edge dialog select New Layer with Layer Mask from the Output To menu and click OK: this creates a copy of the ‘Background’ layer, with a mask based on your selection. You’ll only see the sky at this point, as the ‘Background’ layer will be hidden: click its eye icon to reveal it again.

PAGE 1: Best camera settings for aviation photography
PAGE 2: How to compose pictures of airplanes
PAGE 3: How to take pictures of airplanes at air shows
PAGE 4: How to edit your aviation photography for best results: steps 1-5
PAGE 5: How to edit your aviation photography for best results: steps 6-10

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