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Airshow Photo Tips (page 3)
by Tyson Rininger


Since flight lines vary between airfields, as does the path of the sun, homework is your best bet to figuring out where to be. Here are some questions to ask your self when choosing a location to set up:

  • Which direction will the aircraft most likely be coming from?
  • Where will the sun be heading throughout the show?
  • How close is the crowd line from the end/beginning of the runway?
  • Where is the best place to view the hot ramp during the air show?
  • Where is show center?
  • Where will the audio trailer be located? (Just kidding!)
  • Will there be audio speakers in the way of your line of sight during ribbon cuts and low flybys?

While at some air shows, the aircraft will follow the length of the runway the entire time they are in front of the crowd, others will use show center as an apex and approach from behind. For the shows that use the straight pass approach, choose either end of the crowd line, preferably the opposite end of the approach pattern. This will give you a much longer period in which to capture head on photos of the aircraft. For the shows that use an arch pattern and approach from behind position yourself closest to the approach and you will have access to closer, tighter formation shots than from show center.

If they've positioned the crowd line close to the beginning or end of a runway, choose what is most important to you. Do you want photos of an aircraft at idle preparing for takeoff or images of the plane as it is just lifting the front wheels? Perhaps you are looking for the aircraft to be in wheels up clean configuration low to the runway, if so you should be as close to the end of the runway as possible.

Do you like to photograph the performers signing autographs or waving to the crowd as they climb out of the aircraft? Try show center, but get there early.

Be extra cautious of speaker and audio systems that may be in your way. Since most of the time the action is in the air high above, we just don't think about it. However, if you would like photos of jet cars, or low flying aerobatics such as the ribbon cutting maneuvers, you may want to position yourself a little more carefully.


If this were a perfect world, the sun would be to everyone's back and there would always be a soft breeze cleansing the hazy sky. Unfortunately airports aren't built for the once a year air show convenience, so improvisation becomes vital to great and unique images. Sometimes, weather can even become your greatest ally!


If aircraft are flying during cloudy days, chances are it will be a low show, (if a show at all!). Low shows enable you to get even closer to the action than normally possible. Some performers, or teams such as the Blue Angels, alter their performances according to the ceiling provided thus allowing for different formation shots. When shooting under a completely overcast sky, overexpose the image by 1 to 1.5 stops. The bright sky tends to trick the camera into thinking it is too light for the current shutter speed and you will wind up with a silhouette on every shot. Other great advantages of cloudy skies would be the statics. Clouds act as a big diffuser softening the light and eliminating harsh shadows. Adding an 81A-warming filter will help reduce the bluish tones in the film's appearance.

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About the Author:

Tyson Rininger is a professional photographer based in Central California. Mr. Rininger began photographing when he was just 12 years of age. Since he received his first camera, Mr. Rininger has been chasing action all of his life. Everything from spectacular lightning photographs, to auto racing and of course, air shows are included in his superb portfolio. Mr. Rininger's online photographic galleries can be seen at:

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