This posts contains some advice about how to take pictures of aeronautic shows.
Before I start, I should say I’m neither specialized on this type of photography, nor do I posess dedicated equipment. However I would like to share a few of my findings when capturing this type of event. I hope they will be useful 🙂
First, what is really required is a telephoto lens. I used my Tamron 70-300 VC, which proved to be quite ok in good light, yet when the light was gone it had some issues with the AF (well, it ain’t quite a speed demon but you cannot expect this from a amateur 4 – 5.6 lens). A 2.8 lens (e.g. 70-200 or 300mm) would be even better, especially after sunset!
Second, keep your aperture wide-open. The depth of field is not a issue here (unless there are more planes which are far from each other), as the focus distance is large enough. Reason is you need to obtain a good shutter speed and it’s better to do this by using smaller f-numbers than by increasing the ISO (which you’ll need to do anyway at some time).
As for shutter speed, this should obviously be high. Some of the planes (especially jet fighters) are really fast. And panning does not make much sense at such an event (panning with the sky? why would you do that???). I would recommend 1/2000 or even higher. Regarding exposure mode I used either a manual mode (set the aperture and shutter speed manually) with auto-ISO or a manual mode with manual ISO (if the lighting conditions are constant).
I also found out that it’s better not to use the highest possible focal distance (if you have a zoom lens) unless the plane is really far from the viewer(s). Better keep a less tighter framing and then crop the picture at post-processing (if you have 24mpx on your camera you can definitely afford to do this). Also use continuous AF (AF-S might work as well depending on the subject trajectory) and focus using the center point. This is the most precise AF point and as already mentioned you can crop the picture later.
Well, that would be it. Below I added some pictures taken in Bucharest 2 months ago at BIAS 2015 (acronym stands for Bucharest International Air Show).
Looking forward on your comments. Please feel free to share your personal experiences and advice.