Some Findings About Editing Airshow Photos

Hi folks,

It’s been one year since my last post about airshows. Meanwhile the 2017 edition of BIAS took place and I’m taking advantage of this occasion to show you some of my findings regarding processing this type of photos on the computer.

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Let’s start with the beginning! As you already know the best outdoor photos on a sunny day (with clear skies) are taken in the first morning hours (say one hour after sunrise) and in the last hours of the day (one hour before and one hour after sunset). However an airshow (like BIAS for example) might last the whole day. Also the most spectacular manoeuvres could take place at noon when the sun is way above the ground. What can be done in this case?

Let me offer you this piece of advice: first, take as many pictures as possible with the plane(s) in as many different positions relative to the sun. Also try to shoot them especially when the light falls as sideways as possible. Second, take pictures of the airplanes when they are closer to you, as haziness of the picture increases with distance. Don’t lose time and space on the card when they are so far that they will look like flies or other insects in the picture. Third, editing the picture will also help greatly improve the quality of the photos. This last point is covered in detail in the current post.

So let me share with you my findings about editing:

  1. In most of the pictures taken at airshows I use the de-haze functionality that Lightroom CC provides. Let me rephrase the reason: in sunny days when few or no clouds are present the sky becomes hazy during mid-day as the water particles from the air are strongly reflected by sunlight. The de-haze dramatically changes the look of the sky and makes any clouds or smoke get shape and volume. However here’s a caveat: don’t over-react with this functionality. Try to apply it in small increments until you get the desired effect, otherwise the sky might become too dark and the colours will be highly unnatural. I usually don’t increase de-haze to more than 25 (out of 100). For reference see the below two pictures, first without de-haze applied and second with de-haze 25. All other processing had already been applied to both: contrast, saturation etc.

  2. I also use the blue channel to increase saturation of the sky. I apply no more than 50 (out of 100), again to prevent the colours from becoming unnatural. Sometimes I use the hue setting of blue to add a little violet. Even greater caution needs to be applied here as the hue settings might alter the other colours in an unwanted fashion.
  3. The blue colour is the one which is most prone to noise. Indeed many cameras are very sensitive to this colour and even at ISO100 noise might be present. Also the noise could become more visible when contrast, clarity or de-haze are applied at post-processing. For this reason I use the adjustment brush to remove the noise from certain areas of the sky, especially from the ones that don’t contain notable details. As stated here I use it in the early phases of the editing process to prevent my computer from becoming sluggish.
  4. I increase the contrast to 50 (out of 100) in LR. Also the clarity is increased to 25-50 (out of 100). This helps the picture become “punchier”, especially if taken at mid-day.
  5. I crop many pictures from an airshow. The reason is obvious: planes and helicopters are fast moving objects and it’s not always easy to get the ideal framing right from the camera. My advice: don’t frame the pictures too tightly, leave room from crop. Also feel free to use the angle/tilt option. It will help you get more spectacular results!
  6. In this post I was talking about using Photoshop for removing unwanted objects from the photos. Well, lucky us there are usually not many unwanted objects at an airshow, at least not if the planes are photographed when flying high above. However there is an opportunity to use the Clone Stamp Tool or Content Aware Fill here too for cleaning up the pictures. If you are interested in selling photos on a stock site you’d better remove any commercials or insignia from planes, otherwise they will be rejected. My advice to you is to do this only if you think the picture is worth selling. Removing these items from planes is not as easy as it seems and may take a considerable amount of time. Better take photos with planes in such positions that these trademarked signs cannot be clearly seen. You will save valuable time and thank yourself for doing this.
  7. Clean up your gear (especially the camera sensor) before taking photos of an airshow. On a clear sky the spots from the sensor are highly visible, even if the aperture is wide open. Trust me, it’s not pleasant to use spot removal in LR 10-20 times per picture in post-processing (been there, done that!) Also some spots are very hard (if not impossible) to remove. Bottom line: a professional cleaning doesn’t cost much and the price is fully worth in any case!

I hope you’ll find these small pieces of advice useful.

If you have any suggestions, thoughts or comments please feel free to share them.

Thanks for reading this.

PS. Check these too:

Airshows (2)

Photo Selection and Other Findings on Editing

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