What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Tommy on Sat 04 Nov 2017, 10:58 am

Simple question, hopefully complex answers.

I'm keen to hear what fellow UKARians think makes a "good" aviation photograph to them - what do you try to keep in the back of your mind when taking your own pictures, and what of other people's work makes you sit back and appreciate the image?

And, conversely, what are your big "dont's" and pet hates, too?

I suspect there'll be some universal answers and some not so.

If you can, post links to examples posted online (obviously giving credit where you can), and especially your own work that you're particularly pleased with for whatever reason. Over to you! :cool:
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Hammy on Sat 04 Nov 2017, 11:49 am

Phantoms.
Author, dreamweaver, visionary... Plus actor.

Martin Needham
Threshold.aero
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby wallace on Sat 04 Nov 2017, 4:00 pm

Most confuse technical achievement with a photo of a "rare" aircraft. Few can tell or appreciate what technical achievement is, generally that limit is having no noise in the sky or over sharpened areas.

Me, cynical?
Too right.
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Brevet Cable on Sat 04 Nov 2017, 4:09 pm

A big "don't" in my opinion, or is it just a pet hate......clipping part of a wing off for no good reason, or often doing it just to make the image fit some stupid photography 'rule'.
Ditto clipping off part of the tail/nose for the same reason.
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby LN Strike Eagle on Sat 04 Nov 2017, 4:29 pm

Strobe shots are a pet hate of mine. Clichéd shots like trying to get an aircraft flying past the moon too - you can hear the shutters at shows when the moon is up as everyone tries the same thing, regardless of composition or quality and often when the aircraft is miles away repositioning.
"You really are an oafish philistine at times!"
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Jakub.Zurek on Sat 04 Nov 2017, 9:39 pm

Photography is a very personal thing, but for me, a good image has to be technically correct, and feature some good post-processing. Nothing over the top, but something to give it a unique 'feel'.

My number one pet hate is wonky horizons. I see it so often, even from very good photographers.
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Brevet Cable on Sat 04 Nov 2017, 11:55 pm

LN Strike Eagle wrote: Clichéd shots like trying to get an aircraft flying past the moon too

Presumably that includes the other aviation cliché, cross-over shots ? :biggrin:

And I almost forgot.....over-processed images and/or excessive use of HDR.
I don't mind if the intention is to aim for the 'oil-painting' look or some other arty-farty effect, but too many who do HDR or over-processing do it because they claim it looks realistic. :facepalm:
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby wallace on Sun 05 Nov 2017, 6:57 am

Moon shots is an interesting subject because, to be anyway, it's not easy to do and the shot can't be planned in advance.
Considering that the moon (if it moves like the sun) would presumably cover it's own diameter every four minutes getting the two elements together is an achievement in itself!

There is one shot that I can't understand, composition wise and that's the nose-on shot that has most of the fuselage in the middle of the picture and the tail is clipped at the top of the frame, that is poor composition in my book yet folks love that kind of shot.
In saying that cropping is an artistic decision, the balance between a picture of a whole plane and trying to cut out what's unnecessary to force the crop to a more dramatic composition.
The tight crop that I don't think ever works is of the dash 8, front on with just the fuselage and no engines showing in the picture. The fuselage seems to hang in mid-air, balancing on the nose wheel.

The bottom line is, no one really cares how much technical effort went into getting a photo, you could walk for miles, carrying a heavy pack, through deep snow and swamp to get a photo of a super rare aircraft, crop a bit out or have the ground power unit in the shot, or had lots of noise because you had to push the ISO but all any one ever cares about is is it tack sharp and good enough for the likes of Airliners.nut.

I shot a hot air balloon, a rare one, that only comes out once a year, I shot it from a microlight, late on in the day and there were complaints because there was digital noise in the picture.
It wasn't a great air to air shot of a HAB, who gets them every day, it was a bad shot because I had noise in the picture. One is on a losing streak when someone can not recognise the technical circumstances behind the picture as generally the viewing time is less than ten seconds, about five in screening, and it is that a "great shot" is awarded.

I told you I was cynical.
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Paul_Reflex on Sun 05 Nov 2017, 9:20 am

To me a good photo tells a story and a great photo does so while conveying high levels of emotion. In aviation photography the emotional content is usually connected to heritage or power. All of the tehnical stuff is just irrelevant guff really.
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Tommy on Sun 05 Nov 2017, 12:13 pm

Brevet Cable wrote:
LN Strike Eagle wrote: Clichéd shots like trying to get an aircraft flying past the moon too

Presumably that includes the other aviation cliché, cross-over shots ? :biggrin:


You hear the chorus of shutters as the Reds do their "Carousel" manoeuvre, crossing, what, a mile and a half, two miles away?

I've yet to see a decent single shot of that manoeuvre when the crossing takes place away from the crowd.

I suppose, though, they're a bit cliché because if you can get it right, those shots can look really, really good. But getting it right is bloody difficult.

Other than perhaps on nighttime shots etc, shots including strobes don't do much for me, tbh.
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Brevet Cable on Sun 05 Nov 2017, 12:36 pm

We have another topic on here where the OP is asking about how to reduce/eliminate lens flare on night shoots.
From what I recall of his picture, the flare caused a starburst effect on the starboard light.
I've been on photo shoots ( not just aviation-related ) where people have afterwards complained that they couldn't get that effect !
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Airwolfhound on Sun 05 Nov 2017, 3:00 pm

I do have a number of pet hates when it comes to aviation photography. Some are quite pedantic though to be fair :lol:

Wonky horizons annoy me, as do people who criticise my work and then when I look at their own work it is 10 times worse. But anyway, photography is subjective, at least that's what I keep telling myself :lol:

I understand the need for clipping wings, I do it quite often as it removes 'dead space' from an image :smile:

It annoys me seeing repetitive images of the same aircraft at pretty much the same angle from a photographer in one thread. I see a lot of this in Lakenheath shots of F15s :sad:

It annoys me that people use so many emoticons when replying to various photographic threads, just no need for them :clown:

Anyway, what I do like is black and white used in the right context. I tend to use it to highlight detail in a shot, or when the light was a bit rubbish. I processed this yesterday from RIAT 2017, I quite like the effect, don't think it is too strong for the image.

ImagePhantom - RIAT 2017 by Tim Felce, on Flickr
https://www.flickr.com/photos/24874528@N04/

Agile, mobile and hostile ;-)
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Big_Gareth on Sun 05 Nov 2017, 3:27 pm

Cracking photo Airwolfhound, I do find that black and white works best when it is used to highlight detail. Good processing is always essential, full stop. Some B&W processing methods often look really lacklustre and the effect is pointless when done badly, in my opinion.

I think photographers go through phases of what appeals to them, it's all part of the learning process. I'm sure lots of us have done the dreaded, over the top HDR as mentioned above. Then there's the "must be a full disk", prop blur shot and the "I'm only pressing the shutter if it's a topside" phase. A few months ago a friend had a couple of aviation magazines lying around in his car. One of the magazines featured just 2 topsides and the other had none! Air to air shots seem to be taking over as the must have shot to take.
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Tommy on Sun 05 Nov 2017, 3:42 pm

On that point, I think black and white can look really good to highlight detail, but a component of that is a pin-sharp shot, and it assists to have as clean a background as possible to highlight the contrast.

A sharp head-on with an Apache lends itself pretty well to B&W treatment, I think. Macc posted one in one of his RIAT threads once, and i’ve been trying and failing to emulate since!
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Brevet Cable on Sun 05 Nov 2017, 3:49 pm

Nowt wrong with the wing-clipping in that image as far as I'm concerned.

Nicked from Wiki, this is the sort of clipping that I don't like :
Image
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Airwolfhound on Sun 05 Nov 2017, 3:52 pm

Yep, I see your point Brevet, no need for it in that shot.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/24874528@N04/

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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby phreakf4 on Sun 05 Nov 2017, 7:25 pm

Photography (other than pure "record photography" for archival/technical or similar purposes) is first and foremost an art form and therefore whether a photograph is considered "good" or "bad" is almost entirely a matter of personal taste. Each of us has our own preferences and dislikes.

In aviation photography my preferences include the presence of some form of context rather than an ascetic image of a machine in isolation, whilst my "betes noir" are the "tightly cropped and centrered "Airliners.net style of presentation and the many series of images from air shows (especially the "Static") which give the impression that no audience actually bothered to attend and particularly the assumption that a "good" image can only be captured in bright sunlight with the sun behind one's shoulder.
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby reheat module on Mon 06 Nov 2017, 4:15 pm

Q. What makes a "good" aviation photograph?
A. One which I took, i process, I look at, and say I'm happy with that...
Postnote: it's definitely subjective!
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby Tommy on Mon 06 Nov 2017, 9:41 pm

reheat module wrote:Q. What makes a "good" aviation photograph?
A. One which I took, i process, I look at, and say I'm happy with that...
Postnote: it's definitely subjective!


Probably my fault for not being clear, but this entire topic is of course subjective. We all get that. Whilst completely correct, it's stating the obvious by saying things like "something I'm happy with".

The kernels of interest are not that you're happy with it (as I hope you all are for most of your pics!); that's a given, but *why* you're happy with it. :smile:
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby ErikNZ on Mon 06 Nov 2017, 10:32 pm

As obviously stated, it's extremely subjective but it also depends on what I want of that photo - if the purpose of the photo is to show the aircraft and markings for reference purposes, then a cool, low-angle frontal "in your face" shot isn't really going be great for that purpose. Instead, the classic "50mm side-on shot" is going to make it a far better photo.. for that purpose. I certainly can appreciate both. The classic style, mastered by legends such as George Hall, certainly still appeals to me, with the earlier Superbase-books having been a huge inspiration for me. Spectacular and creative shots as we see today were a lot less common back then, in the age of pure analogue photography, manual focus and your ISO rating fixed to either 25 or 64, depending on your flavour of Kodachrome film. Yet I still enjoy those books today.

Any aviation photo that makes me look twice is a good photo in my book. It doesn't need to be technically perfect. Just like we work with the balance of exposure vs shutter speed vs aperture in photography, I also apply a balance of composure vs subject vs technical quality.

A not very well composed photo of a common aircraft (which again is completely different for everyone) with unintentional clipping of wings or tail or nose.. well that's not going to get a second look.
But any chance of these variables will definitely up my interest level. So I tend to be more "forgiving" towards photos of subjects that hold my interest, even when the photo itself isn't overly great.
And a well composed, technically sound photo of any subject is already great in my book - add a rare or interesting subject to it, and it's going to be a legendary shot to me.
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby wallace on Tue 07 Nov 2017, 7:43 pm

http://www.check-6.com/gallery/jet_fighters/F-22-Raptor-taking-off-from-Edwards-AFB-by-Richard-VanderMeulen.php George Hall.

I hadn't heard of him before, interesting portfolio. He comes under the heading of demi-god. Someone able to do air to air shots from military jets. I take my wooly bunnit off to him in respect as air-to-air photos are not easy. Like herding cats, trying to get two elements that don't want to be close to each other to get one close enough to photograph properly. On one occasion it was like taking photos from a roller coaster, every single one of the pictures was unusable as the turbulence was so severe.

I consider myself so very lucky to have done this with GA aircraft
Image
Image

Much to the skill of the pilots getting me into position than to me as a photographer. (On reflection my style has changed and I'd have cropped them a bit wider now. Content in context.)

I suppose a good image is when the ordinary looks extraordinary.
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby capercaillie on Wed 08 Nov 2017, 3:47 pm

Why has nobody said carrots, fluff and jelly? :dunno: :wink:
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby CJS on Wed 08 Nov 2017, 9:07 pm

For me, a good photo - the kind that makes me linger for more than a fleeting glance - is down to the composition. Something a bit different or more thought out. A UKARian took a wonderful shot of the Frecce Tricolori just about to take off at RIAT a few years ago - but he got down on the ground and very cleverly used the grass as part of the shot. It took time, it took a bit of imagination too. Needless to say I can't find the photo!!

I also like a bit of context to a photo. Some of the shots from Axalp recently were just jaw dropping and a lot of that for me was down to the way the shot was composed (admittedly the background does lend itself to beautiful shots more than most aero events!).

One thing I am often curious about with masters of the genre - Tokunaga, Dibbs etc... is just how many photos they take to get that one perfect image. No question at all of their prowess with the camera, and I am not for one second suggesting I could do what they can, but...if I spend £10K on cameras and lenses (more, probably), then get on to an air to air shoot, then take 5000 photos in 20 minutes, I'm going to get some pretty good results right?

Please please don't think I am knocking them, I'm really not, but their % of keepers to rejects? I wonder sometimes, that's all. :hide:
"Forewarned is forearmed"
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Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby ErikNZ on Wed 08 Nov 2017, 11:47 pm

CJS wrote:One thing I am often curious about with masters of the genre - Tokunaga, Dibbs etc... is just how many photos they take to get that one perfect image. No question at all of their prowess with the camera, and I am not for one second suggesting I could do what they can, but...if I spend £10K on cameras and lenses (more, probably), then get on to an air to air shoot, then take 5000 photos in 20 minutes, I'm going to get some pretty good results right?


I think it has less to do with equipment than creating the right opportunities and having the experience and skill to make the most of these opportunities.
Any of the great photographers you mention will get similar amazing shots, even when you hand them an entry level DSLR. If you are comfortable with your gear and your environment, you can make the most of it. Of all the factors that go into getting great air to air shots, my camera is one of the least important variables. Planning and setup are 90% of the work - once you get where you want to be, in the right formation, over the right location, in the right weather, you literally point your camera and shoot. Keep in mind that aircraft in formation all move relative to each other so it's not like anything is zooming by at 300+ knots. In that regard, shooting a knife-edge pass during an air show is a hell of a lot more difficult.

I've had opportunities where I was given ample room to plan and setup the shots and it was relatively easy to come back with hundreds of images.
But other times, I've joined operational sorties with zero "photo time" and I had to make do with what was possible and at times, that's not a lot to work with at all.

One of those was a B-52H sortie from Barksdale. That sortie was great for shooting interior / crew shots but from the flight I only walked away with a single air to air shot, but I was able to make it count by nothing else but pure luck that we came to the end of the tanker track and our formations had to turn around, finally putting the sun in the right spot for the few minutes it took to make this turn, while still connected to the KC-135R.

Image

So in essence, I flew all the way to Louisiana, spend the better part of the week at Barksdale and came back with 1 shot. To me, it was extremely worthwhile.
ErikNZ

Re: What makes a "good" aviation photograph?

Postby jalfrezi on Thu 09 Nov 2017, 11:36 am

Processing is often overlooked as many shots don't reach their full potential by being badly or not processed at all.

I think a good aviation photo comes down to three things - creativity/composition/opportunity - you don't necessarily need all three for a good shot but you'll need at least one, and a great shot will maybe need all three.
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