How to Take Good Airshow Photos

Airshows are extremely entertaining and can be a great photo opportunity, if you know how to take great photos. There are a few things to know and keep in mind when at airshows and taking photos.


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    Use a film or Digital SLR camera, use a long lens (at least 300mm, F2.8-5.6 are faster lenses good for airshow action images).
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    Arrive early to pick out the best spot, which is usually close to the runway and will be the bleachers or viewing area roped off by those running the airshow.
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    Wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen, as most airshows are in summer and it will be quite warm. This would prevent your skin from tanning.
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    Be sure to get a program of the airshow, as it will have a lot of information of the aircraft on display in the airshow.
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    Use a UV or circular polarizer filter to lessen glare and protect your camera lens.
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    Take many photos. Have at least 3-4 rolls of film or 2-3 memory cards. If you use digital, use your multi-image and action burst modes on the camera (which allows you to take from 3-6 frames per second). This would give you more photographs to choose from.


  • As two or more aircraft cross paths, follow one aircraft and press your shutter minutes before and after they cross. If you set your camera and lens to the faster settings(example: 300 mm, F2.8), it should capture it.
  • Be sure to use the burst and action modes if you are a beginning photographer and new to digital SLRs.
  • Follow the aircraft with your camera for several moments when they start to climb or dive, then take several images since many times the aircraft is about to complete change direction or angle of flight.
  • Military aircraft often move much faster than smaller civilian aircraft, be ready to follow the aircraft with your camera as it moves.
  • If there is an aircraft that is behind ropes/tape, or is a distance from the airshow; it may be a private or special aircraft. In this case, always ask someone in charge if you can photograph the aircraft.
  • Be aware that there will be vendors there trying to get you to buy soda, snacks, souvenirs, and other items.


  • Never look directly into the sun for long periods of time.
  • Keep an eye on your children, as they may be excited by the airshow and want to explore on their own.
  • Do not take pets to the airshow, as the crowd and the noise will cause them to become nervous and/or excited. Please leave pets at home.
  • Do not enter areas that have been roped or taped off, as they are most likely restricted to authorized individuals only.
  • If a specific area or aircraft is not open for the airshow do not photograph it, as most military officials can ask for your film or memory card.
  • Military airshows on military installations require that you do not venture to other parts of the base, as they will be off limits.
  • Always listen and follow the instructions of those individuals who are running the airshow; announcer, base officials, those wearing identification badges.
  • Airshows have very specific viewing areas, do not try to get closer to the aircraft or action. The viewing areas are designed to keep you safe in case something does happen.
  • Be considerate of other people. Don't block their view if possible.

Things You'll Need

  • Camera (film or Digital)
  • Lenses (18-55mm kit lens, longer fast lens 300mm or longer F2.8-5.6)
  • Memory cards (have more than one if you shoot RAW)
  • Sunscreen, hat or umbrella
  • Money for snacks, drinks, souvenirs
  • Comfortable clothes

Article Info

Categories: Nature and Outdoor Photography