Shooting an Airshow

I took a few shots yesterday at an airshow in Las Vegas.

And this is interesting to you why? Because it reminds me to tell you something about shooting air shows and such.


  1. Use a stabilized long lens-  200-400 mm or longer is best.
  2. Set the stabilizer to “Active” or “Mode 2” if it has that option: you will be panning with the aircraft.
  3. Also bring a wide lens for close-up shots of ground equipment and parked aircraft.

Camera settings:

  1. Use manual mode. Figure out exposure for aircraft and set to that. Take into account direction – back lit or front lit, that makes a difference.
  2. Set your focus mode to AF-C / AI Servo. Continuous focus is usually best.
  3. Ensure a shutter speed that is fast enough – maybe 1/500th second for prop planes and 1/2000th or faster for jets.
  4. Use continuous shutter release mode.

A few more samples:


  1. Get close to the landing strip
  2. Arrive early and get a good spot with no-one in front of you
  3. Crop images when needed!
  4. Your bag may be searched, so keep it simple.
  5. As said above… use a wide lens for detail shots – lots of stuff on the ground.
  6. I always use one focus spot, except at air shows.. only one thing in the sky. So I use the “camera chooses where to focus” way. But one thing I had not realized: the camera will try to focus on the darm smoke trails. So a smaller focus area might be a good idea.

And finally, a few more samples. All at or around 1/2500th second, f/2.8, 100 ISO, with the 70-200mm lens, cropped as needed.

So.. go shoot at airshows, and enjoy shooting moving objects.


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