Best Camera settings for aviation photography

Wondering which camera settings to use for the best aviation photography images? Trial and error, mixed with good fortune is the usual rule of thumb. However, following these basic aviation photography tips will point you in the right direction!

Remember, the shutter speed is largely determined by the image you want to capture. If you want a crystal-clear shot of a fast jet, you want to ‘freeze’ the aircraft in time with a high shutter speed. If you are after a full-disk prop blur, a lower shutter speed will facilitate this.


Camera settings for fast jets such as Hawk, Tornado and Typhoon

AI-SERVO
TV / Shutter priority
Metering: Evaluative
Focus: Auto
Shutter speed: 1/1000s, or as low as 1/640-800s for a Hawk
Blurry background: Drop down to ~1/500s!
ISO: 400 or less
Nb: Don’t be too trigger happy, take shots in bursts of 2 or 3, to avoid shutter lag.

Camera settings for helicopters such as Apache, Chinook, Merlin and Wildcat
AI-SERVO
TV / Shutter priority
Metering: Evaluative
Focus: Auto
Shutter speed: 1/100s to 1/200s
ISO: 400 or less
Focus: Single or multi-point

Camera settings for prop aircraft such as Hercules, King Air and Tucano
TV / Shutter priority
Metering: Evaluative
Focus: Auto
Shutter speed: 1/250s
ISO: 400 or less
Focus: Single or multi-point

Generally speaking, the higher the ISO, the noisier the photo. Keeping below ISO 400 (where possible) will keep this to a minimum, but is of course dependent on light conditions.

Your aperture should ideally be one stop down from the lenses max e.g. for a f/5.6 lens you’d want ~f/8.

Track the aircraft at the earliest and steadily pan/follow it, keeping it centred as much as possible whilst partially pressing the shutter to engage the auto-focus.

Bear in mind, the lower the shutter speed, the less ‘keepers’ you are likely to get. It can get incredibly windy on the hillsides!