Photography Tips

Written by dan330 - Profile PM e-mail
This article was added on Fri 21st August, 2009

Maximise your chances of getting your photos accepted on the site by viewing our general acceptance criteria and getting a few tips to optimise your photos. This is recommended reading for anyone who is new to aviation photography and will help to avoid numerous shots being rejected from the screening process.

Photo Size

We have minimum and maximum photo sizes when uploading pictures. Our minimum size is 980 pixels over the longest side (width if its a landscape picture, height if its a portrait picture). Our maximum size is 1600 pixels.
I usually like to upload at about 1200 pixels as most people tend to use a monitor with a resolution of about this size. You may want to plan for future higher resolution displays and upload slightly larger though.

Crop Close To The Aircraft

A common reason for rejected photos tends to be photos uploaded with the aircraft away in the distance. For most photos the aircraft will be the focus of the picture, so make sure the aircraft takes up the vast majority of the frame, don't fill the frame with blue sky or background of no interest to the viewer.

There may be a few exceptions to this rule. If you're taking pictures of multiple aircraft against an interesting background such as a sunrise or sunset is one such example. The majority of the time though, make the aircraft fill as much of the frame as possible.

example photo
Posted PhotoRejected Photo.

example photo
Posted PhotoAccepted Photo.

Don't Crop Too Close

Following on from above, make sure you do not crop too close to the aircraft and cut off key surfaces without having a reason. The second picture of the examples show an acceptable picture. The close crop cuts off the outer wing area in order to give the impression of being very close to the aircraft, a feeling you couldn't get with the whole of the aircraft in view. The photo is deliberately cropped equally on both sides just outside of the engines in order to give this close-up feeling.

The first example though shows a photo that would be rejected. The photo is missing half of an important part of the engine and the crop is certainly not deliberately done.
Cutting off ends of winglets or horizontal stabilisers is also likely to get the photo rejected.

example photo
Posted PhotoRejected Photo.

example photo
Posted PhotoAccepted Photo.

Keep The Correct Aspect Ratio

When uploading photos it is important to keep the same or a very similar aspect ratio to that at which your camera took the original picture.

The aspect ratio is the ratio between the width and the height of a photo. Most digital SLR cameras have an aspect ratio of 1.5. This means that the width of the photo is 1.5 times bigger than the height of the photo (in landscape orientation). So if uploading a photo 1280 pixels wide then it should be about 853 pixels high.
Compact non SLR cameras tend to have a lower aspect ratio and be more square like, usually around 1.33, so a 1280 pixel wide photo should be uploaded at about 960 pixels high. Photos grossly outside these limits will be rejected unless the effect is intentional such as a panaramic view.

My general tip for getting the aspect ratio correct are below:
1. Crop the photo width ways first, so that you are close in on the aircraft as discussed above.
2. Now measure the new width of the picture.
3. Divide this width by your cameras original aspect ratio to work out what the height should be.
4. Crop the photo height wise so that the final version keeps the original aspect ratio.

example photo
Posted PhotoRejected Photo.

example photo
Posted PhotoAccepted Photo.

Make Sure The Photo Is Level With The Ground

A lot of the photos on the site are action shots, pictures of an aircraft moving at a very high speed. For these shots we tend to pan around with the camera and follow the aircraft, probably twisting or pulling the lens to change the zoom as we do it. One of the common problems this can cause is that we can sometimes take a picture that is not quite level with the ground. A photo not level by 1-2° may not sound much but it can be very noticeable when looking at the photo onscreen.
Once you view the photo, check that it is level by looking at a background building or the runway itself as a kind of spirit level. If not rotate in your editing program before uploading.

Although we are nowhere near as fussy about this problem as certain other sites any photos clearly not level will be rejected.

example photo
Posted PhotoRejected Photo.

example photo
Posted PhotoAccepted Photo.

Sharpen The Picture

Resizing any photo from the 8MP+ size the camera takes it at to a smaller size such as 1280x853 pixels to display on a monitor will naturally lose a lot of the sharpness within the photo. Its therefore important to get this back with your editing program. However, don't use the sharpen option but instead use the unsharp mask option that most good photo editors will have.
You can try changing the options given within the unsharp mask settings, the values I find work best for me on screen size image are:

Radius: 0.2
Threshold: 0
Amount: Vary to suit the image

Be careful not to oversharpen though. Once you start to see jagged edges on any line that is not purely vertical or horizontal then you have gone too far and oversharpened the image.

example photo
Posted PhotoUnsharpened Image.

example photo
Posted PhotoSharpened Image.

Remove Marks From The Photo

It is important the image stays clear from unwanted marks and dust spots.

Dust marks are probably the biggest problem with digital SLR cameras. Because the same sensor stays in place and takes all of the shots, any digital SLR camera will gain dust on the sensor and you will always get shots with visible dust marks on the image. These will be most noticeable on a less busy background such as a clear blue sky but you may also notice them within cloud patterns.
The good news is that they are easy to remove. I usually use the "patch tool" within Photoshop. With the option set to "source" rather than destination you can select an area close to the dust spot and then drag the area over the dust spot before dropping it. The dust spot will be removed. Just a general tip to always try to select an area a bit larger than the spot its self and as close to the dust spot as possible. The photo on the left has a visible dust spot on the upper left section of the image.

It should also be noted that images with written text on will also be rejected.

example photo
Posted PhotoRejected Image

Other Tips

A few more processing tips:

Avoid getting people in your pics - especially recognisable faces. Unless you can specify that these people have given permission, they will be rejected.
Make sure the image is centered - Keep the aircraft centered in the frame both horizontally and vertically unless you are specifically trying to create an effect with your image.

A few tips for when taking your pics:
Use as low an ISO as possible - A higher ISO will degrade the quality of your image, in sunny weather pull your ISO down to 100 at the most.
Pan with the aircraft - When taking pics of moving aircraft make sure you keep the aircraft in the same position within the frame as it approaches and then "pan" (ie move your camera to follow the aircraft) as it passes you. This will ensure the aircraft is sharp, the important subject of the image.
Background blur is good! Afterall the aircraft is moving and the blur of the background lets people see that from within a static image. Try using a slow shutter speed when taking the pic, very difficult to acheive a sharp aircraft and blurry background on a moving aircraft but nice pics when it works!

This article isn't meant as an in-depth guide to photography, more a few tips on how to improve your pictures and maximise your acceptance rate on the site.
You can discuss these tips and this article in our photography forum
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