Airshows: framing

January 28, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Not every image of a plane needs to fill the frame. Sometimes it is better to back off a bit and to frame the plane a bit looser. Situations that work better with a smaller aircraft usually have something else in the frame that adds to the image. To even be aware of these moments we cannot be glued to the viewfinder while the zoom lens at at its maximum focal length. Or if you are shooting with a prime lens, bring a shorter lens with you and try it out. I use the Sony 200-600mm zoom lens, which I love. From time to time I crank it back, just to see what is going on around the plane and a bit wider out. Here are some example images where I feel like that worked out well.

This image would not have worked if it were not for the wingtip trails. The plane would be too small in the frame (if that is all there is). However, these trails play a vital part in the image's composition. They add interest. They lead the viewer's eyes to the plane. The whole idea of this image is impossible to capture if the plane fills the whole frame.

Once again, this image is made by the wingtip trails and the heat mirage. You cannot capture this kind of image while zooming in tightly on the plane. As photographers, we try to shoot a variety of images rather than to get one thousand of the same or very similar images. Frame some images wider to capture more of what is going on, provided something is going on.

We can also use the smoke the pilots so graciously provide to enable a wider framing of the plane. This smoke trail helps the image. If this was a tight shot of the plane, the smoke would just have been a distraction. We have to pick the situations to shoot tight and the scenes to frame wider.

Lastly, please remember that planes are moving. They need space to move into. We don't want them to be leaving the frame. If they do, they will take the viewer out of the frame with them. So always frame the plane in such a way that there is enough space in front of it to fly into. We want the plane to fly into the frame not out of the frame.


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