Editing Aviation photography (The way i do it)

June 21, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Here is a quick post on editing Aviation photography and how to get the most from your photo’s.

If you think my images come out of the camera looking as they do then you are wrong. There is a small amount of post processing involved to achieve the final image.

I shoot in RAW With my images which allows me to pull as much of the original detail from the image as possible.

As you can see with the image below, I shot the image to expose for the sky, It was a very bright sunny day and did not want to clip any highlights. This allows me to retain excellent detail in the clouds without blowing them out.

Because of this the plane looks underexposed in the before image. This can be easily fixed though (as long as you shoot in RAW).



First of all import your image into lightroom or other image editor that can edit RAW files (Photoshop has a built in RAW editor too)

On the right hand side you will see your image sliders which look like this:


Because the sky is already correctly exposed, you will need to slide the shadows slider to bring back the detail in the shot. This will bring the plane into line with the rest of the exposure in the image.

If your original image has an overexposed sky then you will need to slide the highlights/exposure to the left first until you have an image like the first one.

Next add contrast to your liking, Not too much though as you will begin to loose shadow details again.

I then adjust the saturation to make the image more vibrant and colorful.

Next i adjust the color temperature, When shooting in raw you can adjust the white balance to any that you desire. It was a warm sunny day so i adjusted the Temperature slider to the right a little.

Finally to complete the overall look of the image i added some sharpening, RAW images come from the camera with no sharpening added to them at all so this is an essential for crisp beautiful images.

Finally we need to crop the image to comply with the rule of thirds. A 16:9 crop works best with this. I used the Fibonacci scale on the image, Also works with a rule of thirds grid, I placed the Center of focus in the image on the part of the scale that is most pleasing to the eye (The third).



This is the image now complete. You can export the image as a JPG in high quality. The good thing is, Because you shot in RAW you can go back and edit the images again and again if a different style of editing tickles your fancy!

Common mistakes to make:

1. Over exposed sky.

2. Sky exposed and plane under exposed.

3. Flat boring grey sky’s. (Fix in Photoshop/Lightroom with the color temp slider and a bit of clarity to pop those grey clouds).

4. Plane looks dull. (Adding saturation in post can make all the difference in an image)

5. Plane in center of the image. (A lot of peoples natural instinct is to put the plane in the center of the image, When in fact the subject or point of focus of your image should be in the thirds.) This is easy to fix in Lightroom/Photoshop. Lightroom has a built in thirds scale (So do some camera’s) to help you position your subject correctly. You can toggle through the different types of scale in lightroom by toggling the O Button.

All of the above can be done if you shot in JPEG, BUT this is a big but, you will not be able to bring back as much details and the highlights maybe clipped if you overexposed the image. They can always be fixed to some extent though.

That’s it for this quick post. If you have any questions just ask.




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