Friday, January 1, 2016

Five tips for 2016

Five tips for improving your Aviation Photography in 2016

A rare moment for me - having Crazy Horse all to myself with no students!
   Since it is the New Year, a time for resolutions we will never keep, unrealistic self-improvement goals and unbridled optimism, I thought I would offer a few tips on how we all can improve our aviation photography. (Myself included!)

So here goes!

5. Shoot detail (lots of it)

   This is the only tip I'm going to give you that actually involves taking photos, so pay attention!
   Our time with each aircraft is limited, so make sure that you capture as much of the aircraft as you can, especially unique details.  Some of my friends are pure detail shooters, and their photography never ceases to amaze me.  Take a look at Françoise GuilĂ©'s website Air.Feel ( which portrays her strong visual style through detail images. While I am not telling you to imitate her style, spend more time this year on the small details of aircraft!

4. Don't buy that shiny new camera 

   Or lens.  Or fancy widget.
   If you absolutely HAVE to spend the money (it grows on trees and is burning a hole in your pocket, right?) then spend it on photographic instruction.  I don't say this as a workshop instructor looking to line my pockets, but rather as a photographer who realizes that this trade involves a lifetime of learning.  Of course, there are plenty of free videos on YouTube, Vimeo, etc, but once you have run the gamut of those, then graduate to paid instruction.
   A great resource for any photographer is Kelby One, but don't discount attending smaller workshops where you can get personalized instruction from instructors.  One of the best that I spent my money on this year was with Kate Silvia involving Topaz plugins for Photoshop and Lightroom.
   Regardless of how much you spend, take the time in 2016 to learn!

3. Maintain your equipment

   I am a creature of habit, checklists and superstition.  It comes from years spent in aviation where your life is defined by written procedures and habitual routines.  Strive to be as detailed with your photographic equipment.
   Disassemble it. Clean it.  Charge it.  Re-format it.  Put it away after every shoot.
   Examine it for wear and damage. When broken, set it aside.  Replace it.
   If you do this you will find your frustration and stress level will decrease both in the pre-shoot preparation, and during the on-shoot "OhmyGodwhereismywidget" moments.  

2. Curate your photos ruthlessly

   Many times our objectivity falters when looking at a collection of images from a photoshoot.  Wade through them mercilessly like an axe-wielding Viking warrior.  Be bold.  Elevate your standards.  Remove images that don't meet the cut.
   If you can't bring yourself to delete sub-par images for historical reasons or future editing, then move them out of the folder/collection you are editing in!
   Doing this will speed your workflow and allow you to concentrate on the top 1% of the images you captured, instead of becoming bogged down in the mediocre ones.

1.  Be a good person.

   Maybe this goes without saying, but the best thing you can do for your photography is to be a nice, genuine and personable photographer.  This will open doors for you in both the aviation and photographic worlds.
    Take time to talk to the ground crew staging the aircraft for you.
    Talk to the pilots and owners about more than just "when can I shoot your plane".
    Talk to other photographers.  Take time to assist a young shooter.
    Be humble enough to assist another photographer on their photoshoot.
    Our aviation photography community has enough grumpy, self-absorbed, know-it-all, unprofessional camera wranglers.  Don't be one of them.
    Smile.  Laugh.  Enjoy life!

Well, that about wraps it up. I wish everyone  a successful and healthy 2016, and look forward to seeing you all around the flightline this year!

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