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Going to try to shoot RC Airplane airshow

Rising Star

There is a an RC airshow near me this weekend. This should be fun. I'm just a spectator bringing my camera.


I haven't shot this kind of event before, so I'm up for the challenge.


Might be putting my 65 focus points to use....


Anyone ever shot an RC airshow before?






That's what I do all summer long. Just shot a big Gas Turbine Jet event last week & am still processing photos. Key things to learn are to expose for the aircraft & not the sky so knowing how to use exposure compensation is VERY important. In most cases you want to use Tv mode for prop blur or rotor blur but you can sometimes get by using sport mode. The other key thing is to remember to switch back to the correct setting for whatever is going to fly after changing to a different setting. 

Recommended shutter speeds are prop planes 1/800 & lower (start high & work your way down during the day if you're getting good results) to as low as 1/400 with no real need to go lower because the model engines rev much higher than full scale aircraft. Heli rotors are slow (around 1800 RPM) so the max should be 1/400 but no higher & preferably 1/320 or slower. Easy to do in a hover but near impossible during a 3D demo. Jets 1/1000 to 1/2000 & remember to lower it after the jet lands. Use AI Servo, drive set to High, All points against the sky BUT (I think I remember you saying you bought a 7D2) assign expanded center points to a button on the back & use that for take offs & landings. My 7D2 will switch from the aircraft to things in the background, tall grass etc when there's more than just a plane against the sky.


INGR7856AS v1.jpg






Also from memory you don't have a long lens so stick to things near the flight line vs far out. There is usually lots of activity along the flight line with high & low speed low passes or maybe some 3D aerobatics. If you eventually start shopping for a long lens I'm very happy to declare that the Sigma 150-600 C has been amazing this summer & was able to keep up with all the high speed passes at last weeks event, including some in the 300 MPH range. I used it on both my 7D2 & 1D4

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

Great advice.

I do have a 7D mark II, a EF-S 17-55 USM IS 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 L IS II USM. I plan on bringing my 70-200.

Great pics BTW!

Do you try any motion blur at all when they are against a tree lined background?

I'll be in TV mode or manual mode, I'll play around.

I have BBF set, AI Servo, H speed drive.

So take off and landings, AF point expansion 4/8 and when in the sky use zone af points???


I do know it's supposed to be a very clear and sunny day. I don't shoot much against the sky so I can imagine exposure comp is very important..


Thanks again!

Motion blur is secondary to getting a sharp image but you can get it at 1/400 & even 1/500 when the aircraft is close to you as in doing a low pass down the runway. You can try M but frankly Tv can do a very good job with a lot mode freedom for you to concentrate on getting the shot. The event I just shot was with the flying area towards the sun so everything was back lit until mid afternoon & I decided to try Auto ISO because of the huge difference in settings when shooting towards the sky to shooting against the treed background. I'm not happy with the results but can save the photos because I have the RAW files but I think I was doing better with a fixed ISO. With the sun behind me things work better with Auto ISO but I still prefer setting a fixed ISO & seem to get better results. 

This is the link to my old article on shooting R/C  along with samples & things to learn for the long haul but don't try to fit everything into 1 single event. Enjoy the event, share your photos with the club / organizers & maybe they will give you better access at a future event. Flight line access is earned & helpful BUT being a ways back from the flight line has advantages too IF you have the reach. The closer you are to the target the faster you need to pivot at you pan PLUS it becomes more of a belly shot the closer you get even though the plane is flying low.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

Rising Star
Thanks, I shoot in raw as well. Usually have auto iso on, but will read your article.
I have no expectations, except to have fun and give the club my pics.

Great article and helpful links.

Thank you.

Happy to help. Enjoy the event & let me know how you did & what you think of the event. If it's a busy fun fly there can be 4 or 5 planes in the air at the same time spread around the circuit. Gets difficult knowing where to look & shoot.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

I emailed the one of organizers asking if I can come by and shoot and they said yes and that there will be a variety aircraft from scale replica's of WW-II to modern day fighters.

Sounds like it will be a good time. Weather permitting I should have another Jet event this Sat which is 5 minutes from home. Fields here are prepping for winter but still trying to squeeze in more fun fly events while we still have decent temps.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

What a fun time.....


Yeah, I have a lot of respect for you guys that shoot these events......

haha, I felt I was at times trying to catch up with the plane/jet as it blows by..... I have a lot of pictures with nothing but sky, 🙂 The pilots like to have fun, hard to anticipate what they re going to do.

It will take me a while to go through the pics and if I get some good ones, I'll post a few.


My af zone would capture the trees as well. I had it on case 2 , -2 (locked on), 0,0. Maybe I screwed this up, not sure....


It was also fun to watch a few crash and listen to the guys cuss up a storm haha....