Aviation Photography Basics (Pt. 2, editing)

Here is part two of my series of the beginners guide to aviation photography. Part one if you missed it: Aviation Photography Basics (Pt. 1, settings)

So, you have taken your pictures, hopefully they turned out pretty decent. Even if they were a tad over or under-lit, don’t worry, this is where editing comes into play. Obviously, in order to edit, you need a editing program. Here are some that I suggest:
Good beginning program: Apple Photos
Medium skill program: Adobe Lightroom (tbh you rarely need more than this)
Top skill program: Adobe Photoshop

Here is the order that should be followed when editing.

  1. level it first. Never crop it until after you have leveled the shot. And you definitely do want to level it. Nothing looks more stupid than the picture of an airplane taxiing uphill like it is going up a mountainside. Or of an airplane sitting on a ramp looking like it will start slipping and sliding downhill or sideways.

  2. crop it second. Never reduce it in size until after you have cropped it. By cropping it down to what you want to be in the pic, any further editing you do will be easier since you may have gotten rid of stuff you did not want anyway. Thus, the only additional editing you do will be to the picture you want.

  3. remove all blemishes third. Use SPOT HEAL or CLONE STAMP and get rid of all blemishes. Is there a piece of litter on the ramp? SPOT HEAL it to remove it. Or, if it is too large, then try CLONE STAMP. Is there a sunlight glare on one of the windows? Or is there a dead pixel white spot? Let’s say a shot looks super, BUT … there is an obvious dead pixel white spot right dead center on the tail. Now is the time to SPOT HEAL it. Get rid of blemishes by fixing them during this step.

  4. color-adjust fourth. You have leveled the shot. Then cropped it so it only has what you want. Then fixed the blemishes. So now you color-adjust. Have you ever noticed pictures where the grass looks unbelievably intense green? The grass seems to “glow?” That is caused by over saturated colors. Have you ever seen a pic of an aircraft and the plane seems to be surrounded by a halo? (Some photographers will try to say the halo was on the original pic. It wasn’t.) The halo is caused by very poor dark / light / color adjustments. Color-adjusting is one of the more difficult adjustments. For example, Southwest’s planes are extremely colorful, but if the color-adjust is done incorrectly, the colors come out altered: the yellow might come out orange, perhaps the red is rather pink, the blue comes out way too blue OR a very, very pale blue or maybe it looks purple, etc.

DISCLAIMER (This step is optional, only for if you want to submit photos to aviation websites. They usually will require you to reduce the size of it.

  1. reduce the size LAST. OK, now you are ready to post it to . But there is a problem. You took the shot on the large-size camera setting. It is way too big. You won’t be able to post it to certain websites.
    That is perfectly OK. You DON’T WANT to post it in that large size.

Every photo-edit program has a feature that enables you to adjust the size of a photo. I’m not talking about cropping - you already cropped it in Step 2.

Open the photo size adjustment feature. The dimensions of your pic will be shown. (The dimensions might be shown in “inches.” I always work in “pixels.” I recommend you change it so the dimensions are shown in “pixels.”) The dimensions of you photo will certainly be much larger than 1680 x 830. So you enter “1680” into the width dimension box. The height dimension should readjust proportionally and show you its new dimension. Now, for example, let’s say that when you enter “1680”, the height dimension readjusts proportionally and shows “990.” That means you must go back and crop the height of your photo a bit. Take some off the top edge and off the bottom edge. Don’t SAVE it yet. Try again to reduce the size of your photo. You enter “1680.” The height now readjusts and shows “750.” You cropped too much off the top and bottom. Undo your previous crop. You try cropping it over again (don’t SAVE), and the third time you enter “1680” the height comes out “824.” Close enough. (( It takes a bit of practice but after doing it a few times it gets pretty easy.))

You can now SAVE the newly cropped version. But don’t reduce its size yet. You are going to do that after you read the next paragraph.

So now you are just about ready to REDUCE SIZE. Keep in mind that whenever you alter the original dimensions of a photo, you will also alter its original quality. If you enlarge a photo, you are “spreading out” the pixels; thus, the clarity becomes less sharp and more “fuzzy-looking.”. Conversely, if you REDUCE the sixe of a photo, you are (sort of) “crunching” the pixels closer together (so to speak): thus, the picture becomes even “sharper” (sometimes, TOO sharp, so much so that the edges of straight lines look a bit jagged).

Since you are going to REDUCE the dimensions of the large-size pic, you are going to be “crunching” each pixel closer together. The PHOTO SIZE ADJUSTMENT FEATURE is “aware” that such a thing will happen, so it has a pull-down menu. Select “Best For Photo Reduction” from that menu. Enter “1680” into the width dimension box. The height dimension box will auto readjust proportionally. look up at the top of the FEATURE. Set IMAGE QUALITY to 11 or 12 (as high as it allows you to set it). Then click SAVE and SAVE it with a new title / name. For example, if the photo you are working on is titled SouthwestLanding" So you now SAVE it with a new title: “SouthwestLandingCopyForFA.”

Phew, my fingers about to fall off! I hope you guys can use these guides to your advantage!


Bookmarked, will definitely come in handy to inexperienced spotters here.


I love this thread. #bookmarked

I’ll refer to this one and the other one when I do spotting for the first time.

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Just something bugs me but it’s super hard to read without capitalization

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What do you mean by that?

I agree with most of this. However:

  1. You don’t have to do the traditional straight crop. Get creative with it, such as this:

  1. You don’t have to reduce, unless you plan on posting on IFC, IG, JetPhotos, etc.

  2. Finally, I recommend making a folder with all your favorite shots from that trip, as well as a folder for any images you have watermarked (mostly from favorites, unless it’s the unedit/edit or a fail that you want to share. 😉





I agree with you, but only with special circumstances like the photo you have (very creative btw). Also I included in the post that it is optional to reduce size. I will include your advice about the folder in my next thread.

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And how is that? ;)


Looking pretty good! The only problem with the edit is the gradient at the top is a bit too heavy. But that shot is sharp!

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Thanks, I’ll take that this in consideration!

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Wait, Trystan. You’re on IFC?!? Holy cow. Goes into existential crisis…

What is an IFC?! Sorry idk what it is😂

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This is the IFC. (Infinite Flight Community)


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