Hello IFC! This is a bit of a random topic but I wanted to make an editing guide for people who want to get their first photo on JetPhotos. While I have nowhere close to the experience of some community members (@Matt737, @Moritz, @Cameron_Stone, @JRRaviation, etc) I figured I have enough to piece together this guide.
Before I start, I’d like to preface that JetPhotos screeners are just volunteers and each is a little different, some may let borderline shots go, some may not. Doesn’t justify an angry message in the appeal section, no one wants to see that.
Also you’re probably going to want Lightroom Classic for this (that’s Lightroom on PC). It’s $10 / month (comes with Photoshop and a whole bunch of others) and different people will have different views on whether that’s worth it, but if you’re serious about your spotting I highly recommend it.
And shoot raw on your camera. If you have Lightroom PC and aren’t shooting raw, you’re wasting it. Don’t say it’s too much storage, get a 64 or 128 GB card. It’s worth.
Choosing your shot
Choosing the correct shot is honestly as important if not more than the editing. A terrible shot to begin with is not going to get on JetPhotos unless you are an insane editor in which case, why are you reading this? Picking a sky shot is generally easier because you don’t have to deal with weird ground shadows and horizon leveling.
Let’s go with this shot:
The main things you want to look for when you pick your first shot for JetPhotos are:
- Sharpness (self explanatory)
- Good lighting (if the plane is all in shadow, or backlit, don’t even bother)
- Not many clouds in the sky (for your FIRST photo. Experienced editors can get around this, don’t yell at me)
- No obstructions from anything (they can be in the frame, just not blocking the aircraft)
- A complete aircraft (USUALLY)
Check for dust, too:
If there’s dust, you’ll see it, trust me. If the dust you see is on the aircraft body, just move on to another shot. If it’s in the sky, it might be a bird, so make sure you double check. Don’t heal it out just yet.
Once you’ve selected your shot, let’s move on.
Editing your shot
First thing I like to do is remove chromatic abberations and enable lens profile corrections.
This can be found in your develop menu near the bottom. I see so many people not do this and each time I wince just a bit.
After that, go ahead and throw a quick crop on it. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just something. Now our shot looks like this:
If there’s dust still in the frame, hold the control key, then click the area where the dust is with the circle, and drag to a clean part of sky and release.
You can defringe after this, but if this is your first photo on JP then at 1280 it’s hard for them to tell so you don’t need to. Fringing is the purple (not chromatic abberation) that appears in high contrast areas. If you want to rid it, go to the brush section and raise the Defringe slider to 75 ish and just go over those areas.
After this, there’s only 2 major things we need to do, but let me say this. If your raw shot came out well, there should be very little you need to do in the fields of highlights, shadows, contrast, and exposure. You can almost go straight from camera to JetPhotos by just crop and the next step (I’ve done it once or twice).
Sharpening: one of the most important parts of your edit. If you’re uploading at 1280, which you will be if this is your first photo, you will want to oversharpen a bit. Obviously the exact value depends on your shot and equipment, but somewhere in the 80-90 range is pretty standard for a beginner lens. On shots that didn’t come out of the camera as sharp, I sharpened all the way up to 135 ish, and it was all good. You almost can’t oversharpen at 1280. In addition, it’s helpful to use masking. This will stop you from sharpening your skies (which can look like grain at 1280). To do this, it’s pretty simple:
Hold your alt. key and drag the slider, you should see this on your screen:
White lines are sharpening, you should see none in the sky (unless it’s on clouds) but quite a few on the aircraft and on ground objects (if they happen to be in the frame).
Exposure and Contrast: another one of the most important parts. And unlike sharpening, you can’t use 1280 to hide it. As I said earlier, if your raw came out well, you really shouldn’t need to do much here. Use your exposure slider to get it ballpark then use shadows, highlights, whites, and blacks to microadjust (you can use your exposure slider too if you want). Highlights generally should stay above 0 in a sky shot. For contrast, most raw files from a sunny day shooting will be fine. Generally you don’t want to take away any and only add a little bit (maybe +10). Make sure you avoid halos in your editing. These are areas around the aircraft that become significantly brighter than the sky. Halos are mainly caused by too much clarity, negative highlights, or just by exposure adjustments. If it’s very very minor, you’ll be alright (I’ve gotten a few on JP that have visible halos but only if you look hard) but if the halos are the first thing you see in the shot it’s time to change up.
Use the histogram to check your exposure if you’re unsure. I’m not too sure what happened on this one but generally your peaks should be a little to the right of center. JetPhotos is generally okay with slight overexposure but slight underexposure you’re getting rejected. In addition, make sure you don’t have too much clipping. Clipping is where it is so bright or so dark in an area that you’ve lost all detail. If you click on the right triangle, that’s highlights clipping (shown in red). Left triangle, that’s shadows clipping (which you can’t really see but it shows up blue). In this photo, the highlights clipping is caused by the sun reflecting off the aircraft into my lens but in small areas, so it’s alright. The shadow clipping is in the deepest part of the gear, so that’s generally alright too.
Now, let’s finalize up that crop. Before doing this, I like to take a quick break (~5 minutes), because after editing the rest your eyes may be slightly off. After coming back, let’s center this aircraft.
Maybe your initial crop was already good, in that case move on. If not, I like to use the little screen on the top left to center it. It’s just easier for me to see it all on a small area like that, but this is probably a to-each-his-own kind of thing. The grid defaults to 3x3 I believe, but if you want different options just hit O and it’ll change. 3x3 works pretty well for purely sky shots, but for shots with ground I prefer the one shown. There’s no exact rule for where to line up the plane in the grid lines, but I would say that from the midline, the tail should go up further than the gear goes down, and a slightly larger portion of the aircraft body should be below the midline (maybe like slightly less than a 2:3 ratio). Side to side framing is much easier and you can eyeball it even if it is your first time. Once you have it close, use microadjustments with a mouse being very careful. The difference between a good crop and an off one may be the tiniest movement that your mouse is capable of. Be patient, I oftentimes spend up to 3-5 minutes framing my photo.
After we’re done framing, it’s just basic housekeeping. Double check your exposure. Double check that you removed chromatic abberation and enabled lens profile corrections. Double check that there’s no dust. If you’ve checked enough, let’s export.
The main stuff you want to pay attention to:
- Quality: 100
- Resize -> Long edge 1280
- Sharpen for Screen
- Amount: Standard
Also make sure you’re not adding a watermark.
Raw vs. Final edit:
Uploading your shot
I was going to call this section “Shooting your shot” but let’s not :)
Anyways, this link should suffice to pick what categories:
But here’s a summary:
If you’re uploading an airliner, you probably don’t need to check anything except
Shot at night (Night shot)
Special livery (Special scheme)
Note: be aware of what is a special and what isn’t. PAL Lovebus and all 3 Azores NEOs are specials. Star Alliance and SkyTeam are specials (Don’t know about OneWorld, because some of them definitely are like Qatar’s A350 but some might not be like BA’s 747). Different Frontier animals and Norweigan tails are not specials.
For Bizjets, check the bizjet one (duh), for small props (like C208) check small prop (duh).
I don’t really understand the concept of hot photos, but essentially if your registration isn’t in the database, it’s hot. If it’s the first photo after being repainted, it’s hot. For the rest of it just read the guidelines.
Now, just hit that upload, add that watermark, wait a week or two, and boom:
Well that’s it for this guide. If you guys want another guide on non-JP editing (slightly more creative) then let me know but I probably won’t do one just because these are a lot of work and that type of editing is definitely not for everyone.
PS: If you guys with JP experience want to alter or add onto something I said drop a reply I’ll edit them in.