In the past few months, I have seen many new spotters rise and start posting great shots on this forum! It fills me with joy to see so many new spotters stepping out and giving aviation photography a go!
I understand that it may seem unreachable at first, as when I first started spotting with my phone, I would see some of the major IFC spotters’ photos and look back at my pixel of a plane and wonder how i can make my shots better.
Over the years I have gotten better spotting equipment but I understand that I am very lucky and that many people can’t afford good cameras and whatnot. This is why I made this topic!
Here are a few tips and tricks for spotting on a budget to get good shots with minimal equipment!
My first trick:
Using a tissue as a tripod!
This will sound ridiculous at first, how can a tissue be a tripod? In fact, here’s how it works.
Take any cloth, tissue, even a rolled up shirt or sweater works! Put it on the ground with your camera laying on it. This is a great budget way to get the right angle and set your camera stable for your shot! Fold the shirt or move the camera around to get good the good angle, then set it and after a few seconds, it won’t move!
Here is my setup:
As you can see, I use a mask (which I hope everyone has plenty of) and set my camera on it.
Here is the result:
The aircraft 3 miles away, with a 1300MM zoom for 30 seconds of shooting, and no movement is visible :)
I actually do not own a tripod, and this is how I do all of my long exposures and pan shots!
You can twist the mask around to smoothly turn the camera or take an ear handle and pull on it gently so it slides the camera smoothly across the floor without damaging it!
This also works with a phone or any camera.
Tip 2: Make sure to take the most out of your camera!
I have seen countless people buy expensive material but not know how to get the most out of it! You don’t even have to be technical or a professional, just make sure to get the most out of your device!
If you are using a smartphone, go to settings or the camera app and make sure you are taking the biggest image size that you can and if you are filming, try to shoot in 4K mode if you can! If you are filming on an apple device with the latest OS, it should be in the top right corner of the camera app!
(where it says 4K - 30)
On a camera, go to settings and make sure you shoot in RAW if you can and take large images (L)
Some editing apps are quite expensive, such as Lightroom, Photoshop and pretty much all of the Adobe studio, but fortunately, there are some very very good apps that do just as good for free!
I personally use Snapseed for RAW files, which is very good and free. I also use Lightroom Mobile which is also free but not my personal preference.
The winner for value/price on mobile:
Remini is a free mobile app for noise reduction and image sharpening. It is absolutely incredible and I believe that if there is one app you should have for mobile editing, it’s Remini.
There are ads but it is 100% worth it, I promise.
For desktop editing, there is a plethora of apps that all have similar names that usually sound like “photorr, photedit, photon” or some other catchy name. Those are for the most part… garbage
Until I started using Lightroom a few weeks ago, I used an app called PhotoScape X. It sounds like it’s straight out of 2004, I’ll admit but it’s by far the best free photo editor that I have found. It’s available for Mac and Windows and was my go-to app for over 2 years. I have had 3 pictures accepted on Jetphotos using it and for a free app, I think that’s quite good :)
I hope these tips helped you.
This topic is not an advertizement of any sort, but I would just like to share the knowledge I have found over the past 3 years of spotting and share it for beginning spotters so they can hopefully achieve their goal!
Last tip: Don’t give up!
You will get bad shots, entire sessions ruined because of a dust speck or the position of the sun, but you will get there, don’t stop!
If you have any questions or need help with anything spotting related, just ask, I’m here almost 24/7 lol