One of the biggest challenges to aviation photographers is to manage to capture the ever-elusive “Full Disk” of propeller driven aircraft. When shooting jets, it’s not a big deal to get crisp images. Just use the sharpness rule of thumb and crank up the shutter speed to twice your focal length and you’re usually good to go.
But prop driven aircraft are a whole different world from a technical sense. If you tried that sharpness rule of thumb, you’d end up with what we call “Popsicle Sticks”.
Essentially your shutter speed is so fast, that it will stop the propeller motion, which makes the plane look as if its engine is stopped. By the way, setting the shutter speed too fast is a very common thing for most people and reasonably understandable. General logic would seem to dictate that air shows tend to have fast aircraft. Perhaps a fast shutter speed would be best? After all, you typically would use fast shutter speed when capturing the action of sports, right?
In the aviation photography world however, this is a bad thing. We want prop blur to convey to the viewer a sense of motion, which then gives the picture the proper context of the aircraft is flying and not just sitting up in the sky. Continue reading