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Thread: Shutter speed for aircraft propellers?

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    Shutter speed for aircraft propellers?

    I used my DSLR - first one I've used - to an air display recently (Flying Legends at Duxford if anybody knows it) and spent the day starting to get used to my new 70-300mm lens. I was pleased with some of the static shots but all the flying shots showed stationary propellers which look unrealistic and give no sense of movement. What sort of shutter speed should I be using for prop driven aircraft without creating a total blur?

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    stevewe88's Avatar
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    Re: Shutter speed for aircraft propellers?

    I find 1/60th to 1/125th is normally right.

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    Re: Shutter speed for aircraft propellers?

    Thanks, Steve.

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    stevewe88's Avatar
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    Re: Shutter speed for aircraft propellers?

    No problem

    Another good tip is to switch to spot metering and use +1 stop of exposure comp to ensure that the best detail is retained in the aircraft. On a really bright day +2 stops is sometimes required.

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    Re: Shutter speed for aircraft propellers?

    Quote Originally Posted by stevewe88 View Post
    I find 1/60th to 1/125th is normally right.
    Hi Ivor,

    I agree with Steve's suggested metering and to some extent speeds, you probably got the results you did from following the normal wisdom of 1/FL (or variation there of). By shooting slower, you run a significant risk of camera shake, so I would add to this advice thus;

    If the lens has IS/VR/VC, etc. make sure it is on to minimise genuine camera shake
    Practice panning techniques with 'follow through'
    Shoot in burst mode, take three at least of each pass - this will increase the chances of a sharp one and give a choice of propeller positions to wing or fuselage, some will be better than others, and that depends on how many prop blades there are (2 - 6, or more)
    Shoot same plane at different shutter speeds, because prop rpm will vary depending if throttled back or high speed pass
    Also bear in mind that what works for one plane isn't right for another - a multi prop transport/airliner will probably have a slower rpm than a high performance single seater racer/aerobatic plane.

    This was taken at 1/500s:
    Shutter speed for aircraft propellers?
    Nikon D5000 + Nikon 70-300mm VR: 1/500s, f/11, iso200 (29079)
    F11 and click image to see at 1,200px 720px

    If you shoot too slow, the prop may completely vanish against some backgrounds if it has no day-glo tips, for example;
    Shutter speed for aircraft propellers?
    Nikon D5000 + Nikon 70-300mm VR: 1/350s, f/8, iso200 (29771)
    F11 and click image to see at 1,680px 992px

    UPDATE: I had another thought on this topic - the shutter speed required to get 'the ideal amount' of blur also depends on the size of the prop(s) in the frame. In my two examples, it is quite large, further away - e.g. a distant shot of a Hercules or similar, a slower shutter speed would be needed to see any movement.

    Good luck at the next display;
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 23rd July 2011 at 12:33 PM.

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    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Shutter speed for aircraft propellers?

    They are great photo's. I really like the bottom one.

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    Re: Shutter speed for aircraft propellers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    If the lens has IS/VR/VC, etc. make sure it is on to minimise genuine camera shake
    Practice panning techniques with 'follow through'
    Just be aware that if you're panning - with IS turned on - then you need to have the IS unit in mode 2 (if it has a mode select switch).

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    Re: Shutter speed for aircraft propellers?

    Thanks for all the helpful advice - this site is so helpful!

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