Aviation Photography – The ‘JID’ Workflow.

Aviation Photography – The 'JID' Workflow.

Updated 28th December 2006

This tutorial describes the workflow used to process for digital photographs obtained from Digital SLR's. It describes the process using Adobe Photoshop CS to get them up to standards good enough to be published on the leading aviation websites i.e. JetPhotos.net, Airliners.net etc.

A totally unprocessed image may have a number of faults with it. These include CMOS dust, unlevel horizon, softness, poor lighting and poor colour levels. All these issues will be dealt with in turn.

Here is the original unprocessed image – one of my better ones as well !

This image contains all the possible fault noted above.

The first task on the list is to level the shot.
This is done using the measure tool,                  

This shot was taken very nearly at ninety degrees to the runway. There is no 'perspective slope' which means you can use the runway as your guide to level the shot. Draw a line using the measure tool along your horizontal reference.

Then go to – Image > Rotate Canvas > Arbitrary

This will open a box showing you the amount of rotation needed to correct the image based on the reference you drew.

Press ok and the image will be rotated by the amount shown.

You can check the level by switching your grid on (ctrl + ').
Next the image needs cropping. Select the cropping tool               Some sites like to have a crop ratio applied to the shot. This can be 4:3 or 3:2. I normally use 4:3. This can be set at the top of the page by entering 4cm in the width box and 3cm in the height box. DO NOT put anything in the resolution box. Now you can crop the image and you will keep the ratio you have entered. Try to keep the centre crosshair in the middle of the aircraft.

Double click inside the cropped area and the image will be cropped.

Next is a check for dust spots. There is one quite visible on the shot but I want to be sure there are no more. Because I can see one I know I am going to have to remove it. Therefore I will start the process to do so and this will show any others that might not be so visible.

Create a duplicate layer. Layer > Duplicate Layer Press F7 to bring your layer pallet up.
Select the Copied Layer Equalize the layer.
Image > Adjustments > Equalize This should make all the dust spots stand out.

Now they need removing. This is a job for the Healing Brush tool.
Press the Heal button and then go to your Layer Pallet and select your First Layer, NOT the one you have just equalized, that is there only as a guide and is going to be deleted.

Remove the layer pallet and go to the first spot. Move the pointer just to the left or right of the spot, hold the Alt button down and press the left mouse button. This selects the part of the image that PS is going to try and mimic or 'repair'. Then go to the far edge of your spot and in one go, holding the left mouse button down, rub all over the top of your spot with one stroke. You will not see any effect yet. Repeat this process for the rest of the spots. When complete go to your layer pallet and delete the copied layer. Behold your spots have gone, if your not sure equalize the shot again.

Now we are spotless (dam that dust in 20D's), my next step is to apply USM (Sharpen the image). Now some people suggest you do this at the end but I do it here as it works best for me. Simply do the following

Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask..
A settings box opens and I use the following settings.

Amount            50%
Radius              0.4px
Threshold         0

I will apply these settings until I see jaggies start to appear. It all depends on how sharp your image is to start off with how much USM to apply. Once the jaggies start to appear, normally after three or four applications at the above settings, I will go back a step (Ctrl Z) and look at the overall sharpness of the image. If there are still parts of the aircraft that need sharpening then I will add a duplicate layer and add a couple more passes of USM. This will of course produce jaggies, normally on the leading edges, around doors, around the nacelles etc. This is why you added another layer. Select you're Eraser Tool (E)
Now 'rub out' all the jaggies you have created. Once you have completed this merge the two layers together, Layer > Merger Layers (Ctrl E). You should now have a nice sharp image.

Next is to adjust the light levels. Not as daunting as it sounds and in PS CS quite a simple task. First of all bring up your Levels pallet. Image > Adjustments > Levels (Ctrl L).

Here is the pallet for our picture so far.

As you can see from the histogram the levels are bunched to the left, which means the image appears dark. Most DSLR's have a dynamic range of around five F stops compared to the human eyes dynamic range of around ten F stops. The aim of Level adjustment is to bring the 'levels' to the upper and lower edge of the graph. In this case bringing the right hand slider to the right edge of the graph will lighten the image. The left hand slider is fine where it is.

Here is the result

Pretty cool you might think but CS (along with other software packages) has a way for fine tuning your image.
This is with the use or the RGB Curve function. Some people seem to be very apprehensive about using this function but do try it. This is a very powerful function and the more practice you have with it the better your images will be for using it.

Find this in Image > Adjustments > Curves…

If you feel your image is a little dark in places and you do not want to increase the overall brightness of your shot try this.

Ctrl+Alt+` then Shift+Ctrl+I

What have you done here? Well firstly you selected everything above the tonal midrange(Ctrl+Alt+`). But it was the dark areas you wanted to adjust! So the Shift+Ctrl+I has inverted your selection leaving you with the dark areas of your image selected. Now open your Curve box (Ctrl+M) and move the midpoint of your curve to the left. Don't get carried away and move it too far!

This will increase the 'brightness' of the selected areas. Once your happy then deselect the area (Ctrl+D).

This is one of the greatest causes of image rejection as it can very easily produce 'halos' around your image. The use of the Curve function, in moderation is far far better.

There are lots of uses for RGB Curves especially used in conjunction with the image histogram. The best thing to do is practice, eventually you can get to the stage where you will not have to use 'levels' or the 'contrast' control.

Now we need to adjust the colour...

Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation
Now I am fairly happy with the colour in this shot so will only add a small amount of Saturation. Press the 'Preview' tick box to see the difference you have made to the image.

Next ? Well we are not far off now. The next step is to increase the contrast. Why you might ask ? Well when you try it just look at the difference just a small increase in contrast makes. This must be one of the most common causes of 'Bad Quality' rejections from aviation websites.

So what do you do ?

Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast

Up pops your settings box. You don't need to add much contrast to make a big difference!
Be careful though as if you apply too much contrast you run the risk of over exposing parts of the image.

Now all you have to do is re-size your image.

Image > Image Size

Depending where you want to upload your image will dictate the size you want the finished image to be. The standard size for most sites is 1024 x 768 if you have used a crop ratio of 4:3. If you have used another ratio keep the width to 1024 (unless you have an image in the portrait orientation).

Remember to tick all three options at the bottom of the options box:

Scale Styles
Constrain Proportions   (VERY IMPORTANT)
Resample Image (Bicubic)

Ignore the Document Size part as this is only used if you want to print your image. That is a totally different story !

I resize my images to 1280 x 960 as I like to try and show that little extra detail!

Last but not least, you have to save your image. Try to use a naming convention that will make it easy for you to find in the future, you never know someone might want to buy it from you one day. I will use
for this image.

Store it in a folder you can find.

Sounds silly but you will thank yourself in a years time.

I uses something like

C:\Documents and Settings\Owner\My Documents\Outbound\2005\May\30

Then I can find an image down to the day I want and because I have the registration saved in the file name I should never 'loose' an image again.
You should also save your image at the highest quality settings. Twelve here keeps you under the One megabyte size limit of most websites.

All the settings shown in this tutorial can be changed. The best and cheapest way to find out any piece of software is to experiment with it.

Depending on the camera you use will determine the image you start off with. Most P&S (Point and Shoot) cameras attempt to do a certain amount of processing to the image before it comes out of the camera. Try to disable these settings if possible! Cameras are for taking photographs. Your computer and its software are designed to process images. So let your camera take the shots and the computer so the hard work after! The same applies to DSLR's switch all the image processing off. You will of paid hundreds of pounds plus for it but it is still no match for a P4 processor and Adobe Photoshop.

The image used here was taken with a Canon 20D and Canon 35-350mm 'L' Lens.


ISO                              100
Exposure                    1/400sec
F Number                    F8.0
Aperture priority used
Exposure Bias           0
Lens Focal Length       50mm

Location Manchester International Airport, south side of runway 24L.

The finished image can be found at ...
Final image posted at JetPhotos.net

If you have found this tutorial useful please feel free to donate some cash to help me cover my bandwidth costs.

Thanks .. Jid

Any spare bitcoin welcomed for beer to - 1GyDB3W4rbkrZWGcamkvcqXQWhyGeoSKau