This is the one area that has the most questions and the biggest draw. Air to Air photography is truly a thrill ride as there is nothing quite like being up in one aircraft and photographing another one. The work that goes into this kind of photography is more of a ballet then just a simple photo shoot. It is certainly not for everyone and most definitely has to be planned out beforehand! The key element to a successful air to air shoot is SAFETY!
No matter what the subject is, whether it’s small or big, everything starts on the ground with a shot list and step by step procedure. Before the briefing takes place you have to know the limitations and the flying characteristics of both the subject plane and the photo platform. This information is essential! More important then that you have to know the pilots you are working with. All of this goes into the safety factor. In reality the photos are just photos, but so much can happen on an air to air flight that you have to be aware of everything that is going on.
As far as the photography goes a couple of tips that might be useful. First make sure you have everything strapped to you and won’t get knocked out. It’s very important that nothing leaves the plane. Next, shooting with a longer lens is a very useful way to keep the planes further apart while still getting a tight shot. Creating more space between the planes just adds more safety when flying in formation. The last element is one that doesn’t always get attention to is the background. Planes live in cities but a city background doesn’t always work. Knowing the history of the plane you are working with can help by being able to choose a more dramatic and cleaner background. Little details like these are essential when telling the story. The element that still makes the biggest impact is light. Whether the plane is front lit, back lit or side lit tells a different story so it’s important to consider that when you are flying.