Photographer’s guide and check-list to Aero India and other air-shows

With AeroIndia 2013 coming up soon, I have produced a small guide and check-list for photographers at the air-show. This guide can also be used as a template for other air-shows.


  • Get your tickets as soon as possible.
  • It is a lot better to pay and get Business passes for either Thursday or Friday (7th or 8th February). You will have a lot more maneuvering room to get some good pictures.
  • Avoid the weekends. Saturday and Sunday are a zoo. It is jam-packed and next to impossible to shoot any decent camera.
  • Also by weekend, many of the static displays (parked aircraft) are gone.
Courtesy Paul Furmanski. All rights reserved.

Your photographic equipment

  • Decide on what equipment you are going to carry, do not carry less than you need, but also do not carry extra. Keep in mind there is a LOT of walking at the show, and you will be spending the whole day carting around everything you take to the show. Every kilo you add to your bag will feel like ten by the end of the day.
  • You will need a telephoto, up to 300mm will do fine. 200mm will be on the shorter side, but then, both the Canon and Nikon 70~200mm f/2.8 lenses are probably the best lenses made by each company.
  • You will also need a wide-angle zoom (like the Nikon 18~70mm). An all-in-one zoom like the 18~200mm or the 24~300mm is also a very good choice.
  • Canon has probably the best lens for air-shows. 100~400mm.
  • Check your equipment, camera bodies and lenses, etc. and get them ready now. Check for dust spots on your sensor and lenses and get it professionally cleaned if necessary. Both Canon and Nikon have good service centres in most major Indian cities and reasonable charges. Closer to the show they get overloaded and may not be able to accommodate you.
  • Carry extra batteries, there is no place, at the show, to plug in a charger.
  • If you have two bodies, carry both, it will save on changing lenses in the middle of the show, and reduce risk of dust entering your camera. More more than two bodies, I feel are not needed, but it is your choice.
  • Memory, Memory, Memory. You cannot have enough memory cards. For good results try to shoot in RAW and these are large files. You could easily shoot 1,000 to 1,500 shots in a day at the show, and with RAW, you may not get more than 400 shots on a 16GB memory card.
  • If you are carrying big lenses 200~400mm f/4, 300mm or 400mm f/2.8, then definitely carry a monopod. It will help take the heavy load off your neck and hands between shots. Since this is a day show, a tripod will be cumbersome to use, and becomes a hindrance rather than an aid.
  • Check your camera bag. If need be, buy a bigger bag. LowePro is the choice for most prosumers and professionals. Remember, you need quick and easy access to your equipment. A tighly packed, well stacked bag, may look compact at home, but it may not provide you the access needed at the show.

Other items to carry

The best support is always from a dear friend like Aziz.
Courtesy Paul Furmanski. All rights reserved.
  • During winters the sky over Bangalore is clear. While this is good for photography, the sun is extremely bright and burns the skin. A good hat or cap and sun block cream are non-negotiable items. The hat or cap should have a strap to prevent it blowing off your head in a wind. The best hats are the floppy brim hats worn by cricketers. So look at a sports goods store or Bangalore Hat Works on Commercial Street. The North Face also has a good hat called the HORIZON BREEZE BRIMMER HAT, but I have not seen this available in India.
  • Remember, as the day progresses it gets insanely hot, especially outdoors at the show.
  • Carry at least two water bottles, preferably disposable bottles that can be thrown away after you are done with them or if security does not let you carry water in you can dispose of the bottles easily.
  • Make sure that you carry your your required ID with you. It might be better to keep your passes and ID’s inside your camera bag itself.
  • Carry extra cash. Food and drinks, virtually everything at the show is quite pricey.
  • Hand sanitizer, wet-wipes, towels. Keep your hands clean and germ-free before eating, and grease free after the meal, which you will then not transfer on to your camera. Remember the portable toilets at the show, are not exactly world-class restroom facilities.
  • If you have one of those old fashioned portable luggage trolleys, which were in vogue before roll-a-board strolleys became fashionable, you can attach your camera bag to rolls around the show. At the end of the day, your back will thank me.
  • Wear full sleeved, loose, comfortable, cotton shirts or blouses. Khaki’s or similar business casual trousers or slacks will be good. You will look professional and still be comfortable. Comfortable shoes. Sneakers will do, but if you plan to tour the stalls, and be taken seriously, complete the business look with a pair of Florshiem or Hush Puppies type moccasins.
  • Carry business cards. You never know who you will meet, or which opportunity will knock.
  • Carry a small writing pad and pen, the size that can fit in the shirt pocket.

Getting to the show

  • Leave early. Leave early. Leave early to the show, and from the show. The construction on NH-7 has turned that highway into a mess. With the added crush of the show, it is most likely going to be chaos.
  • If you don’t have a parking pass, strongly consider taking one of the Volvo buses that will go to the show, or in the worst case, the excellent BIAS Volvo bus service that runs to/from the airport.
  • Even if you have a parking permit, the regular parking is quite a walk to the show venue.

At the show

  • Don’t try to glue yourself to the fence during the aerial shows. People will crowd you and keep pushing you from behind, leaving you with no space to shift around to take your shots. You will be better off standing a little behind the crowd, and shooting the planes in the sky.
  • Between the morning and afternoon aerial displays, head into the show pavilions or any covered area where you can rest out of the sun.In the pavilions your business casual attire with separate you from the crowd and get you better interactions with the exhibitors.
  • Respect the security. Be polite. You will normally get your way. Belligerence will not.
  • Keep a look out for your equipment and wallet. This is a target right opportunity for pick-pockets and thieves.

Have fun shooting and please post comments to add any items that you feel I have missed out on this list.

We will be posting an article on camera settings for the AeroIndia show, so stay tuned.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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