# Rocketry Photography

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#### Kira_Majeric

##### Well-Known Member
I am trying to get good photographs of launches. Does anyone have tips? Or it is just trial and error?

#### dave carver

##### ....what hump?
Only thing I have is to not center the rocket in the picture. Aim the camera a little high over the rocket, the less ground the better. Shoot a lot of pictures to get used to following the rocket.

##### Roger Smith
I am trying to get good photographs of launches. Does anyone have tips? Or it is just trial and error?
Unless you have the right equipment, getting photographs of lift-offs can be quite challenging. Even with a better camera, it takes practice.

Most cameras have a delay after you press the shutter before the photo is actually taken. In that time, the rocket may already be high in the air.

So, if your camera can take multiple photos when you press the shutter release button, use that feature. Press the shutter-release just as the countdown reaches zero.

If you zoom in too close, it's harder to catch the lift-off. So, at least at first, take wider angle shots.

Slower shutter speeds cause blurring, so set a high shutter speed. You're outdoors and it's usually sunny when launching, so the automatic mode will probably select a good speed, but you can manually set a higher speed or choose the "Sports Mode" to make sure.

Don't always try to get a close-up of the lift-off. Mix in some wide-angle photos that include people. These types of photos are easier to capture and are often more interesting. For example, position yourself on the other side of the launch pad so that you get a photo of the launch as well as the person pushing the button and the others watching.

-- Roger

#### rocketpunch

##### Well-Known Member
What type of camera are you using? A point and shoot or a DSLR? If you are using a DSLR, I would suggest using the fastest shutter speed you can and to shoot in bursts. That way you'll hopefully catch the right moment. Also, play around with the composition. Don't shoot the rocket dead center and play with angles. Don't shoot everything from eye level height and dead center. That is sure fire why to get just a snapshot.

#### CF-105

##### Well-Known Member
As you get better at taking photos, try using a slower shutter speed and follow the rocket. You'll get motion blur from stationary objects, which will add a sense of movement & speed to the flight.

#### JDcluster

##### Well-Known Member
What are the specs of you camera? Is it a DSLR, point & shoot or the one on your cell phone? What rockets are you attempting to shoot; LP, MP, or HP?

You need a decent shutter speed > 1/800 & a fair amount of light to get good shots. I usually use an ISO of 200 to 400. If your camera has digital zoom; turn it off because it will only make you photos worse.

JD

#### troj

##### Wielder Of the Skillet Of Harsh Discipline, Potent
If you're using something with autofocus, you want to focus on the rocket, but aim such that the rocket is at the bottom of the frame. You're more likely to get the full rocket this way.

With my camera, I can select an auto-focus point. I select one at the bottom of the frame, then place that spot over the base of the rocket.

-Kevin

#### Zeus-cat

##### Well-Known Member
Here are three photos I took of a launch. I set my camera on burst mode (3.8 frames per second) and started shooting a second or two before the countdown reached zero. The rocket is a custom made Saturn V being launched on a D12. As you can see even a large rocket can move pretty fast as these are three consecutive frames.

I shot at 1/2000th of a second which was probably faster than I needed to for this large of a rocket. I have shot faster rockets at 1/800th and they came out blurry. So I recommend shooting at least at 1/1000th of a second or faster.

#### MarkII

##### Well-Known Member
I have been able to get lift-off shots using a very basic point-and-shoot camera by aiming a little bit above the launch pad as has already been mentioned, and hitting the shutter button when the countdown reaches "1."

These shots were taken a couple of weeks ago at NARCON. It was after 4 pm on a dark, rainy day in mid-March, during a brief lull in the showers. I set nothing on the camera and just let the automatic controls make the settings. I used a FujiFilm FinePix 2650 digital P&S camera with 2.0 mp. Also, I aimed through the viewfinder instead of using the digital display. (I often get better shots that way, especially when I am shooting action.) These aren't very sophisticated shots, but I was using very humble equipment under challenging conditions, and yet I did catch the moment. They demonstrate that you can get lift-off shots even with very inexpensive cameras.

Mark K.

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#### Kira_Majeric

##### Well-Known Member
Thank you. I always try to zoom in, I will try the wide angle shot. This will be very helpful. ^_^

Unless you have the right equipment, getting photographs of lift-offs can be quite challenging. Even with a better camera, it takes practice.

Most cameras have a delay after you press the shutter before the photo is actually taken. In that time, the rocket may already be high in the air.

So, if your camera can take multiple photos when you press the shutter release button, use that feature. Press the shutter-release just as the countdown reaches zero.

If you zoom in too close, it's harder to catch the lift-off. So, at least at first, take wider angle shots.

Slower shutter speeds cause blurring, so set a high shutter speed. You're outdoors and it's usually sunny when launching, so the automatic mode will probably select a good speed, but you can manually set a higher speed or choose the "Sports Mode" to make sure.

Don't always try to get a close-up of the lift-off. Mix in some wide-angle photos that include people. These types of photos are easier to capture and are often more interesting. For example, position yourself on the other side of the launch pad so that you get a photo of the launch as well as the person pushing the button and the others watching.

-- Roger

#### Kira_Majeric

##### Well-Known Member
What are the specs of you camera? Is it a DSLR, point & shoot or the one on your cell phone? What rockets are you attempting to shoot; LP, MP, or HP?

You need a decent shutter speed > 1/800 & a fair amount of light to get good shots. I usually use an ISO of 200 to 400. If your camera has digital zoom; turn it off because it will only make you photos worse.

JD

I have a Point & Shoot Kodak Z1015 as well as a SLR Nikon D50. I took the Kodak last year to Black Rock. I just got the Nikon, and will be taking both this year.

#### n5wd

##### Well-Known Member
I have a Point & Shoot Kodak Z1015 as well as a SLR Nikon D50. I took the Kodak last year to Black Rock. I just got the Nikon, and will be taking both this year.
Working with a Nikon DSLR comes with a couple of special hints:

1. Forget about using RAW - it takes too much time to write the image to the memory, compared to FINE JPG, almost twice as long IIRC. Even if you're not shooting in continuous mode, you want to be able to fire off a shot quickly again, and again, and if the D50's stuck writing to a full buffer, you'll find yourself waiting. Rockets and race cars are the only time I use JPG, but then I shoot a D100 and it's slower than molasses, sometimes.
2. Learn to use the D50 with autofocus OFF, especially useful when you're shooting the rocket in the sky with a longish lens - that way, your camera doesn't spend precious time seeking a focus point. Set it to manual focus, focus on infinity or near infinity, tape the focus ring down with a bit of gaffer's tape (won't leave a residue on the lens body).

The other folks have given you some great tips, as well!

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#### Kira_Majeric

##### Well-Known Member
Thank you. I am hoping to learn the camera well enough before XPRS. We just got it last week. I will try these techniques.

Working with a Nikon DSLR comes with a couple of special hints:

1. Forget about using RAW - it takes too much time to write the image to the memory, compared to FINE JPG, almost twice as long IIRC. Even if you're not shooting in continuous mode, you want to be able to fire off a shot quickly again, and again, and if the D50's stuck writing to a full buffer, you'll find yourself waiting. Rockets and race cars are the only time I use JPG, but then I shoot a D100 and it's slower than molasses, sometimes.
2. Learn to use the D50 with autofocus OFF, especially useful when you're shooting the rocket in the sky with a longish lens - that way, your camera doesn't spend precious time seeking a focus point. Set it to manual focus, focus on infinity or near infinity, tape the focus ring down with a bit of gaffer's tape (won't leave a residue on the lens body).

The other folks have given you some great tips, as well!

#### THier

##### Well-Known Member
Get the longest lens you can for the Nikon, forget the point and shoot. I just upgraded to my Canon 7D in September,, I got a Sigma 150-500mm APO

https://www.sigmaphoto.com/shop/150-500mm-f5-63-apo-dg-os-hsm-sigma

I got it from Abes of Maine and didn't pay anywhere close to the MSRP. I have a 32g card, shoot at 8fps, and start the burst at ZERO, ther will always be a short delay for HPR, for small BP motors, start burst just before ZERO.

Another thing you can do,,, I have one built but haven't used it yet,, is build a sound actuated shutter release. I got a kit from a local electronics store (Baynesville electronics in Towson MD) This SHOULD trigger the shutter right when the motor comes up to pressure.

Tom

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#### THier

##### Well-Known Member
Here is a sequence I shot with the above setup,, sorry about the soft focus,, still learning the camera and lens.

And yes the sequence is correct, I got the igniter, a frame, then the motor coming up. If I remember correctly, this rocket was on the "C" rack. I have more of the same flight,, just showing these four as an example.

Tom

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#### THier

##### Well-Known Member
One more thing,,, when, if, you go beyond the 300mm or so range,,, stabilization is a MUST. Sigma has another cheaper 500mm lens,, but it is not stabilized,, and it does make a difference. I have tested shooting off hand with the OS on and off,,, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.

I also use a monopod often

Tom

##### Roger Smith
And here's the real secret to great rocketry photographs ... great photographs in general ... take a lot of photographs, but only show off a few of them.

-- Roger

#### Zeus-cat

##### Well-Known Member
It makes a difference on how close you are to the launch as to how you shoot things too. I got pretty close ot the Saturn V launch that I posted photos of. I used a mid-range lens for those photos with the lens zoomed to 98mm.

If you are shooting high power launches you will be back quite a ways from the rockets so a longer lens will be needed. As others have stated, turn autofocus off after you have focused on the rocket. If you are shooting handheld, image stabilization is great, even at high shutter speeds. Make sure you have the IS turned to the correct mode if you plan on tracking the rocket as it goes up. My long lens has two modes, one for horizontal tracking and the other for vertical tracking. I believe either works for non-tracking shots.

I would also recommend that you practice on low power launches to get an idea of what you will be doing. On the day of the big launches shoot a few low power launches in full manual mode and check the photos. Get an idea of the shutter speeds, aperture and ISO settings you will need for the lighting conditions and then set the camera up in manual mode. Large motors with bright exhausts can fool your camera in auto mode. The critical frames might be to dark as a result. If you don't shoot in RAW mode those shots can be hard to fix.

And I agree with jadebox; shoot a lot, but only show a few. I typically take 10-12 frames per launch and keep 1 or 2.

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#### stantonjtroy

##### Well-Known Member
Having done some pro photography myself, I can only add two things to the great advice already given.
Rule of thirds: Frame your subject so as to occupy 1/3 or 2/3 of the viewing area. A bit elementary but given the speed with which you need to shoot, simple is good.
Tracking: Multiple frame sequencing is a great way to go but Tracking can give a cool efect as well. The idea being you can use a slightly slower shutter speed then track the movement of the flight while keeping the subject realatively in the same place in the view field. Don't stop moveing when you hit the shutter. follow through on the motion. Admitedly it takes a little practice but what you get is a fairly sharp image of the rocket with motion blur on the background and surroundings. I've done a lot of airshow shoots using this method and it looks way cool. give it a shot.

#### Kira_Majeric

##### Well-Known Member
Get the longest lens you can for the Nikon, forget the point and shoot. I just upgraded to my Canon 7D in September,, I got a Sigma 150-500mm APO

https://www.sigmaphoto.com/shop/150-500mm-f5-63-apo-dg-os-hsm-sigma

I got it from Abes of Maine and didn't pay anywhere close to the MSRP. I have a 32g card, shoot at 8fps, and start the burst at ZERO, ther will always be a short delay for HPR, for small BP motors, start burst just before ZERO.

Another thing you can do,,, I have one built but haven't used it yet,, is build a sound actuated shutter release. I got a kit from a local electronics store (Baynesville electronics in Towson MD) This SHOULD trigger the shutter right when the motor comes up to pressure.

Tom

Those shots are nice. ^_^ I will have to look into a sound actuated shutter release. That sound very interesting. Thank you.

#### Kira_Majeric

##### Well-Known Member
And here's the real secret to great rocketry photographs ... great photographs in general ... take a lot of photographs, but only show off a few of them.

-- Roger

I live by this rule. ^_^ I have been shooting for a long time, just upgraded to digital a year and a half. I have a SD Card case that holds 8 cards. On a weekend trip, I take thousands of photos! Only keeping less than 300.

#### Kira_Majeric

##### Well-Known Member
Having done some pro photography myself, I can only add two things to the great advice already given.
Rule of thirds: Frame your subject so as to occupy 1/3 or 2/3 of the viewing area. A bit elementary but given the speed with which you need to shoot, simple is good.
Tracking: Multiple frame sequencing is a great way to go but Tracking can give a cool efect as well. The idea being you can use a slightly slower shutter speed then track the movement of the flight while keeping the subject realatively in the same place in the view field. Don't stop moveing when you hit the shutter. follow through on the motion. Admitedly it takes a little practice but what you get is a fairly sharp image of the rocket with motion blur on the background and surroundings. I've done a lot of airshow shoots using this method and it looks way cool. give it a shot.

Thank you. I have to learn tracking. Now that the weather is nice, I'll have to twist my BF's arm for a model rocket flight. ^_^ That shouldn't be too hard. I live by the rule of thirds, one of the first lessons I was given as a child.

#### THier

##### Well-Known Member
And here's the real secret to great rocketry photographs ... great photographs in general ... take a lot of photographs, but only show off a few of them.

-- Roger
How true,, and this is where digital pays off,, I used to shoot 6-10rolls of 36exp rolls at the races,, to get a few great shots,, VERY expensive. Digital,, I try to cull what I can through the camera,, but then dowload everything and dump the MANY pics I don't like.

My first SLR was an Exacta VX500,
Canon AE1,
EOS 620
Digitak Rebel 300,
NOW Canon 7D is my weapon of choice

Tom

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#### THier

##### Well-Known Member
Those shots are nice. ^_^ I will have to look into a sound actuated shutter release. That sound very interesting. Thank you.
Thanks,, They are nice,,, but not great.

I still have a lot of learning with that long lens, before the big Sigma,, I was shooting 300mm. BUT with the APS-c sensor in the 7D, that effectively makes that lens a 750mm, and tough to handle. It takes FANTASIC photos of still objects, but getting used to moving subjects, off hand,, is a little tougher.

I played with the sound actuated shutter with a fly swatter,, it shot the image while the swatter was still in contact with the table. I need to do one of two things,, a long mic lead to camera,, or put the camera closer to the pad,, maybe in a steel tube - barrel and leave it unmanned. YEA that's not gonna happen with the MDRA crew. It would have to be a fire proof bunker for that. I get good enough results by pressing the shutter by hand,, the sound actuated release was put on the back burner. 8fps is pretty quick.

Tom

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#### Peartree

##### Cyborg Rocketeer
Staff member
Global Mod
I am far from being as good as the folk you have already heard from, but another option that is sometimes used (at the expense of pixel density) is to use the video selection on your camera. I can rarely click fast enough to get the rocket in the frame and my camera doesn't have a burst mode nor can I afford one that does. I will occasionally take short videos of launches and then capture the frames that I like. Not great quality, but at least I can get some shots.

##### Roger Smith
I am far from being as good as the folk you have already heard from, but another option that is sometimes used (at the expense of pixel density) is to use the video selection on your camera. I can rarely click fast enough to get the rocket in the frame and my camera doesn't have a burst mode nor can I afford one that does. I will occasionally take short videos of launches and then capture the frames that I like. Not great quality, but at least I can get some shots.
Something similar ... My Casio EX-F1 takes up to 60 fps at full resolution. And it has an option where it queues up images while you hold the shutter release half-way then, when you press the button all the way, it saves some of the previous frames as well as ones take while you're holding down the button. So, you just press the button when you see the rocket moving and you always get a shot of the lift-off - even when Darrell Mobley flies his Estes Honest John on a J900 or whatever.

The EX-F1 sells for around $1000. But, Casio also offers some less expensive high-speed cameras. They offer higher resolution than the EX-F1, but have smaller lenses and sensors. These cameras won't allow you to capture a magazine-quality close-up of a lift-off like a true SLR will, but they make it almost guarenteed that you'll capture a good photo of every lift-off. -- Roger #### JDcluster ##### Well-Known Member When I first started using my DSLR ( Canon ) I started with JPG only. As time passed & got a good feel for the camera along with reading the photography forums I switched to RAW. It gives you more control in the Darkroom/ computer editing. If you blow out the background you have limited ability to correct it, shooting JPG. With RAW it is essentially you digital negative. You may get more shots shooting JPG, but could end up throwing all of them away as with RAW you might be able to fix them. You can increase your buffer size by limiting noise reduction done in camera & a few other in camera settings. Your memory card write & read speed matters as well. A faster memory card can get you few more shots. Here's a forum that I use: https://www.dpreview.com/ It was bought out by Amazon, but you can still see what others are doing with similar equipment. JD Working with a Nikon DSLR comes with a couple of special hints: 1. Forget about using RAW - it takes too much time to write the image to the memory, compared to FINE JPG, almost twice as long IIRC. Even if you're not shooting in continuous mode, you want to be able to fire off a shot quickly again, and again, and if the D50's stuck writing to a full buffer, you'll find yourself waiting. Rockets and race cars are the only time I use JPG, but then I shoot a D100 and it's slower than molasses, sometimes. 2. Learn to use the D50 with autofocus OFF, especially useful when you're shooting the rocket in the sky with a longish lens - that way, your camera doesn't spend precious time seeking a focus point. Set it to manual focus, focus on infinity or near infinity, tape the focus ring down with a bit of gaffer's tape (won't leave a residue on the lens body). The other folks have given you some great tips, as well! #### Kira_Majeric ##### Well-Known Member Thanks,, They are nice,,, but not great. I still have a lot of learning with that long lens, before the big Sigma,, I was shooting 300mm. BUT with the APS-c sensor in the 7D, that effectively makes that lens a 750mm, and tough to handle. It takes FANTASIC photos of still objects, but getting used to moving subjects, off hand,, is a little tougher. I played with the sound actuated shutter with a fly swatter,, it shot the image while the swatter was still in contact with the table. I need to do one of two things,, a long mic lead to camera,, or put the camera closer to the pad,, maybe in a steel tube - barrel and leave it unmanned. YEA that's not gonna happen with the MDRA crew. It would have to be a fire proof bunker for that. I get good enough results by pressing the shutter by hand,, the sound actuated release was put on the back burner. 8fps is pretty quick. Tom I was looking at the sound activated thingy. That sounds fascinating. There was a lot of information on them. But, what is your opinion? Which do you use? #### bguffer ##### Well-Known Member Something similar ... My Casio EX-F1 takes up to 60 fps at full resolution. And it has an option where it queues up images while you hold the shutter release half-way then, when you press the button all the way, it saves some of the previous frames as well as ones take while you're holding down the button. So, you just press the button when you see the rocket moving and you always get a shot of the lift-off - even when Darrell Mobley flies his Estes Honest John on a J900 or whatever. The EX-F1 sells for around$1000. But, Casio also offers some less expensive high-speed cameras. They offer higher resolution than the EX-F1, but have smaller lenses and sensors.

These cameras won't allow you to capture a magazine-quality close-up of a lift-off like a true SLR will, but they make it almost guarenteed that you'll capture a good photo of every lift-off.

-- Roger
https://www.casio.com/products/Cameras/EXILIM_High-Speed/
The Casio high-speed cameras also capture slow motion video in the 200-300 frames per second range at an acceptable viewing size.

Bob