Camera Settings

The camera is mounted on the tripod 50-100 ft away from the launch pad. Ideally, camera should be between the sun and the launch pad, so that the rocket is well lit by sunlight.

Lighting diagram for rocket photography

Lighting diagram for rocket photography

My favorite lens for photographing rockets is Canon 50mm f/1.8. Wide aperture allows faster shutter speed and lower noise (ISO). For dramatic shots, I use wide-angle Tokina 12-24mm f/4.

Typical camera settings:

Setting Value Comment
Focus Manual focus Pre-focus on rocket using LiveView (*)
Mode Manual (M) (**)
ISO 200-400
Shutter speed 1/2000 – 1/8000
Aperture Wide open Use 1 F-stop less than widest aperture of the lens
White balance Daylight or Cloudy
Drive mode High-speed continuous To capture more than one frame
Image stabilizer Off
Mirror lock-up Off Surprisingly, has no effect on shutter lag
Sleep mode Never

(*) Recipe: turn on auto-focus and switch on LiveView. Focus on rocket. Then, turn off LiveView and switch focus to Manual. Camera focus is now locked in.

(**) Recipe: measure the scene in shutter priority (Tv) mode and center-weighted exposure. Then, switch to manual mode and dial in the same values. Compensate by +2/3 F-stops to your liking. Adjust exposure as the Sun and clouds move around the field.