Here are tips for taking the best photos:

Here are tips for taking the best photos:
Here are tips for taking the best photos:

It’s time for the 2024 Pensacola Beach Air Show with our Blue Angels.

Today we’re giving you expert tips on how to get the perfect photos. Perry Doggrell has been photographing the Blue Angels for decades and has taken great photos of the Blue Angels for the past 13 years, which you can see on

Here are his top tips for taking the best photos, including how to take the best photos using just your phone:

I started photographing airplanes when my mom took me to my first Blue Angels air show in elementary school. The Blue Angels flew A-4s at the time and she let me use her Kodak Instamatic camera. Of course, the photos weren’t great and the planes looked like little dots, but from that moment on I was hooked on taking air show photos. Little by little I bought better and better cameras and lenses and went from film to digital to mirrorless.

I currently use a Nikon Z8 with a Nikkor 180-600mm lens and a Nikon Z7ii with a Tamron 100-400 lens for backup and wide angle shots. Today’s cameras are more like computers and take a lot of the guesswork out of shooting. And since you don’t have to worry about film, you can take as many photos as you want and the law of large numbers says some of them are bound to be good!

So what are some suggestions for photographing the Blue Angels? Most importantly, use a high shutter speed. I usually photograph jets at a shutter speed of at least 1/1250 of a second and sometimes even up to 1/2000 of a second. Since you are moving and the jet is moving, you need to use a high shutter speed to freeze the action and not blur the photo. You can make adjustments if your photos are slightly under or over exposed, but you can’t salvage a blurry, blurry photo.

Also note that the position of the sun can cause real lighting problems later in the day (usually when the Blue Angels are flying their show). Try to pay attention to where the jets appear to be “lit” and where they are more in shadow because the sun is further behind them. And even if you get some darker photos because of the light, you can often edit them to make the subject brighter. There is plenty of good editing software out there and even today’s modern mobile phones have powerful editing tools.

A word of warning: If you just bought a new camera and don’t know your way around it, try practicing at home and figuring out some basic settings. If you don’t have time, I’d recommend setting it to sports mode and leaving it alone. I’ve met many people with brand new cameras who tried to change so many settings that they ended up not being able to take any photos. I may have had this happen to me once or twice myself, LOL.

If you don’t have a big lens to take photos with, don’t worry. Focus on capturing the diamond and delta formations, as well as various formation maneuvers. And especially at the Beach Show, you can get beautiful, wide photos with the Blue Angels, the beach, the water, the crowd, and even some of your friends. Everyone loves a photo of themselves with the Blue Angels in the background!

And if you don’t have a camera at all, you’re still in luck. Today’s cell phones are great for taking wide-angle photos and especially video. Take a few quick videos as the Blue Angels field goes by, or try to catch the “sneak pass” that usually creates some really good steam. In today’s social media world, videos and reels are much more popular than still photos anyway, so who knows – your iPhone video could go viral!

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the show! We are fortunate to live in the home of the Blue Angels, so there are always opportunities to take more photos of the Blue Angels at a rehearsal, a visit to the beach, or at the Homecoming Show in November.

Perry Doggrell photographs the local Blue Angels air shows for He is a retired air traffic controller and still works in the aviation industry. He is a volunteer photographer at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Perry focuses on nature, wildlife and aviation; he also takes vintage aircraft photos. Look for his photos here on in the next few days. Find him on Instagram at @jays.and.jets or on Facebook at Jays and Jets Photography.

Photos by Perry Doggrell for, click to enlarge.