Realistic Photos of Fighter Jets in Flight Created Using Scale Models


The splendor of the white snowy peaks of the Andes mountains is one of the reasons thousands of nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers flock to Peru every year. A front row seat to such stunning views aboard the cockpit of a C-130, at the age of eight, is an unforgettable memory that sparked my passion for planes.

My father is a retired General for the Peruvian Army, and like many sons and daughters in a military family, I had the opportunity to see numerous spectacular aircraft up close. Watching planes and helicopters take off and land at airbase runways in different parts of Peru was one of my favorite things to do as a child.

I would even memorize the types of aircrafts and their names, and then produce highly detailed drawings that I would proudly show my family.




As an adult, my interest in planes was complimented by my love of photography. In college, I took photography courses that helped me understand the principles of composition and visual effects. I wanted to find a way to mimic images of in-flight fighter jets with as much precision and detail as possible using scale models. After a little trial and error, I managed to develop a technique to do just that.

The first step in creating these types of images is finding an ideal spot that has the right amount of light. The second step is to recruit a patient assistant to help position the plane at the perfect angle. During the shoot, the plane hangs from a pole by a thin line, so we are literally fishing for a great pic!




When getting the planes into position, the wind can sometimes pose a challenge. The models that I work with are fragile 1:48, 1:32, and 1:72 scale replicas that I spend months building and painting, so they must be handled with great care to avoid damage.

Some photographers like to take dozens or even hundreds of photographs to pick the ones that they will keep. I, however, prefer to meticulously plan each shot and wait for the right moment to capture it. A little patience goes a long way in crafting a great product every time.




Photographing miniature models can be a lot of fun. You control every aspect of the process and your creativity is not compromised by logistics. There is no need to worry about missing your shot. Patience throughout each session is largely rewarded.

The mystery behind staging an environment that simulates reality is fascinating to me. It inspires me to create the illusion of real life scenes that would normally be a lot more time-consuming and expensive to capture.

About the Author: Dan Ledesma is a photographer based out of Los Angeles. His passion for planes dates back to a childhood spent on military bases, resulting in the series above. If you would like to see more of Ledesma’s work, be sure to head over to his website by clicking here.

  • me

    this is poor, sorry. some look like photoshop desaster (#3)

  • Zos Xavius

    so where are the photos of the awesome jet models you built? give this guy some credit. every model you see here took him weeks and months to build. some of these look sort of convincing too.

  • Ellis Vener
  • Jose Escobar

    Brace yourselves, disapproving comments are coming…… ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

  • Joshua Tobias George Barrett

    Nice, some of them are actually very convincing!

  • responding to dumb comment

    I can’t play pro football but I know Tim Tebow can’t throw a football with any accuracy, so what is your point?

  • John P. Hess

    some of these could easily be mistaken for the real thing if not for the headline of this article. I used build models as a kid but as I grew up I lost the time for it. Maybe some day I’ll get back into it.

  • Joey Duncan


    I usually very hyper critical. When people start calling it art, or it’s a “project” from a professional personally demand a lot out of people. This is just some dude having fun, and spending a lot of time doing it.

    There is a lot of detail in the model, that normally people don’t pay attention to, I like it

  • Joey Duncan

    I agree with your response, i really hate it when people respond with that.

    That being said, the word expert, or professional doesn’t exist anywhere in his description of his photos being ” photoshop desaster” seem a little harsh (What ever a desaster is)

  • damienwalder

    I remember the appeal of making model planes as a kid was THE PAINTED COVER ART on the box the kit would come in. There was a lot of excitement from a completely artificial image that enhanced my appreciation of the work I had to do in building and finishing the kit. Whatever I may think of how jets are used, as a photographer and sculptor I admire the resourceful use of both model and image – a fitting tribute to the craft at all levels (would make a good box image, too :) As art – they could be used in many ways yet again. I admire them.

  • Richard Ford

    This is how Iran did it then?

  • William Torregrossa

    Some look good. most look like Plastic planes with bad lighting. Not trying to be harsh, just being honest.

  • kassim

    Look very convincing. Some have photoshop defect, but then people will see it as an editing mistake, not the technique of shooting. This is good.

  • Peng Tuck Kwok

    Correct. There’s a lot of effort he put into the models, I think he might have even crafted a few parts on to them to make it look right. It’s the difference between a toy and a detailed model and when you are up so close every little bit of the model stands out.

  • Zos Xavius

    it was the harshness that got me.

  • Pete

    From Wiki

    “Tebow became the University of Florida Gators’ starting quarterback during the 2007 season when he became the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.[1] In 2008, Tebow led Florida to a 13–1 record and its second national championship in three years, and was named the offensive MVP of the national championship game. The Gators again went 13–1 in 2009, his senior year. At the conclusion of his college career, he held the Southeastern Conference’s all-time records in both career passing efficiency and total rushing touchdowns, appearing second and tenth (respectively) in the NCAA record book in these categories.”

    You apparently don’t know what you think you know.

    Fantastic models by the way.

  • ksporry

    Please share your much better attempt with us, and instruct us on how to do it much better, including photos, and details of your setup and methods of working. If not, I think you do the world a favour to keep you insults to yourself
    I think the guy did a lovely job. I think it’s very creative, both making the models as well as using them in an attempt to provide “poor mans methods” to jets-in-flight photography. Dan, I salute you!

  • Alex Minkin

    wait…wait…how do i include a photo here? oh, there it is

  • Alex Minkin

    I’d start with much more exhaust blur coming out the back, that took a few hours of ripple, guassian, warp, crying and rolling on the floor, liquify, and then ripple again because the first one worked the best.

    some contrails/vapor trails coming off the wings can go a long way as well, as does not over processing the ever loving dynamic range out of everything. a style can be a style and still be ugly.

    and i’d also like to point out the frivolity of saying ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say and/or haven’t done a better job, your opinion is invalid’. i’ll follow you the next time you go to an art gallery and tell you to shut up every time you say something you do or don’t like about a painting.

  • Alex Minkin


  • Zos Xavius

    that’s awesome :)

  • BlackObamaJesus

    Nicely done!!! Your craftsmanship is awesome — when I first glanced at these I totally thought they were full-sized jets. Bravo!

  • Ruben Fernandez

    The devil is in the details and inaccurately painted weapons, drop tanks mounted backwards (central tank on that F-15), unusual load-outs (again the F-15 with the ECM pod) and some problems assembling canopies, all detract from the realism. I think the angles and the photography are very good, but it´s the little details that give away the effect and scream model, instead of real jet. All in all however is quite cool. I think the black and white photos are way more effective than the color ones.