Getting from point A to B often gets a bad rep for being the most dreadful part of a trip. Trapped in a terminal, nothing to do but read magazines, drink coffee, and wait to board the plane. But it only takes one trip to an airport to see that these places are often incredibly architecturally innovative, and perhaps one of the best places for people watching—an excellent place for photography.
If you’ve got a couple hours to kill at in your terminal, or are passing through a city and want to capture this bustling hub of life, using an airport to your advantage, in terms of photography, is well worth your while.
Here are some helpful tips for making the most of the unique setting an airport provides:
Make use of the windows. Huge windows often line the walls of airports, giving you a clear view of the ingoing and outgoing planes, while flooding the interior of the airport with light. This is a great opportunity to play around with silhouettes, as the outside light will always be brighter than the inside, casting uniquely long shadows across the floors and walls.
Seek out cool architectural features. Most airports, especially the international ones found in big cities, were very uniquely created by architects to feature innovative structural designs that capture a city’s essence. Take the Beijing Capital International Airport, which is two miles long with a traditional Chinese color scheme of red and yellow in a dragon-like form, meant to celebrate Chinese history and culture. Even if it isn’t as complex as this, many airports feature gorgeous concourses with colors and structurally appealing designs that make the perfect subject for a photo.
Watch for prohibited areas. This is an airport, after all, meaning there will be areas where you won’t be allowed to take photos. You should always be aware of this to avoid unnecessary altercations with airport staff or risk delaying your travels/paying a fine. Areas like security check or Customs, if you’re traveling internationally, are a definite no. Other areas may be airport specific, so be on the look out for signs alerting you to these areas.
Travel with a good bag. There is no time easier to break your camera than in transit. Be sure to keep your camera in a safe place when you aren’t snapping pictures. Also, travel light. There’s no need for a tripod or copious amounts of lenses when doing airport photography. You’ll likely only have seconds to snap your picture and this will weigh you down.
Don’t be weird. People are overly suspicious in airports, for good reason, meaning if you are acting strangely, lurking around with your camera, people are sure to be skeptical of you. Be outright about your mission, in order to put people at ease and maybe even get a better shot with people’s cooperation.
Now get snapping! You’ve only got so much time until you are boarding and up in the clouds…where even more photo opportunities await.