Planespotting How to get started in plane spotting

Have you ever stumbled across the term “plane spotting” and wondered, what that really means? In our new news category, AVIPEO.COM will explain what plane spotting is, why you should start, and what you should take care of when beginning.

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In part two of our plane spotting series here at AVIPEO.COM, we will explain to you, what you should take care of when beginning. First of all, you should know, that there is no strict guideline or manual on how to do plane spotting. It really depends on what you want. And that is the beauty of this hobby.

The majority of plane spotters however prefer to use a camera for taking pictures. There are other possibilities of documenting aircraft movements, for example by writing registration and date into a logbook (reg-spotting), but in this article we will focus on plane spotting with a camera.

Before you drive to an airport, you should be clear on what kind of picture you want to take. There are thousands of different possibilities to capture an aircraft, may it be during sunset, sunrise, during night-time or at any time of the day.

What you definitely should check before you set off, is what traffic you might expect. Especially on smaller airports, the traffic density can be not that high. Check out the airport website or the Flightradar24 arrival board to see what´s coming in. If you see interesting traffic, you can plan your stay at the airport better.

But if you are really just getting started in the aviation scene, you might as well take everything that flies in front of your lens. After a couple visits you may however get bored of specific airlines or aircraft types.

Now that we have an idea of what aircraft or airline we expect to shoot, we definitely have to check the weather and the time. If it is raining all day long, the plane spotting session might not be as fun as it would be when the sun was shining. Actually, many plane spotters only take photos of aircraft with sun on the fuselage. But again, you can decide on what picture you want to take.


Aviation Photography
Aviation Photography © Maurits Eisenblätter

The time is also very important, especially when the sun is out. Because if you want to avoid something, it is standing in the backlit in the middle of the day. Backlit photos often look very bad compared to pictures, where the sun is shining directly on the aircraft´s fuselage. As rule of thumb, you should always have the sun in your back! That ensures good lightning on the aircraft.

If you are fine with the traffic and the weather, you have to look for positions around the airport, and what runway is currently in use. Your airport might have an official spotting location, but then again, you have to check the time and the altitude of the sun to avoid backlit. Furthermore, if you are spotting at a wrong or unused runway, you are most likely to miss the traffic you want to photograph.

What position to use, depends on what photo you want to take. And here we´ve come to a full circle. Before you drive to the airport, you should always be clear on what picture you want to take; if you are into so-called “Skyshots” – that means aircraft in front of the sky – you might search for an appropriate position. If you on the other hand prefer pictures with more background such as terminal buildings etc., you might search for positions with background.

But caution: There might be countries, airports or positions around airports, at which plane spotting is not welcomed! You should definitively do some research beforehand.

Now that you know on what you have to look out for when getting started, we will show you in the next article, what camera settings you have to choose during plane spotting. In our plane spotting news series at AVIPEO.COM, we will also introduce you to the world´s most plane spotting friendly airports and will show you around. Definitely stay tuned for that!


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