Home Airport Spotting Guide The 11 airports guaranteed to improve your aviation photographs

The 11 airports guaranteed to improve your aviation photographs

by Matt Falcus



There’s a certain amount of skill and experience needed to become a great aviation photographer.

It can take a lot of practice and the right equipment to get the best results.

But you can also improve your results vastly by being in the right place.


The following airports consistently give aviation photographers really good pictures thanks to factors like the amount of light, scenic backdrops and surroundings, and the quality, quantity and variety of aircraft to see.


Anchorage Ted Stevens

FedEx at Anchorage

Anchorage is still a great place to see giant freighters and classic old propliners working alongside modern airliners and light aircraft. The mix of traffic in Alaska is mouthwatering for the aviation enthusiast, with much of it transiting through Anchorage’s main airfield.

A great spot for photgraphy is Point Woronzof.  It overlooks the airport and runway 15/33 with the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. Follow Northern Lights Blvd along the northern perimeter, and then through the gate with a warning sign if it is open, and park on the dirt. Then walk up the hill for a better view.


St Maarten

I almost missed it American B737-823 over Maho Beach

Possibly the world’s most famous airport and spotting location.

Princess Juliana International in St Maarten is a Caribbean hub for large international jets and local commuter types and biz jets.

At the end of the runway is the famous Maho Beach, where sun worshippers mix with aircraft only a few feet overhead shortly before touching down.

Combined with the ever present sunshine, you can easily take some stunning, close-quarters photographs here.



VH-OQK QF A380 34L YSSY-4169

Like St Maarten, Sydney is also blessed with a lot of sunshine. This gives you great light for your photographs and makes it pleasant to be outdoors.

Kingsford Smith is Australia’s busiest airport, with a good mix of regional and international traffic. The airport is also good at providing for the spotter.

A new official spotting location at Sydney is Shep’s Mound Tower located alongside runway 16R/34L, but with all runways and some taxiways visible. The location has parking and raised areas to give you unobstructed photography opportunities above the fenceline. Its all-round views make it good throughout the day. To reach the spot follow Ross Smith Ave from the domestic terminal area (behind the DHL buildings) all the way to the end.


Los Angeles International

Photo (c) Erik Ritterbach

LAX is the busiest airport on the US west coast. It is a major hub for many US and some international carriers, like American, Delta, Southwest and Qantas. In addition to the vast number of overseas airliners arriving from all corners of the globe, it is also busy with smaller regional and commuter airliners, executive aircraft, and cargo airliners, making it an ideal place to spend a few days spotting.

Situated on the south side of the airport off Imperial Highway, Jim Clutter Park is a hill which overlooks LAX from a height which offers unobstructed photography of aircraft, and the ability to log all movements on the south side with good binoculars.

Meanwhile, the In ‘n’ Out Burger fast food restaurant has gained a reputation amongst spotters due to its position under the approach to runways 24L/R. From the car park, this is a fantastic location for photographs. Find it at Sepulveda Blvd and 92nd Street.



Thai Airways at Phuket. Photo (c) Erik Ritterbach

Phuket is one of Thailand’s busiest airports thanks to the island’s thriving holiday resorts. Traffic comes from Europe, the Middle East, Australia and the Far East, as well as from across Thailand. It is a mix of scheduled, low-cost and charters, with many wide body aircraft visiting. The busiest season is between November and March.

Nai Yang Beach is one of the most popular places to spot from. Photographers love the proximity to aircraft landing and the stunning location. It is only good if aircraft are landing on runway 09, however. To reach the beach, the nearest parking is along Soi Mai Khao 6, to the north of the airport. You’ll then need to walk around half a mile along the path (or hire a scooter taxi).



Directly under a B757 landing at Skiathos.

The European St Maarten!

Skiathos is an island in Greece which sees plenty of holiday airline traffic during the summer months, and regional traffic year-round.

Its fame comes from the proximity of the end of the runway to a road and the sea, where spotters and photographers congregate to witness aircraft pass incredibly low overhead before touchdown.

This proximity naturally lends itself to some stunning photographic opportunities.

[Read our Skiathos Airport Spotting Guide]



San Francisco

Photo (c) Erik Ritterbach

San Francisco is a large airport south of the city with a nice Bay-side location. It has four runways which extend out into the water and cross in the middle. Flights are handled from all major US carriers as well as a lot of intercontinental flights from Asia and Europe.

Slightly less busy than Los Angeles, its scenic location more than makes up for this.

Bayfront Park is a small park alongside the Bay on the southern side of the airport provides good views of aircraft on the runways and taxiways. It can be reached on Bayshore Highway which links to freeway 101. Aircraft landing on runways 28L/R can be photographed, often with some interesting results where parallel landings are taking place.

You can also photograph aircraft on the taxiway heading out to depart the runways.



PH-HZV Transavia B737-800 Innsbruck Airport

Nestled deep in a valley in the Alps, Innsbruck Airport is busier in the winter months. Despite its short runway and precision approach, you may often find large airliners on the ramp. At other times of the year it mainly sees commuter and some low-cost flights from the likes of Austrian Airlines, British Airways, easyJet and Transavia. Executive and general aviation aircraft are also common here.

The best photography location where you can take spectacular shots with the mountains as a backdrop is at the end of runway 08. It’s easier to drive west along the main B171 road along the northern side of the airport and leave just after the roundabout where there is a car park. Then walk along Hans-Flockinger-Promenade to the end of the runway.


Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson

While Atlanta’s (and the world’s) busiest airport does not have many spotting locations to find around its perimeter or terminals, there is one which many spotters use.

The Renaissance Concourse Hotel is situated on the northern boundary of the airport and features many floors of rooms with balconies which overlook the sprawling airport site.

From the comfort of your balcony, and with a decent zoom lens, you can get some great shots of aircraft on the ground and departing or landing.

Even though Delta Air Lines dominates movements, there are still lots of other US and international carriers flying in daily to make it an interesting place for the plane spotter.

[Atlanta Renaissance Concourse Spotting Hotel Review]


Osaka Kansai

Osaka Kansai Spotting

By lasta29 [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Kansai Airport is the main international gateway to Osaka, located on a man-made island in Osaka Bay. As well as being a busy domestic and international passenger hub, it is a major cargo centre – one of the busiest freight airports in the world.

The Sky View Observation Hall is the official spotting location at Kansai. It is an elevated platform at the eastern end of the airport, close to the threshold of runway 24L. It has excellent views over this runway and the terminal gates. Photography is good, with the classic view of aircraft passing over the road bridge possible.

The Observation Hall is free and open 8am-10pm (10pm at weekends). You can reach it via the bus from the terminal (Nankai bus stop), signposted to the Observation Hall.


Amsterdam Schiphol

The busiest airport in the Netherlands, and one of the busiest in Europe.

Schiphol is a hub for KLM and Transavia, and sees service from most European and other international airlines, as well as many freight movements each day.

Whilst spotting locations are plenty, both around the perimeter and atop the terminal at the Panorama Terrace, two spots are really good for stunning photographs.

These official viewing locations are sited alongside the “Polderbaan” runway 18R/36L. You will need a car or cycle to get there, but there is a car park to use. You will have good views of traffic arriving or departing on this runway. To get there head away from the airport on the A4, then turn north on the N201 towards Hoofddorp/Aalsmeer. Follow it until you reach a crossroads with a gas station on the left; turn right along IJweg and keep going until you reach the spotters car park. There are paths in either direction along the runway for you to find the best position.


Have you been to these airports as a photographer? Which others would you suggest? Leave a comment below!


World Airports Spotting Guides

Our comprehensive guide to the world’s best plane spotting locations!

World Airports Spotting Guides has over 400 spotting locations at airports in most of the world’s countries, from mega hubs to smaller regional airports. Never miss an aircraft again and plan your spotting trips in detail. Even includes maps, and details of the best spotting hotels to use.

Get Your Copy Here



Main photograph (c)



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CHRIS MAYS November 10, 2023 - 7:40 am

The Observation Hall at Osaka Kansai currently shuts at 5pm.
Also the cafe is closed and there are only dispensing machines for food and snacks.
It is a shadow of the location it once was. Sad

Mark November 10, 2023 - 3:10 pm

At LAX I would also highly recommend the Proud Bird Food Bazaar for shots of landings on 25L

Graham Schooling November 15, 2023 - 8:51 pm

I have been to Frankfurt and Zurich airports this year taking photographs and both airports have amazing locations for great spotting and photography.
Highly recommend!!

Viasa1881 November 15, 2023 - 10:04 pm

I would definitely count HKG Chep Lap Kok as within this group, probably at the expense of Atlanta

Alan Tait November 16, 2023 - 12:36 am

Would recommend Corfu and Funchal airports

Gan November 16, 2023 - 1:18 am

The best observation deck of Japan is at Narita Terminal 1, not Kansai anymore.

Rafael Power November 16, 2023 - 2:30 am

The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in San Juan, Puerto Rico has a superb spotting viewing area in its Aeroparque stand-alone building. Its second story balcony allows you to photograph over the ground fences and very close to the taxiing military and airline aircraft on the way to the main runway. It has a snack bar in the first floor and a sitting area for those who prefer eating or chatting while watching the aircraft without the aircraft noise. It also has free car park and a area outside for children to play.
Sample airliner photos taken there can be seen at Airliners.net.


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