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Photographing in Airports

Miami International Airport Terminal

Ahh, the joy of travel photography, who doesn’t love that? But like everything in life, all that glitters is not gold. For travel photography, you actually need to travel, and in many circumstances, air travel and lengthy waits in airports are common.

Nobody likes being stranded in a terminal for hours, or experiencing delays, missed or long connections, all of which happen pretty often. But it can be different for us, the ones who embrace photography. Instead of just sitting there doing nothing, we can have some fun doing what we enjoy the most. At least, that’s what I do – and believe me, the time goes by much quicker when you are there with your camera in hand.

New American Airlines terminal in Miami

Despite the obvious of not photographing in prohibited areas, you shouldn’t encounter any problems wandering and snapping away. I was a bit skeptical the first time, especially in the US, however, I’ve never had any issue.

Perhaps you are thinking that there are not interesting things to photograph in airports. Well, think again. These can be rather compelling places; they come in all forms, shapes and colors.

There are always appealing activities around the tarmac and you can shoot through a window. Just be on the lookout for opportunities. The image below was shoot with an iPhone. I didn’t have my camera handy that day and I was rushing to the gate; it was raining and I thought the water drops on the glass made it somehow exciting.

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Watch out for unique architectural features. It could be a modern place, a recently built structure, or just a small terminal on a remote exotic destination. Walk around slowly and try to find what makes that place different, sui generis. This colorful skybridge in Miami called “Harmonic Convergence” is a good example of an art installation that is unique to the airport and can’t be found anywhere else. When you spot a space like this, take your time, try different angles, and if necessary wait for the right moment to happen.

Person rushing out in airport

Massive glass walls are most likely to be present in contemporary terminal halls and waiting areas. These are wonderful to work with and you stand a chance of getting great photos. Just meter the light to get a good exposure of the exterior during daytime and the interior will be probably e dark or underexposed. This juxtaposition creates a great contrast; it is then possible to play with forms and figures of people standing or walking by. Silhouettes against a brighter background are always fascinating.

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You can also think of hallways, food courts, waiting areas and shopping areas. You can really do a lot and it will be much better than just sitting there doing nothing and getting bored. After all, you’ll be fastened to your flight seat for some hours, so what better way to kill the painful wait by just having some fun photographing the airport?

There you have it – next time you need to spend some time at the airport, just pull out the camera and fire away. It will be fun, I promise.

Editor’s note and disclaimer: the suggestions made in this article are by the author and you need to be aware of the legalities and possible issues of taking photos in an airport, as different rules may apply in different countries. It is not a public place so you do not automatically have blanket approval to take any person’s photo. You could possibly be asked to stop, have your camera seized or be restricted from getting on your flight. Practice with extreme caution. dPS is not responsible for any damages resulting from following these tips.

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Daniel Korzeniewski
Daniel Korzeniewski

is a Miami-based, travel photographer. His work has appeared in several publications and he contributes to various stock photography outlets. You can find out more about his work, travel adventures, or join him on one of his upcoming photography tours (to Morocco, India, or Myanmar). You can also follow him on Instagram.