Planespotting tips/guide, how to find your own location

Recently was looking through my PMs and found this about a question regarding spotting. Basically I have copy-pasted it, done some editing and made it public for those interested.

If you have any questions, feel free to PM me.

Without further ado…

Tips for spotting…

  1. Never shoot into the sun. The photos will come out with dark planes and those won’t be so appealing:

  1. Not sure if this applies to anyone but don’t take photos with a cellphone camera. Phones only get good photos without zoom and to be close enough to the plane to take a photo with little to no zoom, you’ll have to be right underneath the plane and I doubt you want those types (They get boring quite quickly):

  1. Try and take photos in the “golden hour” or sunset/sunrise. The appropriately named “Gold” lighting makes for some nice photos (My favorites are from then):



Be wary though because at the beginning of sunrise/end of sunset, the planes may not get enough light:



  1. Try to avoid heat haze, or locations with too much light:

Delta Air Lines, US Airways, and American Airlines are especially susceptible to this in their own special way:

Not sure about United Airlines…

One way to get around this that I have found is to use maximum magnification on your camera. Makes the lighting better.

  1. Police… I personally have never been stopped but in the event that you happen to be, Do. NOT. Act. Hostile. First, it would make you look suspicious, second, not all policemen/women are mean powerhungry assholes that want to stop you from having fun because they think you’ll ship your photos off to Isis, and most importantly third, It gives avgeeks a bad name in the eyes of that officer. Plus, they can take your camera/card and you could lose all of your photos. Never a good thing for an avgeek. Regarding my second point, I have read and saw someone get stopped and they were laughing and communicating in a friendly manner. Always good to have your ID with you.

If you don’t already have a location and need one, don’t lose hope, this is what you can do:

First, use google.

If that doesn’t yield anything good, you can either:

  1. Email someone who had planespotted you airport before via a photo website and hope that the person is the friendly type
  2. Scope out your own location

Here are tips on scoping out your own location:

  1. Go into your preferred internet map (Google, Bing, Apple, etc.), switch to Hybrid mode, and pan to your airport. Zoom out a bit so you have all of your airport plus a bit of area around the airport. Take a screenshot of that

  2. Open that screenshot in a photo editing program

Now go onto FlightRadar24 or your preferred airplane tracking software. Have a look at the paths planes take to land/takeoff at your airport and take screenshots of a couple of those landing/taking off on as many runways as you can gather.

Now reopne your photo editing program and look compare the satellite image to the flight tracking screenshots

  1. Try and draw the mean flight paths for each runway of the planes you screenshotted as best as you can (Use roads, parks, or other landmarks to best plot that).

  2. Then, look for any areas that could be of interest given your camera lens length. Look for a park without many trees or a ground-level parking lot (One of those massive Walmart parking lots or even a strip mall), or in general an open spot where you can take unobstructed photos of planes. Pick a/some possible location(s).

  3. Go into street view of the place(s) of interest and have a look at the environment. Make sure it is an open space where you can see the planes coming in and you have time and a lot of chances to photograph the plane as it is coming across. Make sure nothing is in your way.

If it passes, then you could have yourself a location.

Hope this all helps.

Best, Boeing707


Addition regarding planespotting on airport property, this varies airport-to-airport, but generally, planespotting is frowned upon by airport employees and police. Inspect the rules of the airport. If photography is indeed legal on the airport grounds, save the link and print out the page. If someone questions you, show them that page. They can say “taking photos of planes is illegal” but that means nothing if the airport rules say that it is not… Always good to cooperate.

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ok ok…yea yea…they cool…

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I’ve gotten good and bad

Sorry I cannot paste links well from my mobile device. I’ll fix them later

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Lol no-I just have some experience. Perfect example of why failure is also good :)

My home airport is KTVC, a small airport, only Delta, United, and American go there. General aviation aircraft are most of the takeoffs.

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There’s nothing like a good Pepsi, FR24, and a 747-8 barreling down the ILS right past the camera :).

@hubandspoke1: Lucky-which airport?

@benny1263 Here are better examples of the good and the bad new American Airlines liveries:

Good (IMO):


Otherwise really easy to planespot the new livery.

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@hubandspoke1: Awesome
@benny1263 I will miss the old livery dearly but the new livery is more spotter friendly

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Gonna go spotting at BHX soon and in June im going spotting at LGW. Haven’t got a spot (yet). Thanks for all the info @Boeing707 !

@N881RA Love FedEx-Location

@B767fan No problem! Have fun and good luck!

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PANC Alaska

That’s the view from my office everyday

One of the freighter havens! Nice