The Hidden Value of Photographing While Flying


“Should I take the camera out, or leave it in the bag?” Rob asks as he is about to stuff the bags into the overhead compartments.

Seems like a no-brainer right? A photographer should always want their camera out. But when you’re about to board a plane, staring down 4 hours of trying to keep an active toddler quiet, the last thing you feel like doing is taking photos.

Far too often my answer to that question is “Naw, just leave it in the bag, we don’t need it right now”.  Yep, I have the bad habit of being a lazy photographer.

But this time I said yes.

Why the change of heart? A couple reasons. More and more we’re realizing that if we want to take great photos, we need our camera around all the time. Not just when we feel like it. Not just when it’s convenient. Always.

We’re also shooting more with our Sony A7 these days. When the question of keeping the camera out for the flight was in reference to our Canon 6D with a 24-70 lens, we would be far less likely to say yes. That is a huge camera, and a huge lens. Carrying it is a pain (literally – my shoulders were aching toting that thing around all day) and there’s nowhere to store it in the cramped airline seats. But the A7 – the tiny, compact, A7 – it hung around Rob’s neck for the whole flight, and he barely noticed it.

If you’ve traveled a lot, you may start seeing the act of flying as just a means to an end. But that would be a mistake. Flying is an incredible adventure, filled with a wide range of opportunities for great shots.

Rob photographed candid moments on the plane.


He documented what flying with children is like.



He snagged this shot that captures the feeling of waiting while your flight is delayed.


And even got some neat long exposure shots of the lights as we were landing.



I’m so glad to have these shots, and I know that I’ll look back on them years from now, and remember this trip, and the great times we had while in transit.

Travelling doesn’t start when you reach your destination. Getting there is part of the adventure, and deserves to be photographed. So next time you’re on a bus, or plane, or train, or in a taxi, say “Yes” to your camera, and then start shooting. You’ll be glad you did.

What are some other things you could photograph while flying? Have you tried it before?

Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.

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13 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. I just flew to St. Pete, Fl last weekend and I used my cellphone camera to catch a few wing shots. I’m glad I did that too…seeing the Gulf of Mexico for my first time and capturing that memory made me very happy.

  2. Great advice ;) we were travelling with our 4 months old son for the first time and took some awesome photos while waiting for the plane and mid-air, I know we’ll treasure them forever.

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Right on, Yulia! I’m sure those are awesome photos! Traveling with kids can be a lot of work, but it sure makes things a lot of fun too.

      I know we had a blast watching all the planes and cars around the airport – things that I would have totally ignored pre-kid. They sure help us slow down and notice, don’t they?

      • That’s true, they do! I also was terrified of flying with the young baby for the first time, but he has been great, even 12 hours’ flight delay went fine, we actually quite enjoyed ourselves (at least, did our best to!) :)

  3. I’m one of those who never honored the directive to turn off my cell phone when taking off or landing (and recently, airlines have removed this requirement) and as a result, have some really cool photos approaching cities:

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Shirley those shots are AWESOME!! I love them! Thanks for sharing! Great evidence of the value of keeping a camera – any camera – at hand on the plane.

  4. I think it was this book that I almost bought in Chapters when I saw it. Such cool images from the window seat.

    I’ve taken hundreds of flights since I was a baby, but I still love it and fight for the window seat.
    I do need to get a smaller camera though, as the full frame with zoom lens is just too much. Being 6’3″, the space is tight enough.

  5. I recently bought a small point and shoot to keep in my purse. I used it on a flight to Calif when I was in the very last seat of the plane. I also got some beautiful clouds and sunrise shots. I’m currently on vacation in Australia and have used both big and little cameras as well as phone camera to document the trip. I keep my Nikon in the bag under my seat after reading an article about camera gear being stollen from suitcases.

  6. Never thought about that:) Really interesting! Never even considered to take out my camera during the flight. Maybe because I am scared or I thought it is prohibited. But surely I will try t next time I am flying. Thanks

  7. Kolbie Bartholomew says:

    Ha! I like the toddler comments. That’s definitely my deterrent. I hate missing a great shot though so it’s certainly good advice to keep the camera handy.

  8. Polarizing filters will create strange color shifts when used through the aircraft’s window. I wish that I could say that these are attractive: they are not. It’s best to leave the polarizer off.

    According to the FAR/AIM test (that pilots take): the mobile phone ban is by the FCC (not the FAA). The devices try to connect to too many towers too quickly while in-flight. I suspect that people would have more respect for the rule, if the airlines would accurately communicate the reason for it.

  9. Ha! When flying from Europe to USA in 2009 I took a couple of general photos of the airplane for a souvenir. At the last photo the flight attendant gave me bit shocked look and gave me a “no-no” expression. It left me quite surprised. At the exit terminal I overheard some other passenger reporting to a guard that there was a guy with a camera sitting it seat nro xxx. And the guard right away took his radio and passed the message forward! For my luck the seat number he gave wasn’t mine. Possible by a mistake. :D

    But in the end I felt a bit like I was going to North Korea or something! :D There were announcements in every airport in USA that photography was forbidden in the airports! Like really?! I still took some nice photographs… luckily I didn’t end up in any trouble. :)

    The control of people in the fear of some terrorism has just gone WAY too far!

    P.S. I already had taken similar kind of photos in Europe and no-one cared. :)

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