Last year my family and I had the great fortune of visiting 25 countries. Of them all, nothing comes close to Paris for the photographer. It has so much to offer, from the architecture & history, the quiet laneways, the people and monuments to the classics (being the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe). Whether it’s sunny or rainy, crowded or quiet – there’s always something to shoot.
On this visit, for the first time, I purposely tried re-creating some shots by photographers I admire. It proved to be a great exercise in framing, location scouting and perfecting some Lightroom skills. Here’s one shot that I tried, with the inspiration coming from Serge Ramelli (video with instructions below).
Serge Ramelli’s video that inspired my two shots above
Now some inspiration for locations brought to you by other writers (don’t miss Luxembourg Gardens, one of my favourites).
Paris, France Photo Spots & Tips
My photo spots are below, but here are a few resources that will help. The best resource I found in planning was A.G. Photographe’s photostream on Flickr. Clearly a Parisian, the breadth and quality of this guy’s work is actually a bit intimidating. Just remember, he lives there…so he has an unfair advantage (at least that’s what I told myself! ;)). Along those same lines, Ramelli Serge has a great list of his favorite photo spots in Paris on 500px. Trey Ratcliff has a lot of photos from Paris–I found the shots of the details he captured inspiring in tone, even if I didn’t find those same locations (I also like his “Stuck on Earth” crowd-sourcing app, but it’s a bit bulky). This one has some locations (most of which are repeats from the previous links), but also offers some general advice for shooting in Paris along with a day plan. Finally, the best thing you can do is checking out a Paris coffee table book from your local library (or buying one if you have the funds). I checked out several coffee table books, such as this one, and their beauty was really inspiring. I can’t say that I sought out any of the locations in these books, but sometimes great inspiration is the best thing for photography.
Once you get past the spinning windmill, the facade of the Moulin Rouge isn’t all that pretty. Still, it’s iconic, and if you get creative, there are a number of other things to photograph in Quartier Pigalle, which is known as Paris’ tourist district. Granted, some of these things are on the salacious side (sex shops, adult movie theaters, etc.), but it’s a departure from the normal “romantic” side of Paris. Although I suppose maybe it is romantic…in a different sort of way!
The Louvre is well known for the beautiful art on the inside of its galleries (that would supposedly take months to fully explore), but it’s also quite beautiful on the outside, especially late at night when it’s not crowded with tourists. There’s this main glass pyramid, plus a couple smaller ones and some pretty reflecting pools. Add to that a nice variety of architecture ranging from Gothic to Renaissance, and it’s a nice photography subject in the evening or early morning hours.
7 easy tips for photographing Paris (or anywhere!)
One of easiest ways to make a photo more engaging and to add extra levels to your images is to add a foreground aspect to the frame. In these photos of the Eiffel tower, I have used the imposing statues that litter Paris to add more interest, rather than having a blue sky with just the tower in the background. You still know it is Paris and the eye line and foot of the statue lead you to the most famous point of the photo. Play around with different objects that are closer to you to add more depth.
Best spot to try this in Paris:
The Pont Alexandre III bridge makes for a great vantage point to have the Eiffel tower in the distance with plenty of statues and houses to play with in the foreground.
Top Spots for Great Photos in Paris
The Vibrant Life of the Marais
A great area to photograph vibrant street life, small gardens and typical 17th century homes. Let serendipity guide you through the maze of streets. Of course, there is the well-known place des Vosges with its traditional brick facades, but the small streets all around and the Jewish quarter are perfect for varied photo opportunities.
Time Travel in the Covered Passages
I know, everyone says that it’s beautiful, right? When we have planned our trips there, I always know I am going to enjoy it, and I know I am going to capture some nice shots there too. But honestly, I can’t stop clicking because it seems like at every turn I come across something that is just so beautiful. Even the mundane stuff is gorgeous.
– Nomadic Pursuits (check out his site for a lot of great ideas on unique angles and times of day.
This may be the most famous tomb around. Good old Napoleon himself is buried under this dome. The interior is amazing and well worth shooting, and the museum that is attached does a great job of covering World War I and II, so if you are interested in that sort of thing, plan to spend a little time here.
You really can’t go wrong just about anywhere in Paris – but don’t be shy to look for hidden spots. Instead of queuing up with all the tourists to head inside Notre Dame, head around back for a quieter treat. There are so many laneways and ruelles that will transport you back in time. Try some black and white shots, with maybe a speck of colour added to get that Belle Epoque feel in some of your shots.
I hope you enjoy your visit to Paris and if you have any other suggestions on photography in Paris feel free to drop a link below.