The City of Light is one of the birthplaces of photography and there is no shortage of iconic structures to capture on camera.
Photography is an amazing way to hang onto the memories and experiences you create on a city break and, if you have a flare for it, a great way to show off when you get home. Just taking some time, consideration and adhering to basic rules can make a massive difference to the quality of your pictures. Paris is a wonderful city to photograph due to its stunning architecture and incredibly stylish inhabitants. The majority of Parisians are seemingly incapable of looking bad on camera so they are excellent subjects!
The first thing to consider is the type of tech that is best for you. With photography, there is always the temptation to go with the latest and greatest camera to emerge on the market. However, this isn’t necessarily the best application of your hard-earned cash. A good approach is to research the options in the same way you would when buying a new car. As odd as it may sound, the two involve a similar train of thought before making the final decision. If you were to buy a new car, you’d take into account how often you plan to use it, where you’d use it, add-ons you actually require, its size, the price tag, maintenance, and so on. Bear these factors in mind when picking the right camera for your needs.
DSLR: This is a great choice if you plan to learn a lot about the technical aspects of photography and want the creative control that knowledge and level of tech gives you. Also, if you intend to enlarge your photos and frame them when you get home, a DSLR will give you the high image quality required. If the terms aperture, shutter speed, exposure and white balance don’t strike fear into your heart, this is a great option for the amateur who is keen to learn.
Compact: If you want good quality images with point and shoot simplicity, then consider a compact camera. They’re light, portable and they won’t break the bank. Spending a small fortune on a camera only to leave it on Auto is a waste of your money. A compact camera gives you a good selection of effects without requiring an extensive manual to get your head around the options.
Smartphone: You can even get excellent photos on your phone these days, due to the high quality of cameras available on many smartphones. You’re guaranteed to have it on you at all times and they can be an excellent method of recording street images without being intrusive.
If you intend to spend some money on your camera, invest in a good quality camera bag. A cross-body strap will take the strain out of heavy equipment and is more secure than carrying it in your hand.
When it comes to using your carefully chosen camera in Paris, there are certain landmarks you have to include. If only to prove to people you were actually there! It may be the case that clichés abound with certain high-profile destinations, but approaching them with a fresh mind-set should help.
Taking a face-on picture with the Eiffel Tower centred within it can result in quite a generic image. Try to steer away from the kind of photo you’ve seen on countless postcards in tourist areas. Approach it from a different angle; don’t be concerned with getting a wide enough shot to cover every part of the structure. New approaches make it interesting!
Getting some stylish tourists or locals in the foreground can add a unique point of view to your own personal Eiffel Tower. The best time to visit is mid-week when crowds are minimal and approach it from the affluent 16th arrondissement. There is a hilltop up some marble steps next to the Palais de Chaillot, which will give you a spectacular open view of the tower.
If you plan to arrive at dusk you’ll get some incredible shots of the tower lighting up the darkening sky, giving your image much more impact than the bright midday sun. The Trocadero gardens below are only a 15 minute walk from the tower and you can get some beautiful shots on your way there. When you arrive, it is tempting to opt for the lift straight to the top. But a cheaper, and more photo-friendly option, is to walk up the steps of at least the first two levels. You’ll get some amazing shots of Paris at night and you can use the structure of the tower itself to frame them.
The cobbled streets of Montmartre are a gift to the amateur photographer; artists are working all around you and musicians play amongst the pedestrians. For stunning (and, incredibly for Paris, free) views, only the Eiffel Tower itself can rival Sacre Coeur. From here you’ll see all of Paris laid out before you. Whilst it’s tempting to zoom out and try to fit the whole vista in, pick out focal points that make your pictures stand out. Hone in on details that a lot of tourists would miss to give your images that added frisson.
You’ll find a hidden outdoor art museum in the backstreet of Rue Cavalotti which shows how much the art scene is a part of Montmartre’s history. Make the effort to explore side streets; they have the bonus of being devoid of tourists and you can find some hidden gems to capture. Porte de Clignancourt hosts the world’s largest antique market and could probably fill one of your flash drives all by itself! As before, it’s best to avoid the midday sun as early morning and afternoon light will be more flattering to your subjects. You’ll lose a lot of detail with harsh light.
The 5th arrondissement is a younger neighbourhood in Paris and is excellent for people watching at cafés during the day and bars at night. Rue Mouffetard is a charming local street which is off the tourist track. You’ll be able to get some shots of genuine Parisian life rather than hordes of tourists staring in one direction. Just a short walk away on the other side of the Seine is Notre Dame, the stunning cathedral with gargoyles made famous by Victor Hugo. You can get some terrific shots of this imposing structure in the late afternoon sun and try to pick out some interesting quirks rather than being overwhelmed by the sheer scale of it.
If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb the 444 steps to the top and get some contrasting shots with an aerial viewpoint. At night the Seine lights up and makes for some incredible views and romantic walks, it would be a real shame to miss it. The tiny back streets are full of bars and restaurants for you to kill time in while the sun goes down!
It’s fair to say that Paris is an incredibly photogenic city. Bad photos are hard to take here and the main enemy of the amateur photographer is the generic cliché. First time visitors are often overwhelmed by the beauty of the city and point and click at everything around them without taking time to think it through. Discover skewed angles, photograph people’s reactions to works of art as well as the art itself and, most importantly, enjoy yourself! Photography is a wonderful hobby that gives you incredible images to go with your memories when you get home.
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