How to Photograph Paris

January 21, 2021   18 Comments »

I’ve been to Paris multiple times, and each time I find new inspiration. It’s one of my favorite cities to photograph, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve developed a few tricks on how to photograph Paris so that I can bring home unique photos of the most photographed Paris sites.

Before I share my tips, first you have to figure out what and where you want to photograph in Paris.

Best Photo Spots in Paris

The easy answer here is just walk down any street and you’ll find some great photo spots. But if you want to hit some of the popular sites as well as find some unique spots, here are some of my favorite I have found in my various trips to Paris.

Pere LaChais Cemetery

paris cemetery photography

Visiting a foreign cemetery may seem strange, but Pere LaChais Cemetery is more like a park; gorgeous landscaping, rolling hills, interesting tombstones, and famous people were put to rest there. Plus, I find cemeteries intriguing, they are one of my favorite things to photograph. I think a cemetery can tell you about a culture and history of an area. For this reason I often seek out cemeteries to visit as I travel – I call it cemetery travel! Regardless, Pere LaChais is truly beautiful to photograph.

View all Pere LaChaise Cemetery photography

Sacre Coeur

sacre cour photography tips

It’s quite a climb if you choose to go up the steps, but it’s worth it. This is a beautiful church to photograph at all angels. Make sure you try different perspectives and keep in mind the rules of composition such as the rule of thirds that take your vacation pictures to the next level!

Montmartre Neighborhood

This artistic neighborhood is full of color and a gem to photograph. This is a great stop to make after you photograph Sacre Coeur, just wander the streets. Make sure you capture the details of the neighborhood

The Louvre

In all of the times I’ve been to Paris, I’ve never set foot inside the Louvre Museum! I always get stopped by all of the great photos there are to take outside around the gardens. Take a seat in the park by one of the large fountain pools and soak up Paris – it’s a great place to find unique shots.

paris photography

I.M. Pei’s controversial pyramid at the Louvre entrance will test your photography skills. It’s a super place to look for reflections, leading lines, and unique perspectives. It’s also a great place for night photography and a tripod.

Notre Dame

A popular spot to photograph in Paris , but my favorite time to go there is at night, when you can capture it in a different light and without the crowds. After the heart breaking fire and the loss of the spire, it is being rebuilt. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed restoration work. You aren’t allowed to go inside currently, but you can still photograph the grounds.

Metro

Not only is it fun to photograph the old Art Noveau Metropolitan signs all over the city, it’s also fun to photograph the metro stations. The architecture in the station is always great to capture.

Tip – If you are going to take images of people though, be sure to ask their permission.

Paris Chocolate Shops

Take a walk through the small Paris neighborhood of Saint Germain des Pres to photograph something really unique…and tasty…chocolate! This neighborhood is home to a number of famous chocolatiers. Stop in and photography some of the best Paris chocolate shops and their creations. The best part of this photo assignment is you can taste chocolate along the way!

Tip – make sure you ask permission to take photographs in the stores.

If you want to learn more about the chocolatiers, check out this Paris chocolate tour that will take you inside the best chocolate houses!

Pompidou Centre

I may have never been in the Louvre, but I do go inside the Pompidou Center. I love contemporary art, and there’s so much to photograph here. Plus, they say the best view of Paris is from the Pompidou Centre!

Arc de Triomphe

A beautiful building to photograph if you can get to it; it’s surrounded by lanes of busy traffic! To safely reach the monument you can follow the underground passageway on the Champs-Elysées that comes up at the base of the Arc de Triomphe.

Collage of Paris landmarks

3 Tips on How to Photograph Paris

1. Get up Early

If you want to catch Paris at it’s best, get up early – really early. I was up before the sun to get to sunrise at Sacre Coeur and it was so worth it. There were no people, and the light was incredible. After the sunrise and photos of the city from high up at Sacre Coeur, I walked through Montmartre neighborhood before anyone was awake. I was able to see the cafes open up, artists set up their canvas, and the residents wake up. It was a wonderful time to catch the character of this neighborhood – or any neighborhood in Paris!

paris morning photography

2. Play Metro Roulette

One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to play metro roulette. This is when I ride a metro line for a ways, get off randomly and then walke through neighborhoods on the outskirts of Paris. It’s a way to find unique parts of Paris that aren’t as frequently photographed.

3. Bring a Wide Angle Lens

It’s no secret that I love my wide angel lens. It’s an important lens to have in your arsenal when photographing Paris because a wide angel lens is super for capturing city streets and architecture. Very few cameras can get a complete shot of the iconic buildings of Paris while standing on a street corner – that’s where the wide angle comes in.

Louvre paris wide angle

Learn how to photograph other iconic places like the Taj Mahal


Best Eiffel Tower Picture Ideas

You might notice that I didn’t mention the Eiffel Tower above in the best photo spots in Paris. Instead I decided to write about this iconic photography spot separately.

Pay Attention to Leading Lines

paris eiffel tower photography tips

Capture it in Different Weather

Eiffel tower photography

Capture it at Night

eiffel tower at night

Put Something in the Foreground

eiffel tower photography

Focus on Things People Don’t Notice

One of my favorite days photographing Paris was when I decided to not focus on the tower, and instead focus on the people around me. Sometimes I like to focus on the things that go unnoticed or photographed – the ugly side of something beautiful. I was fascinated by the culture around the tower rather than the tower itself. Photography is about telling stories and as I looked around at all of the people and the men illegally selling the little tower trinkets, I realized that there was a story there.

In this Eiffel Tower photo documentary I was able to capture the life of the illegal street vendors around the tower selling miniature versions of the iconic building. I was able to capture a different side of the Eiffel Tower – one people normally don’t photograph!

Will the Real Eiffel Tower Please Stand Up Photo Documentary
eiffel tower photography

Everyone around me was taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower, but I was distracted by the thousands of other Eiffel Towers and the touts carrying them. From the first moment I went to the Eiffel Tower, I seemed to be more fascinated by the culture around the tower rather than the tower itself.

There are illegal street vendors everywhere peddling their touristy trinkets; it’s a fact of travel. I’ve learned to ignore them and brush them off, but this time I decided to really try to look deeper at the tout culture through photography.

eiffel tower street vendors

Men of all ages (never women) were carrying mini Eiffel Towers around the grounds flashing the shiny objects appealing to the children while enticing with their volume discounts. Much to the parent’s dismay, shiny objects seem to capture the interest of children and therefore the question “Can I have one????” was overheard many times as I walked around the park near the Eiffel Tower.

street vendor paris

There were different selling techniques, some brought out a square clothe and placed it on the ground like a table clothe and set up the shiny mini towers in an orderly fashion from big to small, and from silver to gold. Some simply had all of the mini towers on a big metal ‘ring’ and would dangle them around and gain attention by the sound of clinking cheap metal floating through the air. Some simply stood in one place and called out their volume price discounts. And some went directly up to people like door-to-door salesmen selling Encyclopedias.

I watched as kids walked away with their shiny new objects satiated for a few moments before wanting something else. I saw the mini towers break and kids cry not understanding that 1 Euro meant no guarantees and certainly no returns or exchanges.

paris street vendor

Finally, I watched as the mini tower vendors scatter in all different directions like a herd of elk being chased by a lion when the police descended upon the Trocadero.

Eiffel Tower with roses

Things You Can’t Photograph in Paris

I found out that one of the things you definitely can’t photograph in Paris – cabaret shows! I wanted to experience that classic Paris cabaret culture and went to the Paradis latin Cabaret Show. It was flashy, colorful, and fun – something I would normally like to photograph. But sadly, all photography at this Paris cabaret was off limits!

Camera Gear for Photographing Paris

Carrying less travel photography gear has made me a better photographer. It makes me pay more attention to composition and working with the light I have, rather than all of the other bells and whistles. I carry a Sony mirrorless camera because it’s a little lighter if I’m going to be out photographing Paris all day.

You can see my normal photography gear and lenses I carry when I travel. And if you are going to be out walking around all day, a good camera bag is necessary. These are my favorite camera bags for travel.

Where to Stay in Paris

I love staying in holiday apartments when I’m in Paris. I found one that I love which is in a perfect location to get to many of the popular photography spots in Paris. This Paris holiday apartment is nestled in the heart of Paris near the Seine, Pompidou, Notre Dame, Louvre, cafes, shops, bars, and metro stops. You can learn more about this cute Paris studio apartment here.



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