SHOOTING PARIS LIKE A PARISIAN PHOTOGRAPHER
First I want to thank Scott Kelby for having me as a guest blogger.
Scott has been so important in my life as a photographer. I have learned all my photography basics with the use of Scott’s books back in 2005. His books were the easiest and funniest to understand.
We later on became friends and he has helped me a lot to grow as a teacher and a photographer through the years. He has such a big heart, you don’t feel small around him; this is a quality that is very rare nowadays.
I got the idea of making this article because most of the emails I receive daily are people asking for advises on where to shoot in Paris. Paris is a big city and there are tons of photo opportunities. It is one of the most visited places on earth with around 27 millions visitors per year.
I have been taking photos of Paris for 10 years now and wanted to give you some locations where you can look at Paris from a Parisian’s viewpoint, places you might not come across if you are just on a regular tourist visit and I also wanted to advise on a couple of cool restaurants in Paris!
Warning: This list is very incomplete; I’m in the process of making a photo book of 160 photos on Paris with Teneus Publishing http://www.teneues.com/
These are just a few places I really want to share with you.
The Eiffel Tower (map link)
If you come to Paris and you don’t take a photo of the Eiffel Tower, no one is going to believe you went to Paris ☺
The most classic shots of the Eiffel tower are taken from the Champs de Mars, the Eiffel Tower itself and the Place Trocadéro, you will find thousands of tourists there taking similar shots!
The frame in the frame of the Eiffel Tower (map link)
There is a small street located in the 16th arrondissement where you have a very original view of the tower. The Eiffel Tower is framed by very nice Haussmannian buildings, (Haussmann is an amazing architect that reshaped Paris from 1853 to 1870 and built thousands of buildings).
The Bir-Hakeim Bridge (map link)
The same Architect that built the Eiffel Tower, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, built the Bir-Hakeim Bridge. This bridge gives you a very unique viewpoint of the tower; this is probably the best place to make nice compositions.
The Eiffel Tower Itself (map link)
I remember being with Scott Kelby right at the base of the Eiffel Tower and we were wondering how we could get an original photo that no one had shot. I got the idea of shooting very wide, with 3 photos to make a panorama. The structure itself is so amazing that I’m sure you will come up with original views.
The view from the Alexandre III Bridge (map link)
This bridge is for me the nicest in Paris and has amazing city lights, sculptures and a structure. You can get some really cool compositions with all these elements:
The three bridges in Paris you must shoot
Paris has many bridges, but for me the nicest and most interesting ones to shoot are:
The Alexandre III Bridge (map link)
I mentioned earlier you have a great view over the Eiffel Tower from here but you also have two more views that are amazing.
The first is the composition of the bridge itself with the Grand Palais behind it:
The second is a similar composition but from across the bridge with Les Invalides behind:
The Pont Neuf (map link)
This one is very close to the Pont des Arts. I think this spot is one of the most fruitful locations you can find to see the beauty of Paris.
Square du Vert-Galant of the Pont Neuf (map link)
This area is not very known, a couple of weeks ago I brought some friends that have been in Paris for years and they did not know about this place. It is where you go down close to the Seine if you want to visit Paris by boat, but it will give you a unique view on the Louvre and the Pont des arts. Here is a wide and close shot I got one night when there was an amazing sunset:
Same view with a different sky:
Le Pont Neuf shot from la Samaritaine, will give you a great composition of the bridge itself leading to the Ile de la Cité and it’s old buildings.
A black and white version of the same photo during gray weather. When the natural lighting is not great I like to make my photo in black and white.
Pont des Arts (map link)
If you go on the Pont des Arts itself and look at the Pont Neuf, you get this amazing view:
Le Louvre (map link)
The Louvre is hard to shoot as there are lots of tourists. However if you go there during the week (except Wednesday) and you go behind the pyramid, you can get this shot.
Tip: go there right before the city lights go on (sunset) on a clear day and shoot 35 mm and make panoramas, you should get something like this:
Some high vantage points
There is nothing like seeing the City of Lights from a high vantage point, here are the 4 best places for me:
The roof of the Tour Montparnasse (map link)
It cost around 10 Euros to go to the top, but it’s worth it and it’s the only place where tripods are allowed, I recommend shooting from 35 to 150 mm, wider you will have trouble with the windows that have been installed:
The rooftop of the Arc de Triomphe (map link)
There are lots of stairs to go up so you need to be in good shape and unfortunately tripods are not allowed.
Tip: if you take a half emptied bag of rice you can use it as a ‘tripod’ by positioning the bag of rice on the edge of the monument (after the barrier) to take a beautiful night shot which is great as the Arc de Triomphe is open late!
View of the Eiffel Tower:
View of La Defense:
The roof of Notre Dame (map link)
This is another sporty location, lots of stairs and no tripods allowed. It is very narrow up there and tourists move fast.
Tip: you should shoot between 60 to 100 mm to get parts of the city, especially try to get the view of the 7 bridges, (this is the only spot in Paris where you can see the 7 bridges), I call it the Ratatouille photo:
The view from behind is cool as well:
The Terrace of l’Institue du Monde Arabe (map link)
This is probably the most confidential of all four, but you will get a breath taking view over Notre Dame:
Tip: Credits go to Scott Kelby. At the opposite side of this view you will see there are very tiny round windows, there you have the sun that sets and if you go down on your knees you can get this one:
Montmartre (map link)
Montmartre is one of the oldest parts of Paris and is an endless source of photography ideas. It is also full of tourists, however here are some spots that are away from the tourist trail where you can take beautiful photos.
The Dalida Plaza (map link)
This place is almost always empty and has an amazing path going up to the Sacré Coeur.
Le Lapin Agile (map link)
A very old and cute restaurant that looks like it comes out of a Disney movie. There is a good chance that you can get this shot as it is outside of the tourist zone.
Tip: try shooting it like a panorama at 35 mm by taking it in 4 photos. There are rarely any cars there because they are not allowed in that street!
Behind the Sacré Coeur (map link)
What amazes me is the amount of people you will find at the front of the Sacré Coeur and how little there are behind the Sacré Coeur. It is really nice mainly after sunsets.
The Montmartre stairs (map link)
There is lots of stairs in Montmartre, but these ones are the only ones that are oriented towards the west so you can be in luck if there is a nice sunset!
Some More “Confidential” Locations
The old Odéon buildings (map link)
Hidden close to the Place de l’Odéon you have this amazing building, with no one around. You can just put your camera down and start shooting a musketeers type movie photos as nothing has changed in years.
The Saint Martin Canal (map link)
I worked in front of these stairs for many years and I love how they are arranged, it feels like the countryside in the middle of Paris:
The Sénat at the Luxembourg Gardens (map link)
In the middle of the most beautiful Paris garden you will find the Senate, a great building, most of the time the sun sets right behind it, but you have to be fast as they close at sunset, tripods are allowed.
It was really hard for me to not cover so many places, but these are my favorites that I wanted to share with you. I’m sure that everybody that has been to Paris has his or her favorite spots. These are mine; feel free to share yours in the comments!
Most of the restaurants in Paris are really good, even the tourist restaurants. These are really some of my favorite ones I’ve come to know over the years:
The best 25 Euros menu I ever had.
This is the restaurant of South West cuisine, foie gras, duck and snails. Very French food, away from the tourists.
I have personally never been but my brother keeps saying it is the best restaurant in Paris and he loves good food.
This restaurant was famous for being booked weeks in advance and they changed the system, first in first served.
Le Relais Saint-Germain
Tip: be there around 11:30 to have lunch.
Very nice Japanese restaurant, you have to try the brochette boeuf/fromage (beef with cheese).
This is a very cute old French restaurant.
This is a great Argentinian restaurant, the meat is simply amazing.
A good place for cheese, saucisson and wine.
Le Bistrot des Dames
From outside this place doesn’t look like there is a secret, calm and beautiful garden you can dine in. The food is amazing. Come early for lunch or dinner, as it’s often full. The garden is open during nice weather.
Le Relais de l’entrecôte
This place has amazing steak and their secret sauce recipe has great reputation.
You can see more of Serge’s work at PhotoSerge.com, and follow him on YouTube, Facebook, and 500px.