Over the next three weeks, with each post I will give you a tip for taking the best Paris photos possible and ideas for my favorite locations for snapping those shots.
Pay attention to the time of day and the weather.
The best time of day for outdoor photos is usually shortly after sunrise and shortly before sunset, when the light is softer and shadows are less harsh. Sunsets can be spectacular in Paris and in particular if there are a few clouds in the sky. But you need not limit yourself to taking photos only at these times. If you have some flexibility, keep these suggestions in mind:
Sunrise—head for the more open expanses:
- Bridges (Pont des Arts between the 6th and the Louvre in the 1st, Pont Alexandre III between the Grand Palais in the 8th and Les Invalides in the 7th, Pont Neuf at the tip of Ile de la Cité)
- Gardens (Jardin de Luxembourg)
View from my living room window at sunrise
Daytime—focus on indoor photos and smaller details
- If it’s sunny, take some shots inside the various churches (Sainte-Chappelle or Notre Dame in the 1st) or the shopping arcades or galleries (Galerie Vivienne in the 2nd, Passage des Panoramas in the 9th, Passage du Grand Cerf in the 2nd), with the sun streaming in the windows.
- Especially in grayer weather, focus on the details: up-close shots of store windows when there will not be as much glare, up-close photos of flowers, architectural details, your favorite French foods
Passage des Panoramas & Up close at Pont Neuf
Sunset—again, head for your favorite bridge where you can capture as much sky as possible
From Pont des Arts just before sunset
- Another favorite spot of mine for evening photos is the Carré du Louvre. Grab a glass of Sancerre at Le Café Marly an hour or so before sunset and capture photos in the various stages of light: daylight, twilight, and nighttime with the courtyard lit up. If you can set your aperture, set it small (f/22 for example) to capture street lights that appear like stars. (This will also work with the sun, to show rays of light, if the sun is peeking through the trees or otherwise not too bright.)
- The rooftop café at Le Printemps in the 9th, Café Deli-cieux, offers an expansive view over the rooftops and of the back side of Opéra Garnier. Note, the café is only open until 7pm most evenings, but until 10pm on Thursday nights.
Notre Dame at sunset
Night—if you have a tripod, you can capture some magnificent photos of the buildings and monuments lit up at night or the traffic whizzing by.
- Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and a number of other monuments in the city are spectacular at night, especially with a tripod
The Eiffel Tower & Notre Dame
- If you have a tripod and you set your camera to a slower shutter speed, you can capture the action of the moving traffic. Of course the classic location for this is one of the small islands in the middle of the Champs-Elysées, looking at the Arc de Triomphe in the background. I also suggest the intersection of the Pont d’Arcole and the quai, with the Hôtel de Ville in the background.
Hôtel de Ville