Top Spots for Great Photos in Paris
You can capture great imagery in almost any neighbourhood of beautiful Paris. Here are our favourite locations to get images of iconic sites or just everyday life.
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.
The Village Atmosphere of Montmartre
You will find narrow cobbled streets, romantic stairs and a surprising village atmosphere. The area around Sacré Coeur basilica can be overcrowded, so plan to be there well before 10:00 am. Capture the artists on the main square, try to get lost in the small streets beyond the busy area, and walk up and down the hill to discover the carefree atmosphere of the old days.
Time Travel in the Covered Passages
Each covered passage has a different atmosphere, providing a glimpse of Paris in the 1850’s, where it was fashionable to stroll and be seen in good company. While many of the passages have disappeared, those that remain are much more quiet and away from the crowds, making them a good place for interesting photography. They are also perfect to explore on a rainy day since the glass roofs provide shelter while still allowing natural light through.
The Verdant Community of La Mouzaia
This area is perfect to photograph small bucolic streets, away from the crowds for a couple hours. Tucked on the East side of Paris, the neighbourhood is a bit of countryside with a succession of paved alleys, strings of houses and front yards bursting with rose bushes and other greenery. Photography in this area is best in Spring, Summer and early Fall when the vegetation is abundant. Explore around villas d’Alsace, Eugène Leblanc, Lilas, Lorraine and then follow your mood.
The Modern Architecture of La Defense
Situated on the west end of Paris, there is plenty of modern architecture in this business district. The area around the Grande Arche bursts with life when office workers rush to work in the morning or run to catch their metro back home at the end of the day. The whole area is reserved for pedestrians, making it easy and comfortable to explore while photographing the strong lines and shapes of the sleek architecture.
Along the Seine River
A walk along the Seine is always a good idea for many reasons. It is best early in the morning, when the sun is not too strong and the river banks are quiet, or late in the afternoon to get the golden light. Walk along the river from the Tuileries Garden up to the Hotel de Ville (Paris City Hall), or around the Ile st Louis to photograph life along the Seine: young lovers on a bench, a Parisian walking her dog, maybe a few fisherman trying their luck, or a group of friends enjoying a picnic.
The Luxurious Gardens of Paris
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. A stroll through the gardens of Paris is a sure way to get good images, especially in the Spring when the magnolia and cherry trees are in bloom along with other splashes of colours. From the famous Tuileries Garden, with its classic French garden design, to the Bois de Boulogne and its new Louis Vuitton Museum intriguing architecture, there is a wide range of photo opportunities to be explore.
The Majestic Bridges of Paris
The Seine river is spanned by many bridges, some of which are particularly good for photography. Our favourites include: the famous Pont des Arts, the Alexandre III bridge with its very ornate style and view of the Eiffel Tower, the Pont Neuf with its sculptured faces and views of the Ile de la Cité, the modern passerelle Simone de Beauvoir that looks like two waves beside each other, and the Bir Hakeim bridge with its unique architecture and great views.
Paris from the Top
Although it is very low-rise, the skyline of Paris presents many unique photo opportunities such as the well-known Parisian zinc roof tops and some of the famous landmarks. There are a few great places to get a high vantage point to photograph Paris from the top. Find out where to go and learn more: Galeries Lafayette and Printemps; Arc de Triomphe; the Tour de Montparnasse, and the Centre Pompidou.
Of course, we have not listed the classic sites of Paris here, such as the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame. These are also all great, and necessary, places to take photos. We have no doubt, though, that you are already aware of these sites and have already planned your visit to them.
Photography Galleries and Museums
Photography in Paris is not only about taking great images, but also experiencing the photos of others. Here are a few places to do just that.
La Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP)
Located in the Marais district, the MEP is dedicated to contemporary photography, presenting temporary exhibits and a large permanent photography library recognized around the world. It also offers a good variety of educational presentations related to photography and film.
5/7 rue de Fourcy - 75004 Paris (Métro: St Paul or Pont Marie)
Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 8 pm, except public holidays. Admission is free every Wednesday from 5 pm to 8 pm
Fondation Henri Cartier Bresson
Located in the Montparnasse area, the Foundation supports contemporary photography. The restored artists' atelier holds three temporary exhibitions each year, with a small gallery of Cartier Bresson's own work on the top floor.
2 impasse Lebouis, 75014 Paris (Métro: Gaité or Edgar Quinet)
Tuesday - Sunday: 13:00 - 6:30 pm, Saturday 11:00 - 6:45 pm, Wednesday until 8:30pm. Free Wednesday night from 6:30
Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF)
The BNF proposes a number of photo exhibits during the year at its main locations:
Site Richelieu (in the Marais district)
58 rue de Richelieu, 75002 Paris (Métro: Bourse or Palais Royal)
Tuesday - Saturday: 10:00 - 7:00 pm, Sunday: 12:00 - 7:00 pm. Closed on Monday
Site François Mitterrand (to the East, in the Bercy District)
Quai François-Mauriac, 75706 Paris (Métro: Quai de la gare)
Tuesday - Saturday: 10:00 - 7:00 pm, Sunday: 1:00 pm - 7:00 pm. Closed on Monday
Musée du Jeu de Paume
The Jeu de Paume proposes a rich calendar of photographic and other image exhibitions. Located in the Tuilerie Gardens (west of the Louvre), it makes a good visit after walking through the gardens, and a good starting point to see the lights on the Champs Elysées in the evening.
1, place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris (Métro: Concorde)
Tuesday: 12:00 - 9:00 pm, Wednesday - Friday: 12:00 - 7:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 - 7:00 pm. Closed on Monday
Photography Tips and Advice
Improve the chances of going home with great images of Paris through preparation and by having an idea of what you want to achieve.
Practical Advice for Taking Photos in Paris
Street photography: As in any other country, respect and common sense are key to photographing in the streets of Paris. You can easily get your camera out in most outdoor tourist locations (unless stated otherwise), while in museums or other attractions it is best to check for signs first. It is okay to photograph people in public places, as long as the images taken do not undermine dignity and/or the privacy of a person and do not violate any laws. Read more about the use of model releases.
Use of tripods: Using a tripod may not be very convenient in a busy city like Paris, especially in the daytime, mostly due to the large number of people in the streets. If you enjoy architecture photography, early mornings and late evenings are the best times to set your camera on the tripod. While you can easily bring a tripod on the top of Montparnasse tower to capture Paris from the top, other places like Palais Royal or Arc de Triomphe, will not allow one.
Weather: Paris is one of those cities in the world that look great in any weather, whether it's a hot summer day or a rainy autumn afternoon. Weather forecasts can not always be trusted and what promises to be a gloomy day may easily turn into a sunny one or vice versa. While it rains every so often in any season, pleasant and dry days still prevail, thus making an occasional thunderstorm or a snowfall a rare sight worth capturing against a traditional Parisian background. Get more tips on protecting your camera in the rain and avoiding your camera's worst enemies.
What to wear: Plan for an extra layer of clothes and good walking shoes If you intend to spend at least a couple of hours walking around the city with your camera, especially from October to March. During winter months, warm socks, a hat, a scarf and a pair of gloves coupled with a warm coat and a hood will make you more comfortable and will help to concentrate on photography rather than weather both day and night. In the summer, remember to bring your sunglasses and sunscreen!
Advice Articles from Our Blog
- Breaking Composition Rules for More Creativity in Your Photographs
- Do Photos Always Need to be Sharp?
- 6 More Composition Rules and Ideas for More Confidence (part II)
- 7 Composition Rules and Ideas for More Confidence in Photography (part I)
- 5 Tips for Better Travel Photos
- Creating a Star-Burst Effect by Day or by Night
- "Learn” Serendipity for Compelling Photos
- 8 Ways to Include People in Your Photos
- 7 Steps to Storytelling Through Photographs
- 5 Creative Photography Ideas for Rainy Days
- Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Great Panning Images
- 4 Tips for Finding Your Photography Muse in a New City
- Understanding the Histogram to Improve Exposure in Your Photos
- How to “Tame” the White Balance on Your Digital Camera
A Photographer's Guide to Paris (eBook)
Ten Ideas for Taking Great Photos in the City of Light, by Sophie Pasquet
This downloadable PDF ebook is packed with information and advice that will help you to arrive in Paris with a plan to create great images. Illustrated with compelling images, and accompanied by image data and practical instruction, the ten ideas presented in this ebook will inspire and assist you before, during and after your visit to Paris.
Somewhere in Paris | Quelque part à Paris
The City of Light in Black and White, by Sophie Pasquet
While Paris has many colourful neighbourhoods, its true beauty is revealed when seen in black and white. This 80-page photo book provides photographic inspiration to visitors looking to capture the classic elegance of Paris. Through black and white photographs taken in all corners of the city, the book uncovers the romance of its hidden corners, the iconic sites from a different perspective and the nuances of everyday life. Available in hardcover or softcover versions.
Camera Service and Supplies
Sometimes on the road you need emergency camera service, sensors cleaned or to purchase a fully-charged battery. Here are some useful addresses in Paris.
Offers: equipment & accessories sales
Le Cirque Photo Video
Offers: equipment & accessories sales
Offers: equipment & accessories sales
1/7, rue Pierre Lescot, 75001 Paris (map)
Offers: maintenance & repair (esp. Canon)
1001 Piles Batteries
Offers: fully-charged batteries
Tuesday to Friday: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am to 1:00 pm / 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Atelier Images Services
Offers: camera cleaning