Paris, France Photo Spots & Tips

Paris, France is the “City of Lights,” but it might as well be the city of classic beauty. Photographing Paris is a delight for photographers, as the city has so much variety and incredible architecture, among other things, that it’s almost difficult to capture a bad photo. If you’re considering a trip to Paris, this article will help you figure out where you should go to capture some great photos. If you’re not planning a trip to Paris, well…consider it an interesting gallery and inspiration for a future trip, maybe?

The purpose of this article is to give a list a handful of photography spots that I liked in Paris, France and to list some resources that I found helpful when “scouting” my shots in Paris. In no way should this be construed as a comprehensive list–quite the contrary as I highly recommend that you consult other resources when planning as there is simply too much ground to cover for one person to create a comprehensive list. Instead, I’m writing this article because it seems like information on Paris photo spots is all over the place, with no single resource that provides its own suggestions plus a list of where it found its inspiration. (Photographers and bloggers are both isolationists, and both seem so hesitant to credit/link to others who assisted them for some odd reason.)

My photo spots are below, but here are a few resources that will help. The best resource I found in planning was A.G. Photographe’s photostream on Flickr. Clearly a Parisian, the breadth and quality of this guy’s work is actually a bit intimidating. Just remember, he lives there…so he has an unfair advantage (at least that’s what I told myself! ;)). Along those same lines, Ramelli Serge has a great list of his favorite photo spots in Paris on 500px. Trey Ratcliff has a lot of photos from Paris–I found the shots of the details he captured inspiring in tone, even if I didn’t find those same locations (I also like his “Stuck on Earth” crowd-sourcing app, but it’s a bit bulky). This one has some locations (most of which are repeats from the previous links), but also offers some general advice for shooting in Paris along with a day plan. Finally, the best thing you can do is checking out a Paris coffee table book from your local library (or buying one if you have the funds). I checked out several coffee table books, such as this one, and their beauty was really inspiring. I can’t say that I sought out any of the locations in these books, but sometimes great inspiration is the best thing for photography.

Most of the above are just “raw” photo spots info. To fill in the gaps (and figure out what you might actually do at these places), we recommend a couple of guidebooks. Our go-to book was Rick Steves’ Paris, and if you only purchase one book, this one should be it. This man knows his stuff. We also liked National Geographic’s Walking Paris. We borrowed about a dozen other books from the library (from Lonely Planet to Frommer’s), but these were our two favorites. Most of the time we just wandered around and saw what we saw, anyway. 

After seeing the beautiful work of the photographers above, my list seems fairly meager by comparison. Just remember, I’ve spent less than a week in Paris, so “score” my work at a handicap…or something. These are in no particular order. The locations are described with enough particularity to find them on Google (and really, these are all pretty common spots). You wouldn’t want me to navigate you anyway.

Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge in Paris, France as traffic streaks past. Read more about this: http://www.travelcaffeine.com/moulin-rouge-spinning-windmill-long-exposure/

Once you get past the spinning windmill, the facade of the Moulin Rouge isn’t all that pretty. Still, it’s iconic, and if you get creative, there are a number of other things to photograph in Quartier Pigalle, which is known as Paris’ tourist district. Granted, some of these things are on the salacious side (sex shops, adult movie theaters, etc.), but it’s a departure from the normal “romantic” side of Paris. Although I suppose maybe it is romantic…in a different sort of way!

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Resort ParisDisneyland ParisSleeping Beauty CastleDisneyland Paris' Sleeping Beauty Castle is the fairest of them all. With the exception of the Enchanted Storybook Castle in Shanghai that is presently being built, I've now seen every version of Disney's castles (Tokyo and Hong Kong feature substantial clones of the castles in Walt Disney World and Disneyland, respectively), so I feel fairly confident making this assessment. Read more: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disneyland-paris-sleeping-beauty-castle-beautiful/

With as big of a Disney fan as I am, it should be no surprise to see this on the list. Disneyland Paris was designed to be a picturesque location, and while some may scoff at this engineered beauty, it’s not the only location on this list that could be described as “engineered beauty.” This pick bucks the trend of this list in two ways: 1) despite its name, it’s the only location on this list that’s not in Paris, and 2) even though I’ve spent only a little time there, I think I know a fair amount about photographing Disneyland Paris. While every location on this list can be photographed in multiple ways, Disneyland Paris differs in that it’s multiple locations, each of which can be photographed in multiple ways. The most iconic photo to take at Disneyland Paris is of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant, but if you want other ideas, check out my Disneyland Paris photo gallery, which contains hundreds of Disneyland Paris photos, most of which are beyond just simple castle shots.

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France during its hourly light show. Read more: http://www.travelcaffeine.com/eiffel-tower-paris-light-show-photo/

This is a pretty obvious one. However, one thing worth noting here is that the Eiffel Tower is pretty tall and dominates the Parisian skyline (save for the controversial Tour Montparnasse), meaning that interesting photos of the Eiffel Tower can be captured a good distance away. Also, there are adjacent parks and streets, meaning that you can take nice photos of it without standing directly under or by the Eiffel Tower itself. This is a good thing, as pesky panhandlers and purveyors of useless trinkets will mob you as you try to photograph the Eiffel Tower directly under it.

The Louvre

The Louvre is well known for the beautiful art on the inside of its galleries (that would supposedly take months to fully explore), but it’s also quite beautiful on the outside, especially late at night when it’s not crowded with tourists. There’s this main glass pyramid, plus a couple smaller ones and some pretty reflecting pools. Add to that a nice variety of architecture ranging from Gothic to Renaissance, and it’s a nice photography subject in the evening or early morning hours.

Arc de Triomphe

There are plenty of safe locations from which to photograph the Arc de Triomphe, including the outer circle across from the Arc and the inner circle, but my favorite spot was from a good distance, in the middle of the Champs Elysees, with streaks of traffic blurring past. Probably not the safest location, but I think it makes for a more compelling photo.

Cafes & Shops

While not an actual location, per se, I thought it important to deviate from the norm here. Paris is a beautiful city, but a big part of what makes it so beautiful is the people. I found the best way to capture the atmosphere of the city was to photograph its many busy streets and restaurants, both of which seem to be alive at all hours of the day. One of my favorite locations was here, near the apartment we rented, on Victor Hugo Place. There were a number of cafes, plus cars zipping by, and a fountain, all of which created a pretty scene, I thought.

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral is a beautiful building, both outside and inside. The best time of day to photograph it is during the day (this photo was taken at night) when the light shines through the stained glass, but it can be quite crowded during the day. Note that tripods aren’t allowed and the inside of the cathedral is very dark. I’ve heard of some photographers breaking the no-tripod rule without any real negative consequences, and I don’t begrudge them for it (you’ll likely get away with it if you’re quick), but I couldn’t bring myself to do that in someone else’s place of worship. Whether you use a tripod is up to you–with advances in low light technology (this photo was shot at only ISO 320 thanks to a 1/15 shutter speed and f/2.8 aperture), it’s not a matter of strict necessity.

Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette is an upscale mall in Paris, France that goes all out for Christmas, with this giant Swarovski Christmas tree suspended in mid-air in the center of the mall. The design of the tree changes yearly, with it looking like this in 2012. As Galeries Lafayette Haussmann celebrated its 100th year in 2012, it seems they went all out with the tree. It was dubbed “The Christmas Century Tree” and stood at 21-meters tall with a Swarovski crystal chandelier hanging below the tree, 120 Swarovski ornaments, and over 5,000 Swarovski stars on it. The Christmas tree was the largest Swarovski object ever produced in Europe.Read more about this tree, and Christmas in Paris: http://www.travelcaffeine.com/christmas-paris-france/

Galeries Lafayette is an upscale mall in Paris, France. It goes all out for Christmas (see the giant Swarovski Christmas tree suspended in mid-air in the center of the mall?) but it’s lavish and has interesting architecture year-round. In fact, the whole 9th arrondissement in Paris has some interesting architecture (the Paris Opera is also there) aside from the normal locales you’ll probably visit as a tourist.

Although this just scratches the surface of what you can photograph in Paris, there you have some of my favorite spots–again, this is a very incomplete list based on my first visit to Paris. I’ve since been back to France twice (you can see other spots visited in my France category of posts) and will try to do a follow-up to this photo spots post in the near future.

For the photos in this post, I primarily used my a Nikon D600Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens, and the Nikon 24-105mm f/4 lens plus a tripod. I carried other gear (and don’t regret doing so), but I like to overpack. At some points, it was a little awkward having my camera bag. Some cafes are quite small, which meant that I had to basically rest my camera bag on top of my feet throughout the meal. To get some more Paris, France photo ideas, check out my Paris photo gallery.

Your Thoughts…

Where are your favorite places for photography in Paris? Which of these would you most like to photograph? Any questions? Share any thoughts you have in the comments!

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13 replies
  1. Morgan F
    Morgan F says:

    Such beautiful pictures! Thanks for this post. I was wondering where you would recommend staying while in Paris? We are planning our first trip and have gotten kind of stuck on where the best location would be. I would love your input, your blogs are the first I go to when planning a trip 🙂

    Reply
  2. Diana Harris
    Diana Harris says:

    Your pictures are incredible and I’ve spent way too long looking at them! Thanks for capturing the beauty that I cannot.

    Reply
  3. Justin H.
    Justin H. says:

    Hello! I am researching my first trip to Paris and am an avid photographer, so, naturally, this page came up in my google queries. I find it interesting, and thought I should point out, that 3 of your pictures that you use as examples are under copyright protection. You can take the pictures and use them for editorial use (like this) or personal use but if you sell them you could be sued for copyright. You should make a note of this in this post. First, the Eiffel Tower is fine to shoot in itself but the light display at night on the tower itself is copyrighted. If the Eiffel Tower at night is the main subject of the shot it can not be used for commercial use without permission. Second, The Louvre and I.M. Peis pyramid, these are also copyrighted and photos of them can’t be sold. Finally the interior of Notre Dame is protected under copyright. I’m not a fuddy duddy or trying to rain on anyones parade but I do sell some prints from time to time and it can be a good thing to be legal about it.

    Reply
  4. Carlos Jr.
    Carlos Jr. says:

    Tom, thanks for sharing all this info. I hope you can imagine how useful it is. I´m from Brazil and your tips are helping me a lot.
    Small question: was this gear enough and good enough for you to follow one of your best advice: “getting in the photos”?

    Reply
  5. Kayla
    Kayla says:

    I had to come back to admire the cafe photo. The mood is perfect, the fallen leaves, everything make me want to hop on a plane. Then I look closer and see all the directions the cars are facing and it reminds me that crossing traffic circles in Paris was one of the scariest things I’ve done in my life.

    Reply
  6. Samantha Decker
    Samantha Decker says:

    Beautiful photos and great tips. The Arc de Triomphe one is very nice! Whenever I’ve been in Paris, I’ve never had more than a GorillaPod with me. Next time I’ll have to bring a real tripod. I agree that A.G. Photographe is a great source of inspiration. A couple of places I like to take photos as well are anywhere by the banks of the Seine and in Montmartre. There’s so much to photograph in Montmartre!

    Reply
  7. Tyler Bliss
    Tyler Bliss says:

    I love the first shot of the Eiffel Tower with the deep purple sky! I would love to know what makes the sky seem purple or orange or blue in night photos. I know time of day/night probably has something to do with it, but it seems more random than anything. I also understand there is a certain amount of “helping the natural colors along” in post processing.

    Serge Ramelli also has some wonderful tutorial videos on YouTube. I learned most of my Lightroom skills from his web series. He is pretty entertaining!

    Reply
    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      In some cases, that’s a result of the camera sensor picking up color in a long exposure that the human eyes can’t see.

      …that’s not the case at all here. This is a result of adjusting the white balance because of the weird lights used below the Eiffel Tower that left a horrendous color-cast on the ground and elsewhere. Once I adjusted that to neutral, the sky became this odd purple color. It wasn’t anywhere remotely near that in actuality, and my other photos from this night don’t look like that at all.

      Reply

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