Paris is one of the world’s most picturesque, romantic and photographed cities. It’s a city that really doesn’t disappoint the camera lens, and there are many landmarks for you to turn your attention to.
Paris photography is a lot of fun, and after reading this guide you’ll be ready to go!
1. The Eiffel Tower
The chance to see the Eiffel Tower is a big reason why many people make the trip to Paris. But when it comes to photographing it, there’s something you should know.
If you plan on using the photos commercially or posting them anywhere online, you can only photograph the Tower during the day. Night photography of the Eiffel Tower is protected by copyright.
But where is the best place to photograph the tower from? Let’s take a look, though bear in mind there are lots of viewpoints for the tower throughout the city.
- The base of the tower – You’ll need a wide angle lens to make the most of viewpoints here, and you’ll be aiming to get detailed photos of the structure.
- From the tower – You can ascend the tower, and take photos of the views it offers over the city.
- The Trocadero – This is one of the best locations for Eiffel Tower photography. Wake up early to capture the tower against the pavement slabs in the foreground. Or use the fountain as a leading line up to the tower.
- Champ de Mars – This is the park that leads up to the Eiffel tower. You can find it on the opposite side from the Trocadero. Keep in mind that the park is often very busy.
Photographing the Eiffel Tower at Night
The majority of photographers enjoy taking photos at night. But with the Eiffel Tower you can only do this at night. This is because the illuminations are considered a separate work of art and are still under copyright.
Copyright belongs to the artist throughout their lifetime and 70 years after that. The copyright on the tower itself has expired, but the lights were only installed in 1985.
Best time to visit – To avoid the crowds go for sunrise. Though under copyright, the tower is beautiful when illuminated during blue hour.
Location – The Eiffel Tower
2. Champs Elysee and Arc de Triomphe
Paris has some very nice shopping streets, with wide areas for pedestrians to walk along. They also go in nice straight lines leading up to landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe.
You can also take some street photos of the busy shopping area. But be careful not to include any people. Taking photos of people without their express permission is against the law in France.
The Arc de Triomphe itself is an amazingly beautiful structure to photograph. One of the better angles is from the top end of the Champs Elysee, near to a pedestrian crossing. You have to walk up a narrow traffic island, so it’s a little risky to be in this location.
Once there it’s an ideal place to take portrait photos of people in front of the Arc de Triomphe. Alternatively get yourself set up on a tripod, and go for a long exposure!
Don’t forget to enter the Arc de Triomphe and climb it for some nice views of its surroundings.
Best time to visit – Blue hour to photograph the Arc de Triomphe.
Location – The Arc de Triomphe
3. The Louvre
The famous Louvre Museum in Paris is well known throughout the world as an Art Gallery. The museum offers you the chance to take interior photos of the permanent exhibits, but prohibits the use of flash.
It’s good to have a set of museum or gallery photos in a travel photography set, so take this chance to practice photographing art.
Don’t forget to take the time to look at the artwork too. It’s a great source of inspiration.
Many photographers gravitate to the exterior of the building to take photos. The famous glass pyramid is an inspired choice of modern architecture juxtaposed against the more traditional facade of the Louvre.
Look to be here for blue hour, and with a tripod to get the best results from this location.
The best time to visit – Blue hour for the exterior. As early as possible for inside the museum.
Location – The Louvre
4. Notre-Dame de Paris
Standing on the Île de la Cité in central Paris is Notre Dame. This is another great place to stop and take photos of Paris.
It’s worth arriving early to beat the crowds, though that statement is true for most locations in Paris.
- The facade – The front of Notre Dame is a great subject. There’s an area of open space in front of it so there are a few different compositions you can attempt.
- From the tower – The top of the tower offers a nice view over the Seine, and you can compose elements of the Cathedral in the foreground of your photo with a landscape of Paris in the background. Arrive early to avoid the cues, and go straight up the tower.
- The interior – The interior of most religious buildings is photogenic, and the Notre-Dame is no exception. Look for detail photos of the stained glass windows, candle racks, and interesting architecture. Use a wide angle lens to capture a wide scene of the roof, or the central chapel area of the cathedral.
- The bank of the Seine – There are excellent viewpoints of the back end of the cathedral from the south side of the river, or the bridge crossing the river. Arrive either in the morning with the sun behind you, at sunset, or during the blue hour for the best photographic conditions.
Best time to visit – Early morning to ascend the tower, and to photograph the building from the south bank of the Seine.
Location – Notre Dame
5. La Defense
The business district of Paris has a lot of skyscrapers and glass for those wishing to capture a more modern side of the city. Once again you’ll need creative viewpoints, alternative angles and various photography techniques to make the most of this area.
There is one such vantage point near the Pont Du Neuilly metro station, with a large highway leading up to the business district.
A walk around La Defense itself is full of interesting angles to photograph, but why not try the Japan bridge? The arches and tunnel found on this pedestrian footbridge will lend a space age feel to your photos.
Best time to visit – Blue hour.
Location – La Defense
6. Basilique du Sacre-Coeur
A favourite for Paris photography is Sacre-Coeur. This grand building sits atop Montmartre, and offers some amazing views of the city.
The building itself with its white domes makes for an interesting photo subject. To get an even better view you can climb the stairs to the top of the basilica. It’s quite the climb as there are 300 steps.
At the top you’ll be greeted with a panoramic view of Paris. Use the arched windows to frame that landscape view.
Best time to visit – Get there ahead of the crowds, early in the morning.
Location – Sacre Coeur
7. Montmartre and Moulin Rouge
Montmartre is the hill that leads up to Sacre-Coeur, and is a great area to photograph all on its own. The cobblestone streets and attractive shops offer a nice ambience to enjoy, even if you’re not photographing.
These elements are great for street photography though. They offer an image of Paris romanticized by street photographers of previous generations.
It’s worth visiting here after dark. The street lights add even more mood to the area.
This is also where you can find the Moulin Rouge cabaret. It’s an excellent subject for photography especially in the evening. The famous windmill on the front of this building can be photographed with a long exposure, to give the image a more dynamic feel.
Street Photography in France
A lot of people think of those art noir films in France, and the amazing street photos they’ll take there. France is of course home to some of the world’s most famous photographers in this genre.
Having given street photography to the world though, France has now pulled up the drawbridge. You’ll need the permission of those you photograph, and for street photography this defeats the whole ethos of the genre.
Should you wish to read more on this subject, you may gain greater clarification over what you can do in Paris.
Best time to visit – During the day, or Blue hour.
Location – Montmartre and Moulin Rouge
8. Montparnasse Tower
The Montparnasse Tower is most likely not a building you’ll want to include in your Paris photography portfolio. But the view from the top of the building is.
You can arrive at any time of the day but sunset and the blue hour are the obvious highlights. Be aware it will get crowded in the best positions to photograph the sunset. Arrive early and be prepared to wait several hours to hold down an optimum position.
In terms of lenses, it’s worth having both a wide angle, and a telephoto lens. You’ll want to zoom in on areas like the Eiffel Tower, and Sacre Coeur. And with the wide angle you can capture the bigger scene, with lines made up by buildings and the artery of roads that run across the city.
Best time to visit – Around 2 hours before sunset to ensure you find a spot to photograph from. Sunset and blue hour for the photos.
Location – Montparnasse Tower
9. The Paris Subway
Your Paris photography won’t be complete without exploring the subway. You’ll find plenty of interesting station entrances made with wrought iron, and artwork throughout the stations themselves.
Should you wish to indulge in some personal street photography, there will be plenty of opportunities here. Passengers waiting for trains on their daily commute can add to the story withing your image. But keep in mind France’s strict laws on street photography.
Best time to visit – Daytime.
Location – Stations are throughout the city.
10. Aligre Market
Paris has plenty of locations where you can take market photos of vendors selling their products. Along the south bank of the river Seine, not far from the Notre-Dame, you can find one such location.
It’s worth visiting an actual market though, to get a slice of life with people buying fresh produce. The Aligre farmers’ market is one such market. It’s open in the morning every day except Sunday.
This is the type of location that does offer you the chance to take street photos, but be careful when photographing people. You’ll also be able to take lots of photos of the various items being sold at the market.
Best time to visit – From morning till midday.
Location – Aligre Market
Paris Photography Instagram Ideas
There are plenty of places around Paris to take your Instagram worthy self portraits, and other photos.
Here are a few ideas you might like to try out.
- Musee d’Orsay clock – This a great place to try some silhouette portraiture, to really give your Instagram feed something different.
- Jim Morrison’s Tomb – Those interested in pop culture should visit the tomb.
- The Sinking House – On the slopes of Montmartre as you climb towards Sacre Coueur, you’ll find a slope that gives rise to an optical illusion. Compose the photo so the house appears to sink into the ground.
After reading this article you should be well prepared for your Paris photography trip. Pack that wide angle lens, a decent prime lens and a telephoto to get the most out of your time in the French capital.
Keep in mind Paris offers other great photo opportunities than the ten listed here. You might want to check out Jardin du Luxembourg or make the trip out to Versailles. And don’t forget to indulge in some food photography while there too.
Have you ever photographed in Paris before? We’d love to hear about that experience, and see the photos you took in the comments section!
Looking for more inspiration? Check out our new post about travel photography blogs next!