Photography in Paris: When and Where
Paris is a dream city for any photographer. And is there any photographer out there who hasn’t fallen in love with the iconic works of Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson or Brassai?
Whether you’re a pro or have just picked up a camera for the first time, there’s something about the city that just makes you want to capture its beauty with photography.
As a writer and photographer here, photography in Paris is one of the subjects I get asked about the most. Where can I take the best photos? How can take a unique Paris shot? When is the best time to go take photos? And how can I beat the crowds?
These are all common questions I get almost daily, so I decided to put together a little guide for you. I included the answers to some F.A.Q.’s and also some tips for how to improve your Paris photography.
Photography in Paris: Where?
People often ask me where to go to get the ‘most iconic’ or classic shots of Paris. My answer is that it all depends on what you’re looking for. I’ve listed the most common requests and locations below, and the best places to photograph them.
The Eiffel Tower
Now the Eiffel tower is by far the most popular subject of photography in Paris, and I wonder why? It’s only France’s most famous monument!
If you want a classic Eiffel tower straight on shot, you’ll want to head to Trocadéro. This is a huge, ornate pavilion facing the Eiffel tower. It gets extremely busy, so you’ll have a lot of competition for a place.
If you cross the river to the Champs de Mars, there are plenty of Eiffel Tower photo ops as well.
A more unique angle of the tower is from the Bir-Hakeim bridge. You’ll have an unobstructed view of the Iron Lady, and some of the Seine river.
A more secret spot that most people don’t know about is Avenue de Camoens. This street is located in the 16th arrondissement not far from Palais de Tokyo, and it boasts an incredible view of the Eiffel tower. I like this place because the view is more unique, and it’s not crowded at all! So you won’t have to wait in line to take your photo.
Finally, head to the Avenue de la Tour-Maubourg and Rue Saint-Dominique. This spot is ideal if you want to feature some classic Parisian architecture and a cute café in your Eiffel tower shot.
Bonus: if you want the absolute best view of the Eiffel Tower, you’ll have to visit the top of the Tour Montparnasse! This tower provides an incredible view of Paris, and one featuring the Eiffel Tower! Especially dreamy at sunset, or golden hour.
This picturesque district is a must-visit if you’re planning on taking photos in Paris. Besides being is home to the Sacre-Coeur and the Moulin Rouge, Montmartre also has an exceptional panoramic view over Paris. Today, this part of the city is known for its artsy history, quaint streets and of course, the live street painters who remain emblems of Parisian Bohemia.
The Sacre-Coeur is the main attraction in this area, and the park and steps in front of the cathedral provide a great panoramic view over Paris. To get to this spot, just head to Square Louise-Michel, the entrance is right next to the Funiculaire. Since Montmartre is on top of a hill, you can spot monuments like Notre-Dame, the Pantheon, and of course, the Eiffel tower. This area is usually extremely busy, so keep a watchful eye over your gear and belongings!
Now head down the hill to metro station Lamarck Caulaincourt. Here you have one of the most iconic views of Paris. A narrow winding street in the background, typical Parisian buildings and of course the famous stairs of Montmartre can all be photographed here.
You’re not far from the Montmartre Cemetary! Which I understand isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of photography in Paris, but it’s a great spot. The cemetery actually has some pretty great views of the city and it’s the ancient tombs can provide a unique aspect to your photos. You can visit the tomb of Dalida, one of the area’s most famous singers.
When in Montmartre, you can’t forget the Place du Têrtre, or the artist’s square. While definitely touristy, it’s still incredible to see all the artists creating their masterpieces right in front of you. And it makes for interesting photos!
My final recommendation for photo spots in Montmartre is actually an entire street! Follow the narrow Rue Lépic as it winds its way through the neighborhood. You’ll pass by charming streets after charming street. Continue onto Rue des Saules, and you’ll find a picturesque street lined with ancient houses. At the end you have the famous Maison Rose tea house, everyone seems to want a photo of it!
I’m sure you know by now that the stunning Louvre museum houses the Mona Lisa, and Venus de Milo. But did you know it’s also one of the most photographed places in Paris? And from the outside!
The glass pyramid in the Louvre courtyard has fascinated photographers since its installment. The way the light from the pyramid plays off the buildings and the ground is just magnificent. If you want to try your hand at capturing this beauty, position yourself in the inner courtyard, next to the fountains to have the best shot.
If you want a more unique photo, head to either of the corridors running alongside the Louvre pavilion. The arches provide an eclipsed and artistic view of the museum.
And while this last spot may be a little unexpected, it really does have one of the best views of the Louvre. Le Café Marly is a nice restaurant overlooking the Louvre. I love to come here for a shoot in the mornings. A little coffee and this view, it’s the perfect way to get your creative juices flowing. Request a table outside by the railing for the best shots on the Pyramid and museum.
If you have a little more time, head a few blocks from the Louvre to the Palais Royal Gardens. The famous black and white colonnes de Buren are the most photographed spot in this park. But there’s so much more to see!
If you wander a little further into the park, you’ll find a beautiful garden with gorgeous flowers and statues. There’s a huge fountain in the center, which makes for an artistic focal point. Don’t forget to look up, the tall trees lining the garden walkways showcase stunning foliage in the Autumn.
The galleries on either side of the Palais Royal Garden also make for a nice photo op. Their ancient lamps and the sun’s reflection on tall stone archways always seems to provide perfect lighting.
It’s hard to resist the charm of looking out over Paris, and even harder to resist taking a photo! There’s something especially charming about Parisian rooftops, with the old chimneys and jagged lines blending into the horizon. Here are a few places to get some awesome rooftop shots!
You’ve probably heard of the Galleries Lafayette, one of Paris’ most famous department stores. But I bet you didn’t know that there’s a rooftop terrace there, which has an insane view of the city, and of course, Paris rooftops. The best part is: completely free to access!
Want a little more glitz and glamour in your rooftop photos? Head just next door to Printemps, another department store. They also have a rooftop terrace that’s free to access. This is the spot to capture a view of Parisian rooftops with those beautiful gilded spires from the Printemps too.
In case you needed a third option, the Centre Pompidou also has a great vista on the Marais and lots of Parisian rooftops. The museum down below is well-worth a visit as well, but for photography, you’ll want to head upstairs. Take the escalator to the top floor, and snap away!
Photography in Paris: When?
Now that you know all about where to take some amazing photos of Paris and her monuments, I wanted to give you some recommendations for WHEN to shoot, depending on the time of day and location. Some places are more crowded than others, and some just look better in certain lighting situations.
You know the old saying “the early bird gets the worm”? Well this applies to photography in Paris, too. Believe me, the early bird gets the photo. Soft morning light and beating the crowds make sunrise the ideal time to shoot pretty much every location I’ve mentioned.
So if you’re a morning person, get up and go for it!
If you’re like me and hate waking up before 10:00, pick and choose your locations wisely and plan on sacrificing a few hours of sleep. You can catch up on sleep later, you’re in Paris after all! Many Paris photo spots start drawing crowds as early as 7:00 in the morning, and you’ll have to be there before then if you want to get a great picture.
Places you should definitely photograph at sunrise (if you want to beat the crowds):
- Arc de Triomphe
- Louvre Pyramid
- The Sacré-Coeur
- Colonnes de Buren – 2 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris
The less visited locations are easy to photograph during the day. At these places, you won’t have to fight the crowds or worry about pickpockets (as much, you should always be on the lookout, especially if you’re toting around your camera gear).
The daylight hours are prime photo time, just try to avoid the middle of the day, when the sun is at it’s strongest. The midday hours aren’t ideal for landscape shots, as the lighting will be too harsh. If you can’t avoid shooting during midday, try to find a spot where there’s some shade.
Places to take photos in daytime:
- Palais Royal Gardens
- Café Marly
- Montmartre Cemetary
- Rue Lépic
- Galleries Lafayette Rooftop
Golden hour is the hour just before sunset, when the diminishing light in the sky casts a beautiful golden glow. This is the ideal time to photograph Paris, especially for landscape shots. The golden light plays so nicely off the ancient limestone. Just remember, photographing at golden hour will require the most planning ahead since you’ve just a very small window of time.
These are my favorite places to shoot during the golden hour:
- Louvre Pavilion
- Bridges of Paris (Pont Alexandre III, Pont de Bir-Hakeim)
- Printemps Rooftop
- Centre Pompidou Rooftop
- Rue Saint-Dominique
Still want to learn more about photography in Paris? Join our photo workshop to learn all the best tips and tricks from our local guides.
Now that you’ve read all about where and when to take some excellent photos in Paris, all you have to do is start taking pictures! If you ventured to any of these places, I’d love to hear what you thought. And of course, I would love to see your photos too!
Wondering where to purchase photo equipment, get your camera repaired, or print your photos in Paris? You can read all about this in my next article, Photography in Paris: Practical Information.