Home to elegant boulevards, sidewalk cafes, and the river Seine with its picture perfect bridges and bookstalls, Paris is one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. With its skyline pierced by the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomph and Sacré-Cœur, taking incredible pictures here isn’t difficult, but taking incredible, original images can be. Here are 10 tips from Instagrammer Juan Jerez on how to do just that.
1. Montmartre hill
The Paris skyline is rich and complex, and there are wonderful spots across the city where you can get a great shot. One of my favorite places is in Montmartre, the city’s oldest district. At the top of the stairs that lead to the magnificently curved Sacré-Cœur you’ll discover a fantastic view. Sit on the basilica steps with the exchange students, buskers, and courting couples to capture the setting sun as it falls below the rooftops of Paris. If I can give you a piece of advice, if you’re shooting with your phone camera use your zoom…just not so much that you get a blurry image.
2. Pont d’Arcole
The Seine offers some of the best views of central Paris. On Sundays, motor traffic is forbidden here and you can get a shot of the almost empty streets. Pont d’Arcole is a particularly good spot to photograph. Here the river narrows and has a gentle curve that’ll add interest to your photo, plus you can include the elegant cupola of the Conciergerie courts in your frame.
3. Passage du Chantier
For an image that evokes a sense of old Paris, head to Passage du Chantier in the 12th arrondissement. This cobblestone street has been home to furniture makers since the 15th century, and the artisanal tradition continues today, with lots of stores worth visiting. To add interest to your image, try framing passersby as they emerge from the little street’s tunnel.
4. Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier — Paris’ original opera house, home to the fabled Phantom of the Opera — is one of the most visited spots in the city. That means taking a decent photo during the day, when there are hundreds of people around, isn’t easy. I prefer to shoot it at night. Use a tripod to help you take a long exposure and incorporate the lines of car lights into your image.
5. Street art in Passage Josset
Paris isn’t all elegant boulevards and lilac rooftops — it’s also famous for its graffiti. Join a street art walking tour to capture great photos, or keep a lookout for murals like this one on Passage Josset.
6. The roof of Galeries Printemps Haussmann
The Eiffel Tower is the icon of Paris, but with over two million images tagged #eiffeltower on Instagram, capturing it in an original way isn’t easy. I like to integrate it in an urban view, surrounded by the nearby buildings. The rooftop of the Galeries Printemps Haussmann department store offers a fantastic opportunity for doing just that. I like to go at sunset, especially during the blue hour. The tones are perfect at that time.
7. Seine River
Notre-Dame is another of the most visited buildings in Paris; that means that it’s also one of the most photographed, so getting a unique shot isn’t easy — if that’s what you’re looking for, try gaining a bit of distance and incorporating some of the surrounding elements in the frame. The view from the Seine is a good spot, especially at night. If you can, use a tripod to capture all the city lights and their reflection on the water.
8. Arc de Triomphe
The Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous shopping streets in the world, and the best place to capture a good view of it is from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Here you have a perfect opportunity to capture old and new Paris in the same shot. Turn your eyes to La Défense — Paris’s main business district — and try to shoot during the sunset.
9. Cour Carrée du Louvre
After the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramide du Louvre is probably the photographed place in Paris. An original way to capture it is from the wonderful Cour Carrée — the square courtyard parallel to the pyramid square. Make a composition by placing the pyramid in the middle of the arch that connects the two spaces. Play with getting a sunburst in the shot by setting your lens to a smaller opening, with an aperture somewhere between f15 and f22.
10. Square Édouard-VII
Paris is full of surprises. The Square Édouard-VII is a little known but a really interesting place five minutes from Palais Garnier, and its original and irregular design lends itself to taking really strong, unique photos. Direct your lens gently upward for an extra dynamic shot.
Juan Jerez is a Paris-based photographer. He says, “Photography is for me a way of seeing the world, of being in the world. In the same way as literature, photography is an instrument which allows you to have access to the essence of things, a ticket for the front row in a show. I have always dreamed of having the ability to create images capable of telling a story, the ability to become a kind of writer working not with words but with lights, shadows, shapes…”