March 20, 2019
All photos by Stephan Hellin.
Ahh Paris, the city of lights. While many wildlife and landscape photographers spend hours getting away from artificial light of the city, sometimes there’s a good reason to grab your camera and embrace the dazzling city lights. This city welcomes over 33 million tourists a year so it can be overwhelming and even a bit daunting to attempt to photograph such a well-documented city but we’ve teamed up with local Parisian photographer Stephan Hellin, to get the best tips for capturing this magical city.
While there’s really no bad place to photograph the Eiffel Tower, most of the bridges along the Seine provide superb views of the Eiffel Tower, with maybe a preference for the Alexandre III Bridge, the “Passerelle Debilly” and the Bir Hakeim bridge.
The combination of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower gives really excellent and unique results. Another option is to walk the roads nearby (i.e. near to the Champ de Mars) to set the Eiffel Tower and the superb Haussmann buildings in their context.
One of the most unique vantage points you can get is to find the high ground. Seek out high vantage points, such as the Montparnasse Tower (photo 5), the terrace outside the Galeries Lafayette (photo 6), the towers of the Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, etc. A high viewpoint will help bring perspective to the massive structure.
It’s hard to say how many photos have been taken of the Eiffel Tower in the last century but it’s safe to say it’s one of the most photographed structures in all of Paris and thus, getting a unique shot is always going to pose its own challenges.
In full transparency, all of the angles and all the points of view of the Eiffel Tower are already well-known. There is no secret spot, still undiscovered. In order to try and get a unique shot, you need to play around with other elements, such as the rising or the setting sun (photo 7).
The point of view will be identical to another tourist’s shot, but the beauty of the moment (with a bit of luck!), when the sun is rising or setting, will make the photo unique.
In the early morning, the Seine is quieter and will give you a nice reflection too (photo 8).
You can also try adding something in the foreground (an object or a person) or using methods of reflection (a puddle, a car’s rear-view mirror, a shop window.)
My personal favourite perspective is to take a shot from the rooftops of nearby buildings, but I cannot encourage people to do that, as it’s dangerous and actually forbidden by law. Nowadays, it’s become the only way of getting a truly original shot of the Iron Lady.
If the light isn’t too strong, and there isn’t too much fog or pollution, you can take a really clear picture in the daytime, but the best ones are taken at the “golden hour” and/or sunset or sunrise. The gentler light, or the colourful skies, will make all the difference.
When the sun is setting, the Eiffel Tower is illuminated, and at first, it is filled with yellow or orange light, before going on to shimmer for five minutes, on the hour every hour, until 1 am, and of course, it’s at those times, together with a sunset, that your photo will be very successful.
Yes and no. Due to European copyright laws, artistic work is protected during the lifetime of its creator, plus another 70 years. The actual structure of the Eiffel Tower entered the public domain in 1993 but the lights were added to the structure in 1985 so the lit up Eiffel Tower is still within copyright limitations.
So can you photograph it at night? Sort of. The lights on the Eiffel Tower are only light up until 1:00 am so technically you can get a photo of the Eiffel Tower at night, without any illumination. But in all practicality, it’s only illegal in a commercial sense. If the photos are for your private use, even on social media, it’s okay. There has been no case in France of any photos of this kind being the subject of litigation.
It’s a scientific fact that winter makes everything more remarkable and stunning so how likely is it to see the Eiffel Tower rising out of a snowy city? Well, there’s not a hard and fast answer. In February 2018, it snowed for a whole week and for photographers willing to rise early, it was possible to catch the snow in its virgin state, resulting in really impressive shots of the Eiffel Tower, however, as of March 2019, we haven’t seen any snow yet (with the small exception of a few hours one afternoon in January).
So yeah, it’s difficult to predict if you’ll get to see a snowy Paris but Paris in winter is still a beautiful thing to see so it’s worth a shot no matter what!
All photos and tips from Vallerret Collaborator Stephan Hellin. Stephan is a physiotherapist and part-time photographer, living in Paris. He discovered photography a few years ago and has been actively working to improve his skills ever since. You can keep up with Stephan's adventures on his Instagram page: @stephan.hellin
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