A very early morning start from Kings Cross station in London, boarding the first Eurostar train of the morning, saw us making our way to the home of street photography and one of Europe’s most romantic cities: Paris.
We dropped our luggage at our hotel and started exploring straight away. We booked the Hotel Meslay Republique, just a stone’s throw from the Place de la République Metro station and a great central location to explore the areas of Paris we had already earmarked as good potential locations through our research.
The Best Locations for Street Photography in Paris
We always start planning our trip in advance prior to going to visit a new location. We do this in a number of ways, from checking out other street photographers’ work, looking through Instagram posts on the location and finding out what are the most popular places to visit. We also ask our Facebook friends and groups for any recommendations.
From that information we then make a street route on Google Maps and print it out along with having it saved on our smartphones and our Google list of favourite places. We also update this list when we are there, tagging what might be good places to eat, visit or stay and saving this as an ongoing file This way we have a very comprehensive list of each location we have visited for future reference.
We found the following places to be worth putting on your list should you plan to some street photography in Paris:
This was one of our favourite places to visit although it might be worth taking the cable car as it’s a very steep and long staircase! Montmartre is famous for being home once to artists like Picasso and Dali, but it’s now more of a tourist spot. We found plenty of opportunities for taking great street photographs, especially layered images and using people as frames to shoot through. You’ll find many characters here offering to sketch your portrait: that offers the street photographer some nice opportunities to snap interesting little groups.
The Latin Quarter
Home to many Parisian universities and student filled trendy cafés. The local students help give it a young dynamic feel, and the local architecture is quite impressive. There’s a very bohemian feel to the place along with an artistic influence that is very interesting to explore with your camera.
The very chic and fashionable Marais district is filled with trendy shops, boutiques and art shops, and is home to the city’s gay district. Once the city’s Jewish quarter, the area still hosts numerous kosher restaurants.
Le Marais is situated on the Right Rank of the Seine area and we found it great for shooting street photography in Paris: it was among our favourite locations, as its a hugely popular place with bourgeois Parisians and its many gay bars, which made for great backdrops for the fishing technique we use most often whilst shooting the street.
The Rue des Rosiers is an example of this districts diversity that is changing before the eyes of its inhabitants. The street was at the centre of the long-established Jewish quarter, whose traditions filter through many aspects of the location. Jewish Kosher food shops, synagogues, Orthodox Jewish book shops once lined the street, but have almost disappeared now. Only some scattered synagogues remain to remind us of the Jewish quarter that it once was.
Belleville is a very trendy Parisian neighbourhood that hosts a monthly street food market that is found along the Boulevard de Belleville. Here you will find delicious fresh food and drinks from the temporary stalls.
The Chinese quarter of Paris can also be found here, with its grocery stores and restaurants, as well as a new crop of trendy galleries and street art. Rue Sainte-Marthe is a lovely quiet street lined with lively art studios and great eateries selling amazing pastries and great coffee.
Saint Ouen Flea Market
Here you’ll find one of the largest indoor antique markets in the world: we think that this is an absolute must as a street photographer.
With a nostalgic feel, plenty of different angles and scenes and bathed in wonderful light on a sunny day, you’ll find it even more rewarding if you first select your background and then wait for the right subject to enter your frame.
The streets both inside and out are lined with shops and stalls selling antiques, old books and much more, with a Parisian twist. The marketplace consists of over 2000 boutique shops and has a unique atmosphere that should provide at least a couple hours of exploration and reward you with some great photographs. if you really want to experience good street photography in Paris you need to come here.
The Canal Saint-Martin is a nice tree lined stroll along the 4km long walk connecting the Canal to the river Seine. It has a wide pavement on the sides of the canal and has many iron foot bridges that cross over.
When it’s sunny weather youll see lots of people hanging their legs over the canals edge. There’s a lot of atmosphere here, and that’s why some scenes from movies like “Amelie” were filmed here.
This district and the surrounding neighbourhoods have an older character, and are buzzing with trendy Parisian shops and beautiful boutique cafe/coffee shops. There’s a definitely a hip vibe combined with its 19th century Paris backdrop.
Paris Cafe Culture
Although we visited the more well known Parisian cafes such as Les Deux Magot and Le Bouillon Chartier, we also went to some of the oldest and loveliest in Paris and the cafes mentioned numerous times in Peter Turnley’s book on Paris, such as the Cafe De Flore and the Brasserie de l’Ile de Saint Louis.
We found that the best technique for getting great pictures whilst sitting in these cafes is to place yourself in the front row on the pavement and shoot behind you where there is a lovely shaded, diffused light illuminating the patrons, which is perfect for capturing decisive moments between Parisians as they chat and sip their coffee. This is a great way to characterise your images from a session of street photography in Paris, because the viewer will most likely understand where you are without needing an explanation!
The 3F’s in Street Photography
Check out Mark’s podcast on Street Photography magazine where he discusses with Bob Patterson along with a recent Blog post detailing street photography techniques you can use whilst practising your street photography in Paris