I looooove taking photos. I am not a professional by any means, but I love trying to see the world through that magical lens and create something artistic. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Many times I don’t know until I take the photo or just hold the camera up to my eye to see it framed. Sometimes I take a few at slightly different angles. You just never know what might work. That’s how I learn.
This trip to Paris gave me so many opportunities to test and play with my photography skills–to learn and grow. So today I thought I’d share with you some of my tips and tricks, particularly for traveling. And if you have anything to add, please share! It’s how all we all learn. :)
I think that sometimes there are misconceptions about getting the perfect photo. Sometimes that ‘perfect photo’ involves a little editing and cropping or paying attention to your surroundings to enhance the end result.
FYI, on this trip I used my iPhone 6S and my Fuji X-T10 with the 18-55 f/2.8-4.0 lens.
Let’s get started!
Set Camera To Local Time
This is something I’d thought about…and then dismissed. Now I wished I’d listened to my inner voice and done it! Your smartphone automatically adjusts to the time. If you have an actual camera, it does not. When you get back home and load both sets of pictures onto your computer, they won’t be in chronological order because your camera is set to your home time. It’s not so bad when it’s a couple hours off. It’s a huge difference when it’s a few hours off.
Side story here. I’ve never gone through so many time changes in such a short period in all my life. The weekend before Paris, we took Jordan from Utah to California. Time change. That Saturday night…Daylight Savings. Then Monday we went home and had another time change back to Utah time. The following Monday we went to Paris and had another time change. And then Saturday night….again…they switched to Daylight Savings…another time change. Then we came home Monday with one more time change.
Seriously. So crazy. Maybe that’s why we didn’t really have jet lag coming or going–our bodies were so out of whack that it just did what it was told when it was told. haha
Okay, so let’s back to talking shop.
Pay Attention to Detail
Paris is eye candy. Truly. There are so many little details to absorb–not just to photograph, but to truly admire the city and all that it offers. I tried to take in everything from the many sides of Sacre Couer down to the tiniest gargoyle under a saint at Notre-Dame to all the gardens and cafes along the way.
It’s those details that can really offer an awesome subject matter for your trip. I mean, check out all this detail on Notre-Dame! It’s no wonder this took hundreds of years to build.
Did you really look at all that intricate work? Dan says there’s no way he’d want to be on the scaffolding working on the building back on those days. haha
I am so impressed by this detail. It’s incredible!
There are many times when you need to wait for someone to get out of the way, or for a boat to come into frame in the river, or some other condition for making a better photo. Sometimes I’ll snap a photo at first just to make sure I get the shot before something worse comes along, but most often I wait.
Here in the courtyard near Sainte-Chapelle, there was a man in a bright blue coat walking around in the bottom right corner of my framing. I took one shot with him in it, but then patiently waited two or three minutes for him to move out of frame so I could take it. Bright blue just didn’t go with the motif of the surroundings in the photo. Can you imagine seeing it here with all these earthy tones? ick.
Escape The Crowds
Believe it or not, this is truly possible. My biggest tip for avoiding crowds is to go out early morning. Better yet, early morning on a weekend when there’s no local hustling and bustling going about their work day (Chicago streets were practically empty on a Sunday morning photo walk). Streets are pretty clear. Not a lot of people. Photo ops become that much nicer because you remove so much. And then you can have someone spot for you so you can stand in the middle of a quiet bridge and take a photo like this. ;)
i. love. mornings.
My other tip would be to go to the backside of a place, if possible. We did this with both Notre-Dame and Sacre Coeur. The latter being my absolute favorite. While the front side of Sacre Coeur was amazing with all the steps and such, there were hundreds of people milling about (the stairs were oddly clear here). Lots of noise.
But twice we went to Sacre Coeur and walked around to the back. Once with our breakfast. Both times we pretty much had the entire place all to ourselves….with this view. So much more detail and depth on this side too!
I loved the peacefulness of just sitting and soaking it all in.
And if you’re familiar with the movie Sabrina, that’s the trellis (the clumps of vines) she and her friend walk under and you can see the dome of Sacre Coeur above through the trellis. I have always been in love with that shot and only imagined seeing it for myself one day. I was able to figure out where it was in general and then went to the backside in hopes of finding it. Victory!
Take A Photo Knowing You’ll Crop It Later
As much as I try to get the right shot straight from the camera, I know it’s not always possible.
In my mind, I could see this shot of the Bir-Hakeim metro stop, with its long and rolling lines.
But this was the only photo that I could take.
We were on the train platform and I could see just how cool it was out from under the covering. Knowing there was no way for me to stand on the tracks or even move out from under it all (haha), I moved towards the end, extended my arm–no leaning–and took what I could get with my phone, hoping that I could really crop it how I wanted later…and it worked! It’s one of my favorites of Paris. Metros are a great subject matter for photos.
Get Out And Shoot The Night Life
This is one thing I wished we’d done more of–getting out into the night. But by the end of the day our feet were tired and the thought of walking anywhere wasn’t a high priority. Not to mention it was on the cold side, so going out into the cold of night wasn’t all that appealing either.
But one pleasant evening we did a bit of walking near our hotel, which was a block over from the north side of Luxembourg gardens. I set my ISO high (on my Fuji, 3200 is not an issue) and my aperture as wide open as possible (f/2.8-4.0) and let the shutter speed be on automatic.
We decided to have some dessert, and long story short, after a few tries of finding something, we wound up at a place in a courtyard by the Sorbonne. Luckily it was warm enough and we sat outside. I loved the domed building all lit up and had attempted a photo or two in color and it was turning out yellow. On a whim, I changed my camera to a black and white setting and it was the best thing I ever did!
It actually led to a set of photos that are some of my favorite from our trip!
There were ‘two young lovers’ sitting on the outer edge of the cafe, like us. I was pretending to photograph the building, but snuck them into the lower-right frame of my photo.
I think part of street shooting is to not be obvious about it. And for me, that means not having my camera to my face. My camera does have a flip screen that helps me to see, so that’s a good feature to use if your camera has one. Also, hold it down near your waist. It looks like you’re just holding the camera rather than aiming it at people and shooting. If you have a zoom lens, that’s a plus as well since you can be farther away from your subject and zoom in.
I wanted to capture a bit of the cafe scene–without being seen (haha, see what I did there?)–and so I sat my camera on the table, using the strap to kind of lift and point it upwards. It didn’t bother me to get the table and chairs in there, in fact, I wanted them in the shot. I sat and talked to Dan as I pushed the button to take the photo. Love how it all came together!
And then the best of them all came about in the most serendipitous of ways. I was talking to Dan about shooting discreetly and had the camera in my hand by the table and just pushed the button. I wasn’t really paying attention to anything in that photo. Just pressed the button.
And this is what happened.
Seriously. One of my favorites from the trip and I didn’t even intend to take it like that! It’s not perfect because it’s night and people are moving, but that just adds to the energy of the photo. And the guy in the middle, he looks like he’s smiling at me, but it was just pure happenstance as he was saying goodbye to his friends and turning to walk away. There’s no way he knew I was taking a picture. Dan and I were just talking and the camera was in my hands at the table.
It’s just the light and dark, the texture and shapes, the people, the energy…and it all just happened to be the right place and the right time.
Camera to the ready…
You know in Harry Potter when he says wands to the ready? Yeah, this is like that, only with cameras. ;) Having a camera ready for the quick-draw can be tricky. If you’re using your phone, you want to keep it safe, but you also need to have it where you can quickly get at it if a fortunate photo opportunity comes your way and is at risk of leaving you just as quickly.
Case in point.
I saw this car coming up this cobblestone street in Montmarte and about flipped a gasket. I quickly pulled out my phone because it was faster to get at (and more discreet) than my camera and luckily, he had to stop for just a moment due to some ‘traffic’ in front of him. snap! Got it. How fortunate to have all that setting behind him, right? Sometimes a good photo is just pure luck. Or, as I like to say, serendipity. A happy accident. Just happen to be in the right place at the right time for something you didn’t even plan on.
Straighten It Up
In big cities, there are lots of buildings and insides of buildings that wind up in your photo collection. And many times when you’re taking pictures of places like this the lines aren’t straight. But did you know you can straighten them up a bit? It may not be proportionally correct to go all the way, but even a little can sure make a difference in the end result. This narrowing of lines towards the top of a photo is especially visible in photos taken with a smart phone.
There are two ways you can work your lines to be either straight or straighter than they were. One is using the Perspective feature in the photo app Snapseed. Soooo digging this app right now! The other is using PS/PSE’s Lens Correction feature. On both you change the vertical perspective.
Here’s a little before and after example in the Saint-Sulpice church (hello Da Vinci Code movie fans?).
Unless you can get more level with the scene, which would require a ladder or flotation skills, those leaning lines are gonna happen. And it’s fine to see them in a photo. It’s kind of natural to see it like that. But lately, I’ve been having a bit of fun straightening things up a little. Some don’t look good straightened all the way. Not to mention, you lose part of your photo when you straighten it.
This right photo may have too much correcting done. I still can’t decide. It’s the dome at the top that ‘comes closer’ so to speak so it looks larger, plus it crops half of it out. Does it look right? If you didn’t know what the original looked like, would you even be able to tell? And does it bother me that I lose part of the art of the photo–the paintings, the dome….I don’t know. I’m still deciding. haha Some corrections are easier to decide upon and that’s why I wanted to show it to you on something like this. I actually did a little lens correction in the photos of Sacre Coeur above.
So use your best judgement…or just don’t make any corrections. You choose. ;)
When All Is Said And Done
I could probably go on and on with tips that work for me. And maybe someday I’ll share a few more, but this post is getting pretty long. ;)
Hopefully these tips I’ve shared will help get you thinking about stepping out of your photo
booth box and look beyond the normal everyday shooting.
And if you have a favorite photo tip, particularly for travel photos, I’d love to hear them!