Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Photographing Paris (& Other Places): A Non-Lesson



I'm always shy of using the word 'lesson'. Nobody wants to be lectured. So this is a kind of a non-tutorial in the art of photography.

As with all non-tutorials, you don't have to follow it. You can just look at the pictures. And if you want to chime in with non-tutorial comments of your own, you're very welcome. After all, I'm still learning about photography. My partner jokes I'm a graduate from the "Click-And-Pray School" of photography, and it's not far from the truth. I always hope the photograph of a scene I see will be as good on screen as it is in reality.

Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the real thing is so beautiful, so ethereal, I can't possibly capture it with a simple lens. But occasionally I can. Here are some simple things I've learned over the years. Oh – and a good camera helps too! Mine has recently died. RIP.


SHOOT WITH YOUR HEART, NOT YOUR HEAD
I don't take photos of scenes that I think I should take photos of. I take photos of scenes that I want to remember when I'm old and wobbly and and unable to hold a gin and tonic, let alone a heavy SLR.

This photo was taken at the end of a long day walking around Paris. I was crossing a bridge to the islands at exactly the right time. I remember stopping and gazing at this beautiful scene; the light, the clichéd boat, the whole, romantic, Parisian perfectness of it. It touches my heart every time I see it. Take photos that touch your heart.

Don't worry if the composition isn't perfect. The memory will be.



CONSIDER THE LIGHT
Lighting is such a big part of photography. It can make or break a photo. I love shooting cities at twilight. It's the best time of day to take a camera out. A gorgeous sky can make an average composition, such as these (above), look almost acceptable.




CONSIDER COLOUR
Colour is so uplifting. Bold colours can make a photograph come alive. Think of the colours of India, or the Bahamas, or a garden in spring. Try to look for colours when you're walking around. They can be anything – a cafe, a storefront, a gallery wall, even a man in a pea-green coat!


LOOK UP
So many travellers spend their days looking down, at the pavement (cobblestones can make it tricky to walk, I know), or at the street scenes around them, but I think the best scenes are above head-height. Think about the incredible detail of Paris' wrought-iron balconies. The sky passing over the rooftops. The sheer spectacle of the architecture and skyline. Catherine Deneuve's apartment is the enormous greenhouse high above the Square Saint-Sulpice. I wouldn't have known this had I not looked up. (And been told it the day before!)




FOCUS ON A THEME
If you find a colour, a subject matter or a theme you like, try to shoot around it. It will give you a series of photos that have more cohesion than just a whole lot of random shots. I'm partial to gilt things so I'll often shoot scenes that have gold in them. We have a wall here at home with these gilt pix, all framed in gilt. They not only remind me of Paris every time I walk past, they also make me smile.

And that, I think, is what the best photos should do.

29 comments:

  1. Thank you for the non-lesson, although I think you are too modest about your photography skills.

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    1. You inspired me to do this post Claire! Although I suspect your photography skills are better than mine... x

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    2. You can suspect away, but you would be wrong! Anyway, thrilled that I inspired this post, and I have taken notes (including the one of dividing the photo into thirds)x.

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  2. Hi Janelle

    I just discovered your blog yesterday through French Essence and I have to tell you I love it. I spent the better part of last night reading all your posts and can't wait to read what you come up with next.

    P.S I like your photography!

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    1. Oh, how lovely of you to drop by. So nice to hear from you. x

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  3. Hi Janelle,
    I too discovered you through French Essence and I can't wait to read more. I really love your idea of gilt pics in gilt frames...gorgeous.
    Jx

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    1. So pleased you dropped by. Vicki at French Essence has the best ideas, doesn't she? She's such an inspiration.

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  4. I'm loving all your posts and, as mentioned in my comment on your post for your mother, I'm gradually reading through them all!

    Janelle, like you, I too am still rather 'wing and a prayer' with the DSLR - having received a Canon 7D this year after many years with (but enjoying) an excellent point and shoot. For trips such as the recent one to Africa I needed a faster camera to capture moving animals, but I'm still only using it on auto - the manual settings will hopefully be learned later. Meanwhile, I agree with your words, 'shoot with your heart, not your head' and, like you I do get some awesome shots. Your Paris twilight pics are very beautiful - thanks for sharing with us. Hope you get a great new camera soon.

    Fondly, Mary

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    1. Oh, so glad someone else is a 'wing-and-a-prayer' girl too! The Canon 7Ds are great, aren't they? I'm saving for a 5D. Or a hideously expensive 1D. Your Africa trip sounds amazing. I'd love to see Africa. Thanks for such a lovely comment. x

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  5. I really don't want to give you a swollen head but you really are amazingly talented!!!!! I just wish I could hold the camera still enough!!

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    1. You're brilliant at other things Jules. For example, you're SO good with people. And your interior design skills are very impressive too! xx

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  6. Your photos are captivating! I agree with all of your advise and will keep them in mind when I photograph something.I love photography too. My challenge in my blog is to show less pictures but I always end up sharing more. Well, as you wrote "from the heart."

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    1. More pictures are better, in my opinion! x

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  7. Fantastic pics, hubs and I only ever use the iPhone, we've never taken many pics, we've been all over the world and never bothered with a camera before, now that I blog, we actually have photographs.

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    1. Oh Tabs, you need to buy a camera. Your photography is quite good. You'd be brilliant with a real SLR. x

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  8. Wonderful pictures. Having a home in France I recognize most of your locations, lovely.
    I hope you will look at our website
    www.frenchvintagehome.com and tell me how you like our pictures.
    I, too, am an amateur but my partner Laura is a professional and you can tell by the pictures she takes.
    I would love your comments.
    Thank you.
    Audrey Friedman

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    1. Love your website. The photos are beautiful, but I'm sure yours are just as gorgeous as Laura's. Will go back again for a second look! Love the cute car too! x

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  9. Wow. that merry go round ? shot is so evocative. Well they all are. Im going to have to buy a decent camera, in Myanmar earlier this year was using my mobile.

    Arent those blue and white rooms beautiful but very wedgewood blue , are they more blue/grey?

    I'd fight anyone for that grey and white marble floor

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    1. Would love to see Myanmar! And Bhutan too! I'm sure it was amazing.
      Those rooms are from the Carnavalet Museum in Paris and yes - very Wedgewood blue.
      I'll be fighting with you for that floor! x

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    2. yes Myanmar was extraordinary , I absolutely loved it . Gold, gold , gold ! everywhere.

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  10. Hi again, seemed to have got into blog dialogue(is there a word for that?) with you at Slim's site re one of our favs Ian Thorpe, and you've met him ...you have all the fun!

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  11. Hi Janelle,
    Your photos are very special and I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts on photography.
    The colours, the light, the sights, the faces, the sheer delight of the picture speaking a thousand words ...

    As a hobbyist photographer I just love to "capture the moment" both at home and away. Sometimes it all comes together and I manage a shot that, as you write, makes me smile!

    I am about to join my second photography course in Paris and am excited at the very thought of wandering those picturesque streets again, with my camera in hand, cocooned in a bubble of creative energy ... better watch I don't trip over !
    Thank you for your inspiring words and photos,
    Joanna Brazier

    www.thedailybaguette.net

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    1. Love your blog Joanna. Had a great time reading through your posts. How wonderful to spend so long in Paris each year! x

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  12. Hi Janelle.. such marvelous tips.. I've written them down and placed them in my camera bag.. also a cannon (point n shoot digital).. 980 ixus.. I love the zoom on it.. and its compact and nice and quick and easy.. thanks for your stunning 'non lesson' today.. loved it! j

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    1. So glad these have helped. Your camera sounds better than mine! Thanks for your lovely email. So touched. Will reply tmr! x

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  13. Thanks for the tips Janelle - and all these are such gorgeous photographs - you are extremely talented. X

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  14. You're too kind Sarah. Hope we can catch up before you return to UK. If not, will be over there in late Oct/Nov. Perhaps then? Will come and visit you in your beautiful Wiltshire cottage! xx

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  15. Oh Janelle. *Sigh*. You are no amateur, my friend. These are all enchanting. J x

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  16. Thank you dear Jane. You're being too kind. Thank you also for your thoughtful email. Will reply tonight. xx

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