Say you’ve endured a sleepless night in the middle seat of a $900 flight to Paris. You arrive at Charles de Gaulle, book an Uber to the Champs de Mars, and gaze up at the Eiffel Tower in wonder. It is majestic, wondrous, a feat of engineering so spectacular it makes engineering seem interesting. You want to capture this moment, so you take out your camera. You twist the lens, aim…and end up with this.
Distraught and sleep-deprived, you wonder why you came to Paris at all.
Fear not, however. Taking good photos of the Eiffel Tower is easy, and while you’re at it, you might as well aim for unique photos. After two trips to Paris and hundreds of bad photos, here’s what I’ve learned from the handful of good pictures I’ve produced:
- Take your picture from afar. The Eiffel Tower is besieged by millions of tourists a year. It never gets a moment of peace. Give it space. Give it room to breathe.
2. In fact, get as far away as possible. Make your followers think you didn’t even mean to photograph the Eiffel Tower.
“Where is it?” you’ll say when they point it out, playing dumb. “Oh, I didn’t even notice! When you’re in Paris, you just get used to it.”
3. The sun is your enemy. It causes skin cancer and washed-out photos. Foggy mornings are your friend.
4. Better yet, wait for rain. The two elderly American women passing by won’t understand why you’re kneeling in the mud, photographing a puddle, but when it clicks for them, they’ll hail you as a genius.
5. Stay up late. The Eiffel Tower lights up for five minutes every hour on the hour past sunset until 1:00 a.m. If you’re there in the summer, this means waiting until ten o’clock. I took this photo from Trocadéro, which is an ideal spot for good photos — just be prepared for a huge crowd.
6. Neg the Eiffel Tower! A monument so famous needs to be knocked down a few pegs every now and then. In other words: just because the Eiffel Tower is in your shot doesn’t mean it has to be the focus of your shot. Give the spotlight to someone else. Let the tower remain out of focus. You just might get a better shot that way.
Pro tip: focusing on something besides the tower in the foreground with a low f-stop (I used 1.8 here) is the best way to capture the tower’s sparkles. I took this photo from the outdoor seating section of Chez Francis just after the clock struck midnight.
7. Ditch Trocadero and Champs de Mars. The Eiffel Tower is visible from most anywhere in the 7th, 8th, and 16th districts, so explore these arrondissements while scoping out untapped photo locations. This over-exposed shot was taken on the Pont de l’Alma. Notice that there is nobody else on the bridge.
8. Find natural frames. The world is your filter! Frame your photo so that one or more of your corners contain flowers, leaves, etc, with the real subject of your picture somewhere in the middle. Play around with the focus. Here, I let the flowers become the main focal point of the photo, rather than the Eiffel Tower.
9. Accept that you won’t get the tower perfectly straight in your photo. Just aim for lopsidedness. Call it an artistic statement on our imperfect world.
10. Wait for a creepy bird. How many of your friends have pictures of the Eiffel Tower with a creepy bird?