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.

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 clich├ęd 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.

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.

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!

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!)

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.

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