Why choose Paris for a Pre-Wedding shoot?
Paris is known as the City of Love, and for me it’s probably the most romantic city in the world. It’s also known as the City of Lights, which gives a clue to some of the wonderful shots we can take here. If you’re telling the story of a romance, then such a romantic city is going to provide a great backdrop. And as well as having that resonance, I think it’s a spectacular city to shoot in, with a lot of options.
When you think of monuments in Europe, you think of Big Ben and Tower Bridge in London and the Eiffel Tower and Louvre in Paris, probably first of all, before your mind wanders to Venetian canals and Tuscan landscapes. Such images are iconically Europe. You spot the Eiffel Tower in a photograph, or the Louvre, and you
know instantly where it is. If you’re showing images at your wedding, there is nothing that says ‘We’re in Europe!’ quite like these locations.
Photographically, it’s very diverse: there are lots of options including majestic parks, such as the Jardin de Luxembourg. It’s a very relaxed city in some respects; the security isn’t as omnipresent as it is in London. You can pretty much get away with photographing whatever you want, providing you know the ropes and how not to draw attention to yourself. On the other hand, one of the things that makes Paris difficult is that it’s very crowded and a lot of people do pre-weddings there. However, using my knowledge, we can get away from the crowds and also shoot things in the optimum light.
Best locations for a pre-wedding in Paris
1. The Eiffel Tower
If you want to take photos at the Eiffel Tower as well as the standard places every else knows, I have also discovered some hidden spots, which are off the tourist trail but also give you great views of the tower. I think my personality – I’m a bit of an adventurer – means I’ve been willing to venture off the well-known routes so I now know a few closely guarded variations! There are a few cool streets we can use that aren’t on the beaten track. If you go to the Eiffel Tower during the day or even at sunset, and try to shoot from the Trocadéro, which everyone does, and you will hardly see it for people. Whereas if we go to a few spots I know, you’ll get the shot. Also, we try to time our route carefully. I try to do the Eiffel Tower at sunrise, for example, because if you’re lucky and it’s a clear sky, the sun rises behind it.
2. La Louvre
I love the contrast between old and new, glass and stone, at the Louvre, which probably shows in the fact that I’ve taken award-winning shots here! I usually split a full-day shoot (half the time in the evening; half the time early the next day) and do night-time at the Louvre. If you try to do the Eiffel Tower at sunset, it’s impossible. The Louvre is less crowded. You’ll still have half-a-dozen other couples doing pre-wedding shoots there but again, there are things we can do to minimise that.
3. Jardin De Luxembourg
I love this space; it’s very Parisian, ornate and formal, unlike a British park which is mainly trees and grass. In the Jardin de Luxembourg you can’t sit on the grass, as you can in a London park, but they have lots of nice chairs you can use. It’s a far more manicured, organised place. It’s a brilliant place to start a shoot as you can do the more casual photos there, the ones in a day dress. You can get used to the camera, to feeling comfortable at being photographed, before you change into a gown or wedding dress and move onto the iconic locations. Often, we are visually telling a love story: these shots in the park are a great way to evoke the early days, before you actually got together.
Less well known
Perhaps not quite as well known is the walk along the River Seine. There are many beautiful bridges we can use and it’s just a really nice walk with lots of great look-out points. For example, there’s the Pont de Bir-hakeim, which is a bridge that overlooks the Eiffel Tower. You may know it from the Leonardo DiCaprio film Inception. The metro runs above it so on the ground level there are rows of really interesting, structural iron columns. In fact, you can use several noteworthy backgrounds here. And while it’s fairly well known, it’s not drenched in people.
4. Montmatre and Sacré Coeur
The pure white Sacré Coeur was built on top of the Montmatre hill and is therefore the second highest structure in the city. It’s a bit further out, so it can be a bit of a challenge to get there and back within the confines of a shoot, but it is very pretty. If you wanted to extend the shoot to a second day, I’d recommend it as a great second spot to visit for the blue hour and long light.
2. Alternative Green Spaces
The Jardin deTuileries is right by the Louvre. To be honest, I don’t like it quite as much as the Jardin de Luxembourg; it’s not quite as pretty; it’s a bit harder to drill down into a photo as there are fewer visual possibilities. But it is worth considering because of its location when planning a route. If you want to extend the shoot and get out of Paris itself, there is also the possibility of going to Versailles or the national parks, or Fontainebleu.
The Palais Garnier or Opéra building provides a beautiful, opulent background with intricate stone and inside, fabulous painted ceilings and chandelier lighting. If you have the time it’s worth considering a very low-key shoot inside, although you may have to pay for a guided tour.
I very rarely take photos at the Arc de Triomphe because it’s generally too crowded, although it is a possibility for an extended shoot so I can juggle the time we visit. Instead, as we’re usually visiting the Louvre nearby, I like to include the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which is also unmistakeably Napoleonic and Parisian, and actually offers a better atmosphere and proportions for photographs.
6. Cafe Culture
The other thing about Paris is that there’s stunning stuff on almost every corner, so randomly walking along you will find something worth using as a background, perhaps with really good views. I’ve obviously got to know quite a few – say, a colonnaded building – around the areas where I shoot. And Paris has great café culture, so if you want to sit outside at a boulevard table we can get some great photos while you have a coffee and French pastries. It has that French vibe, that Parisian sophistication.
Is Paris Safe for a Pre-Wedding shoot?
I visit Paris almost every month for work or with my wife, child and friends to relax and enjoy the culture. I have never had a problem. It’s more relaxed than London, which is highly security conscious, but I can honestly say I’ve never been spooked in either city.
What are your tips for a successful Paris Pre-Wedding shoot?
We can be really flexible in Paris except when it comes to visiting the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. We nearly always hit those locations at exactly the same time each shoot, simply because those are the optimum times. So we plan our lock-outs and let everything else be a bit free-form around that. I’d also advise you to make sure you book a photographer who knows where he’s going, has the ability to adapt and knows the little intricate things you can do in Paris. A French speaker is very useful. As my French is a bit schoolboy, I nearly always work with a French-speaking assistant. The other thing is that a lot of couples come over with an Asian
photographer who doesn’t know the cultural ways to interact. Just a gentle tip but the Parisians can take offence if you behave in ways that are considered perfectly polite in Hong Kong or Singapore. I say this as someone who visits the Far East continually and loves it as much as Europe. But I just want to warn you that it’s a little thing you should watch out for. If you know Parisian culture, you can often get away with a lot more than if you don’t. There are these little things that mean it’s worth having a Western photographer who can help guide you through in order to give you a more successful photo shoot.
Can I combine Paris with another location?
Absolutely. Paris has great connections. It is really easy to get on the Eurostar to London or the TGV down to the lavender fields of Avignon.
Down to the details: how do we get around Paris and where do we change outfits?
Again, this is similar to London: Uber is everywhere but we can hire a car service/chauffeur for you because a car in Paris doesn’t create nearly as much of a parking problem as it does in London. So if you want a car in Paris and have the budget for it, we can recommend a driver we’ve used or sort that out. Similarly, we have often used AirBnbs successfully and know several that are in good locations and work well so we can liaise with you and give you our recommendations.
When it comes to the actual shoot, as in London, I know quite a few good places where you can get changed along the way. I’ve been there often enough to have options.
I’d advise you bring three outfits for a day’s shoot (the same sorts of combinations I advise for London shoots: the same basic principles apply).
I’d also suggest that you consider making a real holiday out of your stay. Spend a few days afterwards, perhaps shopping at Galeries Lafayette, eating delicious food, perhaps in a historic setting such as Le Select, where Hemingway and Picasso once drank their morning coffees, and seeing the sights. As well as the usual tourist spots, it’s worth visiting the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, for example, where Chopin, Bizet, Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, among many others, are buried.
How many changes of outfit should I bring?
In Paris, for a full day shoot, three outfits for the bride is the optimum combination. Something like a nice summer dress, maybe a white wedding dress for sunset, and a long gown for the evening. We advise you not to have prints for the evening dress and always to look for dresses that are cut to have some movement.
Finally, bring sensible shoes. Walking is the easiest way to get round in Paris, the most time effective. For shots where we do see the shoes or we want the extra height, we can quickly change you into your heels.