Paris is the most picturesque city in the world, and for this reason, thousands of people flock to the streets every year for professional photoshoots. I landed in Paris in 2012 when Instagram hadn’t yet grown into the mega social media platform it is today.
Finding clients for private portrait sessions was a little more difficult, because people had not yet discovered they wanted this experience or that it even existed. Each morning I would arrive at the Eiffel Tower platform at 6 a.m. for sunrise photos and find that I was practically alone with my clients.
Most people wouldn’t dare to get up that early on vacation. We had the Iron Lady to ourselves and could experiment with new ideas for photos and find peace in the early morning city light.
Fast forward to 2019, and the vacation portrait industry explodes. With the introduction of Instagram being everyone’s go-to platform to connect and share photos and videos, multiple companies have popped up to provide this experience.
The Eiffel Tower platform is crawling with photographers all sharing the same space and the same location that millions of people have seen online and want to recreate. Overnight, I went from one photoshoot per day to six shoots PER day overnight and life was good!
In this article I take you behind the scenes of a Paris photoshoot, so that when travel returns, you too can create perfect photo memories in the City of Light.
Get your beauty sleep … and go easy on the booze
The most important thing to remember is that you will most likely be getting up early. Sunrise light is ideal for the best photos, and if you do not want to have the Eiffel Tower in the background at Trocadero, you’ll find that the rest of Paris is still empty and dormant in the early hours of the morning.
It really is one of the few cities in the world that feels completely empty early in the morning. In any other major city, I always find some sort of action at all hours of the day but not Paris. So, get your beauty sleep and stay away from too many drinks the night before so you can rise before the sun.
One of my favorite places to shoot besides the Eiffel Tower is the tiny island in the center of Paris called Île Saint-Louis. This little piece of land in the Seine is one of the few places untouched by Haussmann’s renovation of Paris in the 1800s. The buildings are full of charm, and the streets are all cobbled and dotted with cute cafes and boutiques making for the perfect Parisian backdrop.
Go all out fashion-wise
Before the shoot, I always recommend clients look at Instagram or Pinterest for photo ideas and share them with me. Also, it’s important to decide on your outfit in advance. I always recommend dressing up beyond your daily comfort routine. Go all out in a beautiful dress or suit. These are once-in-a-lifetime photos you will want to feel like a million dollars in.
We’ll beautify you!
I also have a wonderful hair and makeup team I work with. My makeup artist, Joleen, is an American in Paris and comes to your hotel before the shoot to beautify you. How you feel during the session will reflect in your photos, so it’s important that you feel great! Having nice clothing and your makeup or hair done can only make you feel better.
Normally I meet clients in front of a cafe so we can start the shoot with a much needed coffee and the quintessential cafe shot. This gives us time to get to know each other as well and have a little chat. Most men are dragged to photoshoots by their wives or significant others not wanting to be involved in photos at all. But I like to make it my goal to make everyone feel comfortable and keep the environment light with laughter and fun that reflects in the photos.
After we take a few cafe shots we will head down along the Seine where I give you cues to create natural looks. Most people freeze up or lose their sense of self when you put a camera in their face. That is why I help clients get comfortable by telling them what to do. I give little cues like, look over there, tell your partner why you love them, or have a little dance in the street! For kids, I love to give them some control by letting them play. I have them race towards the camera or jump as high as they can, or have a dance
The goal is to help clients forget the camera even exists. If you are a solo traveler, I usually give you something to do with your hands such as a fun French prop or have you give me your best runway walk toward the camera. For most of the photos, clients will not be looking at the camera because we want the photos to be natural and relaxed, not like your other typical studio sessions where everyone is stiff and looking directly into the camera. We will take a walk around the island exploring the tiny passageways and using the city as our studio.
Another fun idea for all types of Paris shoots is to bring props. Something that is meaningful or more French. Clients have brought everything from macarons, to cakes for birthday shoots, berets and bikes. I also work with a wonderful company called Wow Factory. They provide setups and balloons. Many clients also bring a bouquet of flowers from the local florist. The possibilities are endless and only add more joy to the shoot.
Shoots typically last one hour, and after the shoot I edit all the photos and upload them to a private online gallery available to you within one week, ready for download and reliving your Parisian dream vacay.
Some people feel uncomfortable at the idea of being the center of attention or having their photos taken. But hiring a professional is what makes all the difference in creating an image of yourself that you never could have imagined. It also takes the stress out of handing your iPhone to a stranger who could take a terrible photo – or worse – run away with your smartphone.
(You can book your next shoot with Krystal in Paris. Her services include everything from weddings to portraits, corporate events and products. Contact her today on her website, Miss Paris Photo.)
About the author:
Krystal Kenney is a photographer and writer in Paris, France. She also hosts a podcast called “La Vie Creative,” where she interviews creatives in Paris. She moved to Paris more than eight years ago from Annapolis, Maryland to start a new life. Krystal loves spending her days exploring Paris, and traveling all over Europe. You can see more of her photography and her podcast on her website here. She specializes in wedding, event, and vacation photos.
You can see more of her work for Dispatches here.