The digital age of photography has turned every amateur photographer into an artist in his or her own right. No more bad holiday photos when you have the possibility of taking 100s and deleting or keeping them without the disappointment of picking up photos from a roll of film that was very badly exposed. But even in this digital universe, we don't all take fabulous photos.
Ever wanted to learn more about your camera's function and go further in your photography, well what better setting that the city of Paris to learn and test out your skills at urban photography - believe me it is not as easy as it may seem.
I came across Better Paris Photos on my Twitter wall and being a photo buff myself, I wanted to quickly contact them to find out about their services. What a cool idea! Now Better Paris Photos is not the only such agency out there but something compelled me to contact them in particular. I simply loved the photos on their site!
Photographer, Sophie Pasquet is the woman behind it all. I tagged along on one of her private tours and got to see firsthand how she works with her clients - she is a true pedagogue. We later sat down to have a quiet chat over a hot chocolate (in July!).
So it is my pleasure to introduce you to Sophie Pasquet, photo-instructor and and all around lovely lady - owner of Better Paris Photos.
Sophie is Parisian born and speaks impeccable English, probably thanks to her 17 years of living in Ontario, Canada. When I asked her about her background, she told me she had always worked in a teaching/learning environment. Photography was part-time but as it starting taking up more and more of her time, she decided to expand the photo workshops she was already doing from time to time from her home.
Sophie is essentially a self-taught photographer. She did however, take courses to firm up her knowledge and worked alongside several photographers.
Where did you get the idea for your workshops and tours
Upon returning to Paris, Sophie was looking for a way to combine her personal work in photography and her teaching/training background, it seemed only natural to create photo workshops to help other passionate people realize their dream or express their talents in her native city.
It was a challenge in the beginning to figure out how to package the tours, she says. But she knew she wanted to create an enjoyable moment of learning. Everyone walks away with something. Sophie is unpretentious and loves to share her knowledge and guidance - I know I too asked her for a few pointers and she was more than willing to give me advice.
Essential for Sophie is taking time to understand the needs of the people she is tutoring and bringing what can sometimes be rather technical mumbo jumbo down to a level that her tour group can understand. This is not photo boot camp!
Do guests bring their own cameras and does it have to be of a certain level?
Any camera is welcome. Sophie's clients range from the amateur photographers on holiday to professionals looking to test out shooting in an urban environment. People have come with film cameras but as it is difficult to give the immediate feedback necessary to progress during the tour, digital cameras are more common.
Why the emphasis on an urban environment?
Sophie tells me that she had to learn and teach herself how to work in an urban environment. It is not the same as landscape photographer or portraits or even indoor shooting and many pros are even daunted by this - so you see we amateurs are not alone.
Who are your clients?
Her tours attract people from those who wish to take classic photos of Paris to those looking to go beyond the Eiffel Tower and wish to test the limits a bit more. She tries to teach people to develop a visual eye. I observed as she asked her client what would be the best way to photograph a statue atop Sacre Coeur (as I myself was doing the exact opposite - sheesh I've got stuff to learn!)
How do you decide which places to take your clients on their tours? (do they get to suggest places or are there set routes)?
The tours are very hands on with group sizes not surpassing 2 for the private tours or 4 on the shared tours (though families who wish to tour together certainly can do so). She tries to accommodate everyone though last year she had become so popular that she was having to turn people down.
What's your favorite place in Paris for photos?
She tells me her fav spots would be in the Marais because of all the different architecture and various street scenes, the Bastille, & Fauhourg Saint Antoine.
Is there a minimum age?
Toddlers maybe not, she jokes but starting at 11 or 12.
Sophie now collaborates with one or two other photographers to try to meet the demands. Besides the tours, Better Paris Photos also runs a 3-day workshop on set dates throughout the year for 6-8 people maximum. She also runs a women only workshop, which really intrigued me. She feels that women have a different sensibility and the dynamics of the groups of women she has taught has been totally different than mixed group - no offense to the men folk.
Better Paris photos also offers portrait sessions and night tours all in the beautiful, romantic city of Paris. Wouldn't you just love to have your portrait taking in and around Paris?
They even have eBooks so that you can pick up some tips to help you on your next city break. Could make a lovely gift for the budding photographers in your life.
Sophie leaves me with a lovely quote "The best picture is always the one you are going to take next." I think that says it all. Here we definitely have a woman who is always trying to do better each time. Now that's the stuff we like.
So grab your digital SLR or point and shoots and contact Sophie and her colleagues at Better Paris Photos today. Believe me you will NOT be disappointed. I'm thinking for signing up myself maybe then I will finally understand more of the setting on my Nikon.
Better Paris Photos
Tours range from half-day to multiple day. Here's where to find information on the tours offered: Tours