by Wendy Fitzgerald

According to Paris photographer, Hermione McCosh, good photos are all about the way we frame the picture. ‘You need to really look at the scene and cut out the messy bits,’ she said.

Hermione studied photography at Leeds University and London College of Communication and worked with photographers John Swannell (in London) and Yves Gellie (in Paris) Originally Hermione was from the Lakes District in England, but now she works for www.betterparisphotos.com and through them you can book a walking and photography tour around Paris in a small group, a private tour or a portrait session.

I arrived with my camera set on ‘automatic’.

‘We call that the George Clooney setting,’ Hermione joked. ‘If you saw George Clooney on the street, you’d put your camera straight into ‘auto’. You wouldn’t want to miss his photo.’

I booked a 3 ½ hour tour with Hermione around the Marais district in Paris so I could improve my camera skills and learn how to capture the City of Light from a new angle.

Hermione explained about ‘shutter speed’, ‘aperture’ and ‘white balance’.

As instructed, I turned my dial to TV and set my shutter speed to 1/200. I set the aperture on F14 and put the white balance to cloud/shade and the ISO to 400.

‘Try this,’ Hermione said, as she disappeared behind a sculpture. Following her, I crouched low, peered into my viewfinder and positioned carefully so as to cut out the scaffolding and the pile of building materials to the right hand side of the picture. Viola! I had captured an image of the Hotel Sully framed inside the stone sculpture.

‘Just look at the reflections in these puddles,’ Hermione said as she stood stooped over a shallow puddle adjusting her lens. We zoomed in and clicked at the watery mirror images of roof tops and chimneys.

‘Symmetrical images and repeating patterns tend to work well.’ Hermione’s artistic flair was evident as she pointed out the importance of details and spacing. ‘We can look for bollards in walls or iron fences,’ she said as she aimed her camera at a sideway’s view of an ancient stone wall.

Wandering the streets of the Paris Marais we paused here and there to capture neat rows of chairs, lines of push bikes parked in jumbled rows and reflections found in rear view-mirrors. We peered into the Boulanger and took close ups of delicious baguettes and delicate pastries.

Hermione showed me just where to find the street lamp that was just off centre, the statue with interesting textures and the garden with neat hedges and a smattering of roses. ‘Just look at these reflections,’ she said as we both gazed into the dress shop window. Oblivious to the stylish mannequins, we stared at the clear reflections of the ornate Paris buildings that stood on the other side of the street.

We were shooting at an angle, just off centre, framing perfectly, focusing … when a woman rushed out and shouted at us in French. She mistakenly thought we were taking photos of her stock. Hermione tried to explain, but she waved us on. I guess not everybody understands the effort it takes to get really good photos.

Hermione McCosh may be booked through www.betterparisphotos.com.

Shutter Speed – how fast your shutter goes up and down in your camera. It controls movement.
Aperture – This is how big or small the hole in your lens is and this controls the depth of field.
White Balance – Setting it on Cloud/shade can warm up the image while Sunny cools it down and the light bulb is for artificial lighting.