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David Henry teaching photography inside the Pompidou Center.

Photo workshops in Paris

by David Henry. Thanks to a teaching method perfected over the last seven years, learn the technical subjects of photography in a succinct and efficient way, and move on quickly to more exciting subjects, such as composition, framing and esthetic considerations. Tips, hints and advice from a native English-speaking photographer working in Paris.

Learn to take portraits in every-day outdoor settings that look like they were taken in a studio
David Henry photographing Lucy in the Saint-Sulpice neighborhood in Paris. —photo by Jérôme Cohen
Lucy with her high-fashion cigarette holder
One of the pictures taken during the photo shoot above. Take a look at other portraits taken in Paris
Laurent en train de photographier Notre-Dame depuis le quai de la Tournelle, lors de son stage photo.
Laurent taking pictures of Notre-Dame, basking in the late afternoon sun on the Left Bank in Paris.
Mathieu Facq faisant un exercise d’esthetique sur des façades des bâtiments atour de la place des Vosges, Paris

Matthieu Facq photographing building façades in place des Vosges, Paris. Taken with a 20 mm lens, a polarizing filter, and the camera’s internal flash to fill in the shadows.

Even in full open sun at noontime, “Green Mode” will take pictures a bit blue, above all in the shadows, with a needlessly shallow depth of field, and never with the flash when that might help. And things get worse as there is less and less light…

Which exposure mode should I use? There are eleven exposure modes on this camera’s dial and each and every one of them is automatic except for Manual. Therefore speaking of “automatic mode” is meaningless, because right away that poses the question, “Which one?”. Green Mode (the completely automatic mode) is by far the worst, and the “scene modes” (the icons) aren’t really any better. I use Aperture Priority 90% of the time and Manual the other 10% of the time. Learn why and how to use these modes to obtain the rendition you’d like to see in your pictures…

These one-on-one photography lessons, entirely tailored to your interests, and what you would like to learn, can help aspiring Parisian photographers in three ways:

  1. from the visitor’s point of view, which places to visit, and when:
    • classic historical monuments: The Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, l’arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées, the musée du Louvre, photogenic locations that make up the visual identity of the city of Paris…
    • Paris “Off the beaten path”, the odd, quirky sides of Paris that most visitors do not find out about: the Catacombs, the bird market, canal Saint-Martin, the chapelle de la Médaille Miraculeuse, the cat and dog cemetery in Asnières…
  2. from an artistic point of view, how to take pictures:
    • perspectives: how different angles can change the mood of a image, explore various focal lengths and the perspectives they give, dramatic close-ups that create images that stand out from the rest.
    • timing: Predict the next movements of your subject, and capture the “Decisive Moment”, the famously defining element of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau.
    • the time of day: the best light for photographing specific historic monuments in Paris.
    • candid pictures: make yourself invisible, and create pictures that transport people in to the scene you are photographing.
    • portraits: flattering pictures that reveal the true character of your subject, and the best settings and places to take them. Take portraits in every-day outdoor situations that look like they were made in a studio!
    • nighttime photography as sharp as if they were taken at noon; the settings for best over-all exposures in the shadows and highlights.
    • the electronic flash: Fill-in flash, balancing the flash exposure with ambient light, whether during the day or at night; reflectors for diffusing the flash, the best angles from which to point the flash, and stroboscopic flash.
    • how to “make yourself lucky”: Sometimes people say, “oh, you were lucky” when looking at one of my pictures. Perhaps, but I strongly believe that it is possible to create one’s luck. Learn to predict and put yourself where and when the action will take place minutes or seconds later.
  3. from a technical point of view, going in to more detail on exposure and other settings on the camera, obtaining the best image quality your digital camera is capable of delivering, to…
    • Photoshop, a program I have been using for twenty years now, and Adobe Lightroom, which I’ve been using for four years; advanced techniques for obtaining fine art picture quality, whether your images will be printed or shown in electronic presentations, such as web pages.

Write me a note if you would like to participate in a Paris photo workshop!

Pay on-line for one workshop session:

Or for second and subsequent workshops sessions:

David Henry vous propose de découvrir Paris au-delà des clichés habituels. De jour comme de nuit, de la technique de prise de vue, avec ou sans flash électronique, à la retouche numérique sur Photoshop, il vous aidera à perfectionner votre technique en vous entrainant dans les endroits insolites! As seen in «Réponses Photo»

Left: an announcement for photography lessons by David Henry printed on page 154, in the October 2005 edition of one of the leading photography magazines in France.

Questions and answers about Paris Photography Workshops:

A picture taken by a participant in photography workshops in Paris, given by David Henry.

David Henry taking pictures in the courtyard of the Musée Carnavalet in the Marais neighborhood, Paris, September 6th, 2005. —photo by Linda Schenck, a photo workshop participant from California.

Who is David Henry?

I’ve been taking pictures since the age of thirteen. I started with cameras I found at flea markets, with which I had to guess the focus, aperture and shutter speed. I studied photography at the Massachusetts College of Art, with Nicholas Nixon and Baldwin Lee. I grew up and spent most of my life in Boston, Massachusetts, and I’ve been living in Paris for the last eighteen years. I’ve been working professionally as a photographer since 2003, and most of my work consists of tourism and travel photography, for advertising agencies, architects, graphic designers producing books, magazines and other kinds of publications. My latest, greatest success was the series of pictures I took for the illustrated edition of the da Vinci Code. My first great love in photography has always been candids, pictures of people, in the street, doing odd, unusual, interesting things, and portraits. Since I’ve been living in Paris I’ve been taking much more of the typically pretty “postcard” kind of pictures, suitable for coffee table books since there are so much more to take here, and because they sell well, all the better. But candid, street photography, is still what holds my interest me the most. You may wish to take a look at an overview of the

Where are photography workshops held?

Caroline Viciana taking pictures in square des Innocents.

Caroline Viciana photographing the fontaine des Innocents with her Nikon D40x, a 70–300 mm zoom, and a SB-25 flash, June 6th 2008.

I teach photography in the city of Paris, in the neighborhood of your choice. This mostly has to do with what kind of pictures you like to take: If you like photographing buildings and monuments, the stretch from île Saint-Louis, to île de la Cité, then on towards to the musée du Louvre is a good choice. If you like taking pictures of people, there are plenty of spots in Montmartre with lots of subjects. If you’re looking for twisty old streets with medieval atmosphere, the Marais, and different places on the Left Bank are good. Of course, it is possible to arrange sessions in places around Paris, such as Versailles, Fontainebleau, Chartres, and so forth.

What kind of camera equipment is necessary?

Picture by picture, we look over images on the camera’s screen and discuss the strong and weak points of a given composition.

David Henry discussing esthetic considerations and technical issues concerning the Canon EOS 350d with Lucas Pollonghini, July 19th 2008. —photos by Michel Enjalbert.

Any camera, whether it be a reflex, compact or bridge, is perfectly fine for learning photography as long as it has the four classic exposure modes: “PSAM”; Program, Shutter Speed Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual. Participants should bring along their favorite pictures, or those they are frustrated with, and any accessories they would like to learn more about: electronic flash, wide angle, telephoto or zoom lenses, tripod, etc. If you do not have a camera that allows manual exposure, you can use my Nikon D90 DSLR.

Why take a photography workshop?

A classic exercise in fast-action sports photography.

Amandine taking pictures of people doing acrobatic tricks on roller blades in front of Notre-Dame with her Canon EOS 300V, March 8th, 2009.

I have the impression that photography is going through a sort of renaissance. From the mid-1980s through the end of the 1990s, photographic technologies weren’t advancing that much because so much progress had already been made. There wasn’t much difference between a single-lens reflex from 1985 and one made twelve years ago. These days, digital cameras are all the rage, and many people are buying a camera for the first time, or the first time in the last ten or twenty years. Traditionally, there were three kinds of film: black and white, and color negative and slide film, while with current cameras, people will be interested in learning about white balance, sensitivity, resolution, file formats like JPEG, Raw and TIFF, and many other technical issues. Acquiring a new camera makes people want to brush up on their picture-taking, learn how to take the best photographs, technically and esthetically, and get the best image quality from their cameras.

What is the most important accessory for taking the best quality pictures?

The Slik Mini Pro III, the best of tripods in this size.

I strongly recommend a “table” tripod, the best of which is the Slik Mini Pro III. It might seem a bit stodgy and old fashioned taking pictures on a tripod when camera manufacturers are flaunting sensitivities of ISO 6400 and higher, but blurry, noisy photographs, with little depth of field aren’t very rock & roll either: A tripod allows you to lower the sensitivity all the way, and stop the lens down halfway or more because the shutter speed is of no importance at all. It can just as well be one second, ten seconds or thirty seconds.

What is the other pertinent accessory?

By cutting the reflections with the polarizing filter, you see the true colors of the leaves, and your picture looks nicer, more lush, jungle-like.

The polarizing filter darkens the sky, automatic exposure will take the picture brighter to keep the same brightness in the sky, and thus the rest of the picture becomes brighter. I promise, these pictures of Notre-Dame are shown the way I took them, with and without the polarizing filter, without modification in Photoshop.

I highly recommend buying a polarizing filter to make the blue skies darker, more saturated, and to cut glare on glass, reflections on water, painted or metallic surfaces, the leaves of plants, bushes, trees, etc. One can quite easily brighten the foreground in pictures like this on the computer though in a picture taken with the polarizing filter, the work is already done, better. This filter is not so expensive and is quite small so you might as well get one. Since the polarizing filter cuts one or two ƒ stops of exposure, it can also serve as a “neutral density” filter allowing for slower shutter speeds so you will be able to “capture” action. From $40, depending on the diameter, in most camera stores.

Do I know your camera?

In photo magazines journalists say the D600 and 5D Mark III are “enthusiast level” cameras, which is ridiculous because any one of these cameras are perfectly capable of top quality professional work!

Entry level and mid-range Nikon and Canon cameras: the D3200, D7100, D600, 650D, 60d and the 5d Mark III.

I bought my first Nikon in 1982, I went digital when I bought a D90 in 2008, I purchased a D600 in 2012, and I know all of Nikon digital reflexes like the back of my hand from having taught photography since 2006. I know all of Canon’s SLRs except their most expensive models, such as 1D and 1Ds, and I’m quite familiar with the most subtle of settings on Canons and Nikons, as well as the “culture” of each brand. I know Sony, Pentax and Olympus cameras almost as well, but after all, a camera and is a camera, and compromises having to do with image quality will always be the same: shutter speed, sensitivity, apertures and depth of field, whether it’s a Lumix, Samsung, Fujifilm, Sigma, Leica, a pocket camera, an SLR, a medium format camera or a field camera, etc.

What about the French language?

Jean-Baptiste Labelle taking pictures like a paparazzi inside Saint-Gervais church

Jean-Baptiste Labelle taking pictures of saints inside Saint-Gervais church with his Canon EOS 30d, March 30th, 2009.

Have no fear, I’ve been living in Paris for seventeen years and I am very fluent in French, especially as concerns photography and computers. I’m very much at ease switching between the two languages, which comes in handy when you’d like to ask permission to take peoples’ picture.

My opinions on photographic composition and framing…

Examples of composition and framing in photography.

I figure it’s best to carefully look at everything that is not the subject: the subject of a photo will take one third, a half or two thirds of the image, there will always be one third, one half or two thirds of the picture that is not the subject. It is also necessary to look at the background to make sure it makes sense as concerns the subject, that everything behind will set off the subject nicely, so there will be a good juxtaposition between the subject and background.

To see, to know how to anticipate subsequent events and be at the right place at the right time, I feel it’s important to keep both eyes open while looking in the viewfinder to stay aware of who or what might come in to the frame, and predict what your subject will do next, all the while watching the edges and corners of the frame to create an effective composition, all the while watching the internal structure of the image, to ensure that there is something to look at everywhere in photograph, and avoid empty regions.

How many students are there per class?

Rick Motschall photographing the marble floor with his Nikon D200.
Rick Motschall taking pictures of spots of colored light projected by the stained glass windows of église Saint-Eustache, September 11th, 2006.

There is just one participant: you! That is, unless you would like to participate with friends, in which case the rates are the same. These photography workshops are entirely customized, one-on-one sessions. You may think of these sessions as an opportunity to learn techniques I have gathered over the decades, to benefit from years of experience gained doing photo shoots for publication, learn the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of photo equipment, and to “pick my brains”, and ask specific questions that most people wouldn’t have the answer to.

What to do when it rains, when it’s cold, or when there’s no sun?

The view looking north between tracks 20 and 21 at Gare du Nord, seen from a small overpass next to the gare du Nord bus station just inside from rue du faubourg Saint-Denis, click to see this picture larger.
Train tracks at Gare du Nord: Even with the worst of weather, it’s always worth heading out to take pictures.

Naturally, we all prefer to take pictures on nice sunny days, however, taking great pictures on cold or rainy days can be a rewarding challenge, and certainly, there are plenty of impressive pictures in the history of photography taken during not the most “appetizing” of weather.

When it rains it’s necessary to dress warmly and go out with a (big) umbrella. One trick is to search out glistening reflections on the streets, to look for reflections on the ground, often from neon signs of cafés, bars and tobacconist shops, or monuments, and people.

Pictures Laura and I took of each other that evening; examples of portrait photography at dusk with an external flash.
Laura taking pictures of the Conciergerie on the pont d’Arcole, with my Nikon F70, October 28th 2008, taken with her Nikon D80 and my SB-26 SpeedLight flash.

When it’s cold, once again, one should dress warmly. I spent most of my life in Boston, where it’s 20°F at high noon every day for a week in February, and the temperature rarely rises above freezing in December, January and February. If you’re truly frozen to the bone, we can always go in to a centuries-old church and learn about low-light photography, with the tripod. What’s impressive is to see how much more is visible in such pictures, as compared to the naked eye.

Find more about the weather in Paris. When the sky is completely clouded over, (which can be worse than rain…), one solution is to wait until nighttime, when Paris turns in to the City of Lights. Aside from all this… voilà, most of us do prefer taking pictures in the spring, summer and fall. Except it’s better to stay in artistic activity all year long, and know how to make engaging images no matter the weather.

Is a digital reflex camera necessary to participate?

Elsa Bonnefoi taking pictures on île Saint-Louis with her Canon AE-1.
Elsa Bonnefoi photographing façades with her Canon AE-1 on quai de Bourbon, île Saint-Louis, an hour before sunset, March 12th, 2007.

Whether you have pocket camera, bridge camera, a reflex, or a film-based camera is not important, any camera made in the last four years is capable of taking pictures of very good, if not excellent quality: you can’t go wrong. I can lend you my Nikon D90 if you do not have a DSLR, or in any case, taking pictures with a pocket camera or a bridge will certainly allow you to learn how to properly use a reflex or a “large sensor hybrid” later on. Do remember to fully charge the battery the day before as I’ve found they get tired easily during workshops while looking over settings, options in the menus, and reviewing photographs as we take them. If you would like to learn how to improve pictures with a computer you may wish to look over a page about Photoshop workshops.

What previous skills and knowledge are required for participants?

Photographing fountains is a good occasion for learning how to freeze action completely with shutter speeds of a thousandth of a second, by raising the sensitivity.
Gulsen Dumral taking pictures of a fountain in place des Vosges with her Nikon D3000 and my Nikkor 70–300mm zoom, August 22nd 2010.

I work with people of all kinds of skill levels, from absolute beginners to people who know more than I do in certain ways. Participants need not know anything about photography, the only requirement is a desire to take pictures, a will to learn, the energy to do creative exercises in the field, and the motivation to put in to practice the ideas and concepts I teach.

Four pictures of the fontaine des Innocents taken at shutter speeds of four seconds, one third of a second, a 1/50th of a second, and a 500th of a second. Nothing is more important than shutter speeds, which will determine whether your picture will be sharp or blurry.
For the most part everyone prefers pictures that are Tack-Sharp! In any case, on a cloudy day one can either “capture” action, or freeze action. I took these photographs of the fontaine des Innocents with shutter speeds of four seconds, one third of a second, a 1/50th of a second, and 1/500th of a second. Learn how to obtain the shutter speed which will give you the effect you are seeking in your photographs; see these pictures larger

When are the photography workshops held?

Workshop sessions are in no way pre-organized, they are scheduled according to your availability. It is best to reserve sessions a week or two in advance, to make sure I will be in Paris, and not previously engaged. You may look over available dates, below.

How long do these sessions last?

I’m in the habit of starting at 11:00 am and carrying on until 7:00 pm, though we can start whenever you wish: lessons can be arranged any time: the morning, at night, during the week, the afternoon, on weekends.

What if I would like to give the gift of photography lessons?

It happens often that people reserve photo workshops with me as a gift for their friends. So as to make the gift-giving easier, I can send you a “Certificate good for # days of photography workshops”, personalized with your friend’s name.

How to reserve a course?

I’m teaching and working nearly every day, so the easiest way to arrange an appointment is to contact me by e-mail. That way I can put you on my calendar directly by copying and pasting, everything is in black and white with no chance of error.

Write me an e-mail…

Some testimonials…

Linda Schenck, a participant in photography workshops in Paris, given by David Henry.
Linda Schenck taking pictures of the Pick-Clops Café on a sunny September day in the Marais, Paris.
Linda Schenck:

This past September I went to France to paint in Provence. While preparing for the trip I decided that I’d like to take my new Canon digital SLR with me and take some, hopefully, great photographs.

At the last moment I decided to check on the Internet for a photography instructor in Paris. The first thing to pop up was David Henry, photographer. I e-mailed him requesting a lesson from him and after a couple of e-mail exchanges I was set.

We met up in the Marais at a café in place des Vosges so we could discuss photography and Adobe Photoshop so he would know what I already knew and what he could teach me. He reviewed with me the settings on my camera and explained the different exposure modes: manual exposure, manual focus and color modes (sRGB vs Adobe RGB). We also discussed Photoshop and I was amazed at David’s grasp of this software.

I could have sat with him all day learning some of what he knew about Photoshop but I needed to learn how to use my camera to my best advantage. So we went for a walk through the Marais and came across the musée Carnavalet, where we took some photos, and David recounted some history of the museum as well as more hints, tips and advice on my camera.

After several hours we stopped at Pick-Clops café for coffee and David reviewed what he had been teaching for the last few hours.

A picture taken by a participant in photography workshops in Paris, given by David Henry.
Tom and Nancy Donahoe taking pictures of sparrows; Nancy discussing composition with David, in the jardin des Tuileries, September 17th, 2006. —photo by Linda Schenck.

And my instruction didn’t end there. When I returned home I e-mailed a couple of my photos to David for his advice on how to improve them in Photoshop and he looked them over and made suggestions and e-mailed them back to me, with his improvements to show me how to get the most out of the photos I’d taken. I learned more in half a day of shooting side by side with David than I have reading photography magazines for a year!

—Linda Schenck

Rachel Hofer:

I travel to Paris at least twice a year and am always looking for something new and interesting to do each time I go. This past fall, I was taking photography classes at home, but also wanted to learn more about night photography during my trip. I found David online and it was extremely easy to set-up a workshop. Before even leaving DC, we had exchanged detailed e-mails on my experience level as well as what I hoped to learn during the workshop. I really wanted to focus on long exposures and night photography and have to say, I took my photography skills to an entirely new level after only five hours on the streets of Paris with David.

The weather was warm, but a bit rainy the day of the workshop, so we went into Notre-Dame as we were walking by. Since flash is not allowed inside, it was the perfect place to learn how to use longer exposure times to capture images with the low light. We were using both digital and manual SLR cameras and David’s knowledge about both is extensive.

After an hour or so in Notre Dame, the sun had gone down and the rain had stopped, we headed over to the river by Hôtel de Ville, another favorite spot of mine, and focused on capturing the beautiful architecture of Paris illuminated at night. We used small tripods along the bridge and captured not only buildings, but people in motion.

During the entire workshop, I not only learned more about photography and my camera, but also about the history of Paris. I would highly recommend David’s workshops to anyone who loves photography and wants to take home some truly unique pictures of their visit to Paris.

Rachel Hofer

Tom and Nancy Donahoe:

Nancy and I spent a Sunday with David walking through the Marais district and, in late afternoon and evening, through the jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre. We found wonderful places, people and street events to photograph. David worked with us to ensure that in doing street photography we took our shots quickly, carefully, and as unobtrusively as possible. He emphasized finding the right position for the camera on an axis which he calls XYZ—horizontal, vertical, and distance from the subject. He also illustrated the discrete use of fill-in flash when doing street photography. In his workshops, David will adapt to whatever area of photography the student wants. He knows Paris intimately, so even if you think you know what you are looking for, David will find some delightful locations to photograph that you had not anticipated.

—Tom and Nancy Donahoe

Nick Gorevic, a workshop participant in July 2006, has started his own photography web site.

Take a look at pictures by Stéphane Pestourie, taken during his workshop on November 9th 2007 with his Canon 400d in the jardin des Plantes.

Availability dates updated :

Photography workshops may be scheduled on any day of the week marked in green…

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I update this calendar each time there is a reservation or a cancellation. Please note: the days marked in red are ones where I have at least one appointment. I am generally free by 7:00 pm on days when I have just one appointment, so don’t hesitate to inquire if you are only available for a workshop on a day indicated in red; I’ll be away on vacation the days shown in white.

Go to the home page of my web site

Enter the gallery of Parisian photographs

See the pictures I’ve taken in the United States

Take a look at the pictures I published in the Traveler’s Companion series of tourism/travel guide books, pictures of Canada, New England, and Mediterranean France

Jetlag and culture shock: Read my thoughts on what it is like taking pictures in Paris

See the pictures I’ve taken in England

Take a look at the pictures I have taken on trips to Italy

Photoshop lessons in Paris: learn how the pictures on this web site were prepared…

Portraits in Paris: with your family, friends and loved ones in the City of Lights, and the famous monuments of Paris in the background.

See the pictures I took on a trip through Alsace-Lorraine, France

What does all this new technology mean for photographers? Read my thoughts on this what this Brave New World means for visual artists.

Take a look at the pictures I took on a trip through Switzerland

See the pictures I’ve taken elsewhere in France


Write me a note if you would like to find out more about my work, or are interested in publishing my pictures.

How to order prints…