How To Make Great Photos Of The Pantheon In Paris


Sunset illuminates the dome on the top of the Pantheon in Paris, France.


The sun was setting when I set up my tripod to make this photo of the Pantheon in Paris. The buildings dome-shaped top and greco-roman columns are spectacular. But it's not an easy building to photograph.

A dynamic view of the Pantheon, lit with the last light of the day, in Paris, France.

Do You Embrace Or Avoid Perspective Distortion In Your Photos?

Positioned at the top of a hill, no doubt to enhance the dominance of the structure, creates problems for the photographer. As a result you find yourself pointing your camera upwards to fit the dome into the frame. Unfortunately, doing so causes the building to tilt which, under certain circumstances, can be distracting.

How To Correct Perspective Distortion In Camera

This phenomena is called perspective distortion and the best way to overcome it is to move backwards until you can fit the top of the building in without having to tilt the camera upwards. To achieve the right framing you will likely have to use a more powerful focal length (i.e., zoom in).

In this case the building was surrounded by cars so moving back would have resulted in a grand, iconic building being fronted by all range of modern cars. Not at all what I wanted. 

How Lightroom Helps You Fix Perspective Distortion

An alternative approach, and the one I chose, was to deliberately include more of the surroundings, than I otherwise would have, and then to utilize the Transform panel, either on Auto or by moving on or more of the Manual correction sliders, to correct some of the perspective problems associated with having to photograph so close to the bottom of the building. You'll find that feature inside Lightroom's Develop module. Just be sure to turn the Constrain Crop option on.

I think the resulting tilt looks relatively normal, by which I mean the less exaggerated tilt has produced a more realistic result.

I made the above images at sunset. I love the effect of the warm sunlight caressing the dome and helping project it forward from the vivid blue sky background.

That's a rule of composition which I can express as follows:

Warm colors advance, cool colors recede.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

A fence line, marking a boundary between the pavement and an historically important structure becomes an important element of composition in this image of the Pantheon in Paris, France.

When Are Your Truly Done Photographing Something?

Friends and family would no doubt remember me using the words "just one more photo". I get excited when I'm making photos and I don't want to move on until I'm sure I've made a great image.

But that's not to say I'm slow. Far from it, I make my images and move along, though sometimes only a few steps before I begin to really see the image taking shape. As we move perspective, light and composition changes, including relationships between the subject and the background.

The lesson here is to move, because it's the physical approach to our photography that brings all the elements of the scene together into a cohesive and harmonious image.

It certainly helps to learn to see the world through the boundaries of the photographic frame. It's a world unto itself.

The above color images were all made within a few meters of each other yet, I'm sure you'll agree, they're all quite different from each other. The top two images are, primarily, about space and  perspective. Conversely, the detailed study of the fence line and background columns is about line, shape and repetition. The first two images were made with a wide-angle focal length, while the detailed view was made with a telephoto focal length.

What's Your Favorite Desert Island Lens?

All of the photos in this post were made with a Canon 5D Mark II camera and a Canon 24-105mm f/4 L series lens. On the full frame Canon 5D camera this is a great lens which offers a really versatile range of focal lengths covering most of the architecture, landscape and portrait photography I'm likely to do.

The final two images were made with a Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens. It allowed me to stand a little further back and highlight particular details within the scene while, at the same time, allowing me to produce images with relatively normal perspective.

It's always great to have a wider focal length (e.g., 16 mm) lens, particularly for large interior spaces, like churches. However, the 24-105mm focal length would currently be my desert island lens for a full frame Canon camera.

I'm now a Sony user and love my Sony a7RII camera. My general purpose lens for that camera is a Sony/Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens, though the new Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 lens looks pretty amazing. 

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru