Why You Should Be Taking Candid Photos
If you ever want to kill the mood of a photo, just shout “say cheese!” – that ought to do it. Candid photos are much more natural: people are relaxed, adding context to a photo. This post will provide you with the knowledge to take relaxed, fun and natural photos of people without them even knowing about it.
1 – Lose the Flash
Using a flash is a dead giveaway – if you want to go unseen, widen your aperture and raise your ISO. You will be able to take well exposed photos in low light conditions such as indoors.
I recommend an ISO of about 400 and you can widen the aperture as much as you want. This gives your photos a nice, shallow depth of field, meaning the focus will be on the subject rather than its surroundings.
2 – Carry Your Camera Everywhere
If you want to get good photos, especially when it comes to shooting candid photos, you have to actually take your camera out of the house. You’ll start to feel more comfortable with it; taking photos of strangers will become second nature rather than something you fear.
When I first started carrying my camera everywhere, I ended up with a lot of photos at the pub but my photography improved dramatically.
3 – Be Patient
Patience is an intrinsic factor in taking a good photo; wait for that perfect smile, or for your subject to turn to you.
In the photo below, I was working on a corporate job and had my camera on the man on the right for about 10 seconds while he was looking away. As soon as he turned his head, I snapped the shot, resulting in one of my best photos of the weekend.
4- Use a Telephoto Lens
If you’ve got one, telephoto lenses are a great way to go unnoticed. You can stand really far away and still capture a subject as though you were up close. Telephoto lenses also force the perspective onto your subject, making it less about the scene and more about the person, hence they’re often used for portraits.
5 – Add Context
Without context, photos lack depth.
I like to position my subjects to the left or right of the frame to show some of where they are or what they’re doing. Another great way to add context is to shoot through the environment they’re in, like trees or people.
Have a look at the photo below – it gives you a really good idea of what they’re doing and the mood of the day.
6 – Shoot from the Hip
If you’re worried about being seen taking photos of someone who may not want their photo taken, try shooting with your camera at hip height. This gives a new and exciting perspective on a situation that you won’t be used to, also adding to the ‘candid’ feel of the shot.
If you’re ending up with a lot of bad photos, try using live view to compose a shot first.
For more on street photography, read our article here.
7 – Keep Quiet and Blend in
This is especially important if you’re working on a corporate job as it’s best to go unnoticed so that you don’t distract from the main event. Move slowly and quietly, and blend in by wearing similar clothes to the people you will be taking photos of.
Another good tip is to use live view on your camera where possible; this lifts the shutter up before the photo is taken, reducing the sound of the exposure.
8 – Catch People in the Moment
In this photo below, a friend walked into a festival office. He sat, exhausted, on a box of t-shirts, put his hands on his head and rocked it back. I brought up my film camera, composed the shot and took it as soon as he looked back at me.
The resulting photo captures his exhaustion among the people holding things up on the left and right, adding the context of the upbeat, busy atmosphere. Capturing people in the moment provides the best results and details of what’s going on in a photo.
9 – Move Around Your Subjects
If you’re taking a photo of someone candidly, you’re unable to ask to them move for a better composition. It’s also pointless asking them to look natural – this creates the most awkward shots of all.
Get up and walk around your subjects until you have them positioned how you’d like, then take the photo. An entire set of photos taken from the same seat tends to be boring and predictable – movement helps to mix things up.
10 – Shoot in Burst Mode
People are unpredictable and you only get one chance when taking a candid photo: take lots of shots. You’ll be surprised at what you find: I often end up with something fun and spontaneous and shooting in burst mode increases the chance of capturing that perfect shot.
Family moments can be the best time for candid photos. You can find great tips for those moments here.
If you’d like more tips and techniques about candid photography, check out our article here.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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