There is a big misconception that candid photography is about hiding and waiting in the bushes. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
You can get close, engage your subjects, and still take advantage of candid photography techniques.
Read on to find out how to take great candid shots, from setting up to capturing candid moments.
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What Does Candid Photography Mean?
The first crucial question to ask is what is candid photography? Candid photography is any type of photography that is real and in the moment.
There is no posed picture, no fake smiles. Only real, genuine feelings. The subjects may know you are there photographing them. But they are not taken out of the moment by the camera’s presence.
It is so easy to spot a fake smile or fake look, and that is the quickest way to a mediocre photograph. But a candid photo allows real emotions to shine through.
You could be doing portraiture, event or wedding photography. Or travel, street photography, or family photography. Learning how to get candid shots will take you to a new level as a professional photographer.
Candid photographers know how to look at each scene. And they use the surroundings or other ideas to their advantages. This all comes with practice. Candid moments are shots of decisive moments.
Candid Photography Tips
10. Shoot in Burst Mode to Capture Every Moment
People are unpredictable, and you only get one chance when taking candid photography. Take lots of shots. Your camera, whether Nikon or Canon digital cameras are able to take great photos.
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. For more candid photography tips, you need to read on.
9. Shoot From the Hip to Avoid Being Seen
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.
I’m not saying sneaking up on someone and forcing them being in your photo. But shooting from the hip is a common technique among street photographers.
This gives a new and exciting perspective on a situation that you won’t be used to. It is also adding to the ‘candid photography’ feel of the shot. As a photographer, you often shoot from eye level. The hip level will open up a whole new world.
If you’re ending up with a lot of bad photos, try using live view to compose a shot first. There is no best lens for this candid photography, but wider lenses are more comfortable to shoot with.
For more on street photography, read our article here.
8. Move Around Your Subjects for Better Composition
If you’re taking a candid photo of someone, you’re unable to ask them to move for a better composition. It’s also pointless asking them to look natural. That 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. Have your candid camera ready all the time.
An entire set of photos taken from the same seat tends to be boring and predictable. Movement helps to mix things up.
7. Lose the Flash to Stay Discreet
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 candid photos in low light conditions such as indoors.
I recommend an ISO of about 800, 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.
This is one of the most important candid photography tips.
6. Ask Questions to Break the Ice
The camera will often act as a barrier between a photographer and their subject. It has the ability to make your subject feel very self-conscious and exposed. Use your conversational skills to break this ice.
Portrait candid photography may seem like a strange term. How can you take a candid portrait shot of someone during a session when they know you are photographing them?
But there is a way to photograph your subjects, so the moments are real—and feel candid.
If you ever noticed great candid photographers working, one of their best qualities is how they interact with their subjects. They know how to keep them comfortable and bring their personalities out.
Think of questions ahead of time. Or search for some common ground to talk about. If you don’t know what to say, ask them a simple question.
Maybe ask them about their hobby or a place they want to travel to. The excitement firing up in their eyes can be a great start for a candid photo.
Keep the focus off the fact that they are being photographed. When you get a person talking, they will begin to forget about the camera.
They will start feeling real emotions and showing them in their facial expressions when they talk.
This is a way to get natural-feeling images within a setting that wouldn’t be suitable for candid photos.
Wait for the moment in-between the moments. Often, your subjects wait until they don’t think you are photographing. Then they allow their true personality to shine. I call this the moment in-between moments.
Pay attention when you are not pointing your camera at your subject. Keep your eye out, and be ready to shoot.
You can even trick them. Take a posed photo and then tell them that you are changing your settings. Or try putting your camera down as you make a joke and use Silent Shutter mode.
The second they get that real look on their face, go for it and take the shot.
5. Get Close and Watch Your Subjects Without Being Noticed
I prefer the opposite approach instead. There is no best lens for candid photography. Only the one that gives you the best images.
Get into the middle of the action. Be part of the fun. By doing this, people will become more comfortable around you. They will be more willing to let their guard down.
From here, you can survey the room and wait to see who looks like they are having a great time. Don’t look at them before you are about to take their photo.
Humans have an evolutionary tendency to notice eye contact. This will take them out of the moment.
You need to do this by blending in and keeping quiet. Sometimes, the attention is away from you, and you need to use this to your advantage.
This is one of the best candid photography tips, straight from the book on how to take candid photos.
This is especially important if you’re working on a corporate job as it’s best to go unnoticed. Take slow and quiet movements. Blend in by wearing similar clothes to the people you will be taking candid 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.
Instead, act as if you aren’t paying them attention to throw them off your scent. Wait for the right moment to happen before pointing the camera at them.
When they’re laughing or in some type of emotional moment, they will not notice or be affected by the camera pointed at them.
For conferences or quiet events where you are waiting for people to open up, consider putting your camera down for a while and watching.
Keep the camera ready. But know that people will start to relax more if it’s out of sight. For candids, this means you may need to wait a long time.
Sit and wait for someone to make a joke or comment that allows the room to erupt in laughter or show their natural emotions. Then start taking candid photographs like crazy.
Sometimes it takes time for these moments to occur. Sit tight and wait for them.
4. Be More Discreet With a Prime Lens
As I mentioned in the last point, zoom lenses will work fine. But I prefer to use light primes as well.
Light prime lenses will make your camera so much more compact, much less noticeable, and easier to use. It will allow you to walk around an event, blend into the background, and raise your camera to snap a photo without anyone noticing.
This doesn’t mean you have to ditch the zoom lens. Use both or interchange between the two. This is why you will notice many wedding photographers using two cameras. One with zoom and one with a prime.
If you’ve got one, telephoto lenses are a great way to go unnoticed. You can stand far away and still capture a subject as though you were up close.
In terms of the best lens for candid photography – go with what you are comfortable with. This way, you will be able to capture more candid photography shots.
3. Tell People to Get Comfortable and Pose Their Own Way
When taking someone’s portrait, the easiest way to pose them is to take them out of the moment. Instead, ask them to pose themselves. Ask them how they would stand if you weren’t there or ask them to suggest some poses.
It is amazing to see the comfortable and elegant poses that people do when you ask them this. They just needed the prompt!
These are not candid photography shots per se. But they will have that candid or real feeling. When you mix those poses with natural emotions that come from a conversation with your subject, the possibilities are endless.
And if your subject starts to become uncomfortable again after a while, move them off that pose. Have them stand somewhere else. Or ask them to try something different, and the cycle will start all over again.
2. Tell People to Pretend You Are Not There
Often with event or wedding photography, people will be uncomfortable with a camera around. They will have a hard time getting into the moment. And they will wonder if they should be looking here or there. They will try to half pose or do things that look awkward.
In these specific cases, tell the group that you are going to take some candid photographs of everyone hanging out. Ask people to do their best to pretend you’re not there.
For portrait sessions, have the subjects act out a particular scenario or conversation. Tell them that if you want them to do something specific or to look at the camera, you will ask them. Otherwise, they can forget about your presence.
Sometimes all it takes is that prompt and the room will get more comfortable soon. It gives them permission to forget about you.
1. Be Where the Action is and Blend in
Sometimes you want to capture photographs of people in their surroundings. Without them knowing or without ruining the moment. There are a few major tips that will make your life much easier when trying to get this type of shot.
The first is to put yourself in the middle of the action. Go where interesting things are happening and hang out there. Pick a spot and let your subjects come to you.
By doing this, people will be entering your personal space. And not you entering their space. They will notice you less. This will also allow you to get closer to people.
You will be right in the middle of things, and they will be coming towards you.
Next is to do a little acting. To keep that candid meaning in photography, I like to act like I’m a tourist. I’m photographing the buildings or scenery around a person.
Sometimes I even furrow my brow and act like I don’t know how to use my camera!
Aim up at a building above them or at the scenery to the side of them. And at the last second aim the camera at them to capture the shot.
When you want to photograph people coming towards you, be careful of what I call the camera snap. The camera snap is when you take the camera away from your eye right after you take the candid shots.
It’s instinctual, and everyone does it. And this is what lets the person know that you took their photo.
Instead, capture the person’s photo as they come towards you. Hold the camera there as they walk through the scene as if you’re waiting for them to get out of the way. This will keep the moment as candid as possible.
Candid photography is entertaining and keeps your creative energy high. Use our tips and capture moments nobody sees but you.
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