Candid photography is an excellent approach to obtain intimate, honest images – the kind of shots that tell actual tales about their subjects.
But how do you take stunning candid photos? How do you take candid images that you’re proud of?
In this article, I’ll give you 11 strategies for taking your candid shots to the next level. It is important to note that these suggestions are not for taking snoopy, voyeuristic, or real paparazzi photographs. Instead, they’ll assist you in adding a real, candid feel to photos of loved ones, portrait subjects, images at events, and other subjects.
Let’s get this party started.
1. Take your camera everywhere
You want to take impromptu images, what is the best approach to do it? Always keep a camera on hand! That way, when the opportunity arises, you can swiftly turn on the camera, snap a few images, and (assuming all goes well!) get a beautiful outcome.
When I’m on set, I’ll use my DSLR, but when I’m not, I’ll use a point-and-shoot camera. If I notice a good opportunity, I’ll pull it out and photograph it. Of course, you don’t have to go out and buy an expensive second body; smartphone cameras are already quite high quality and more than suitable for most candid photography.
Taking a camera with you everywhere also helps people become more comfortable with you photographing them. My friends and family simply expect me to have my camera out, so when I do, it’s not a signal to pose, but rather a natural aspect of our conversation. When I do take a photo or two, the subjects are comfortable, and the photos appear natural.
2. Use a long focal length
To capture candid photographs without being observed, such as a 135mm prime, an 18-200mm zoom, or a 70-200mm zoom. As you may have predicted, the further you are from your subject, the less likely they will be aware that you are photographing them, and the more natural and comfortable they will appear.
However, depending on the situation, a long lens can be rather obvious, and it may even make people feel uneasy (as if they are being watched). So choose your lens carefully, and if you’re worried about people’s reactions, go with your most compact zoom.
You may acquire candid images from outside people’s personal space this way, go unnoticed, and keep a sense of closeness in your compositions.
3. Kill the flash
Isn’t that the most obvious method to tell someone you’re photographing them? Using a flash (particularly the one on the top of your camera!). After all, nothing beats a brilliant flash of light to grab people’s attention and kill a moment.
So, if at all feasible, turn off your flash for candid photographs. Instead of utilizing the flash when photographing in low light, try increasing your ISO, opening up your aperture, or decreasing your shutter speed.
You’ll get a brighter exposure and avoid making your target feel uneasy.
4. Take a lot of pictures
Back in the days of film, it was critical to saving your photos. However, if you use a digital camera (which I’m sure you do! ), there’s no need to hold back; instead, be aggressive in your shooting. Don’t be scared to snap multiple shots of the same topic.
In fact, I’ve discovered that by shooting a burst of photographs of a person, I may sometimes obtain some unexpected and spontaneous shots that I wouldn’t have captured otherwise.
So, set your camera to continuous shooting mode (also known as burst mode) and fire off numerous images at once. You’ll have a much better chance of getting an unexpectedly excellent candid shot.
5. Position yourself strategically
While candid photography is all about catching the spontaneity of a moment and getting the right shot in that split second of time, you can boost your chances of success if you think ahead and predict what is going to happen.
So, if you’re attending a wedding, arrive early (or even attend the rehearsal) and plan out what will happen during the ceremony. Where should you position yourself to catch each moment? Which direction will people turn? What are they going to do? What will the lighting look like?
You won’t waste time going around and adjusting yourself if you ask these questions ahead of time. And you’ll be in the ideal position to capture candid moments when they happen.
6. Photograph people doing things
Personally, I find photographs of people doing things to be far more intriguing than images of people doing nothing. They also tend to have more natural compositions.
For one thing, your subject will be concentrating on something that gives energy to a photograph. It also adds context and a tale element (which takes their attention away from you!).
In candid photography, timing is crucial, so wait until your subject is completely engaged on their activity. This will provide a sense of authenticity to your photographs, as your subject will be unaware and the viewer will be able to look on unnoticed.
It is important to note that your subject does not have to be doing anything particularly complicated or intricate – they could be dancing, conversing, playing a game, etc.
7. Photograph people with people
When you picture more than one person at a time, something really remarkable happens: you inject a relationship into the photograph. Even if the two (or more) persons aren’t communicating, there will be greater depth and a sense of plot.
Of course, the most candid compositions will include some interaction between your subjects, as this will bring emotion to the shot – but you may still take some great images without interaction.
8. Shoot from the hip
Here’s a fast suggestion from street photographers for shooting unnoticed: Use a moderately wide lens, such as a 35mm.
Set your camera’s shutter to the most silent setting.
Place the camera low to the ground, either at chest height or at your hip.
Then, as soon as your subject steps into position, fire off a flurry of photographs without lifting the camera to your eye.
This approach can be hit or miss, so you might want to consider zone concentrating (where you prefocus your lens and use a narrow aperture for a deep depth of field). But when it works, it truly works – your subject is utterly unconscious of your presence, they don’t tense up or behave out of character, and you get your candid shots.
9. Change your point of view
Photos taken from standing height can appear acceptable, and there are lots of great images taken with the camera held at eye level. But, if you want to shake things up and take some genuinely stunning photographs, why not try a different angle?
For example, get low and fire high, or find a good vantage position and shoot down. You can climb stairs, cross bridges, crouch on the ground — whatever it takes to acquire the shot (while staying unnoticed).
Also, if you enjoy the low-angle shot but are uneasy stooping while conducting candid photography (it is, after all, fairly attention-grabbing), consider shooting from the hip (as discussed in the previous tip). While your photographs may turn out crooked, it’s an interesting look that some photographers enjoy, and it may provide a feeling of spontaneity and authenticity to a situation.
10. Frame images with foreground elements
If you want to create more three-dimensional, layered compositions, I highly advocate arranging with your subject as the main point – but then putting an element in the front, such as a tree, a person’s shoulder, the frame of a doorway, etc. Feel free to get creative. The goal is to add a foreground element that adds context and depth to the photo, but you may also experiment with extending your aperture for out-of-focus foreground bokeh.
The ultimate goal is to give the impression of being on the outside looking in. It’s an excellent complement to an honest moment, and when done correctly, it may lend a feeling of mystery to the composition.
11. Take posed shots into candid territory
It may seem counterintuitive, but one of my favorite times to shoot candid images is when other photographers are taking formal ones.
Why? During posed shots, everyone’s attention is on the guiding photographer, not on you. So, if a wedding photographer is shooting a series of posed shots, you can get some amazing candid moments by standing over to the side and capturing a few photos of your own.
I’d also recommend using a telephoto lens to catch more intimate scenes, and you could even try zooming all the way out to get images of both the subject and the photographer.
By the way, if you’re the sole photographer at an event or session and you’re the one taking the posed photographs, I’d advise you to keep shooting even after everyone else believes you’ve finished. Because individuals relax, grin naturally, laugh, and gaze at one other, these photographs — snapped minutes after the posed images stop – frequently look the finest.
Candid photography tips: Conclusion
Hopefully, you now feel much more confident as a candid photographer, and you’re ready to start taking your own amazing candid images!
So grab your camera, keep these guidelines in mind, and have fun shooting.