Candid photography is the art of consistently shooting pictures of people in natural unposed moments and actions. Candid moments can often capture the unique moments that reflect the true nature of the subjects rather than an image that posed shots portray – so instead of a photo of the family standing in a row looking surprised by a flash, you catch them all laughing together in a tender happy moment.

Candids are also the more difficult photos to take and are more often taken by accident and luck, rather than by using any definite technique. Professional photojournalists and documentary/lifestyle photographers on the other hand make a living by knowing how to shoot these types of photographs in a consistent manner. This post talks about 3 simple techniques one can use to capture candid photos in a consistent manner.

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The type of candid photography we’ll delve into will be the documentary/photo-journalistic kind, where we want capture people acting naturally or caught in unique and photographic moments. This style of photography is useful not only when shooting weddings, events, or gatherings, but also when shooting natural portraits and street photography.

 

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There are 3 simple rules that can help you capture people in natural candid moments:


  1. Blend in and be forgotten:
  2. Your objective at this point is to be a ninja and become ‘one with the furniture’ :)

    Now this doesn’t mean you should stand in a corner hiding with your camera hidden away. I actually mean the exact opposite: say you’re shooting a wedding, you want the guests to get so used to seeing you, that they begin ignoring the fact that you’re photographing them and instead act as if you’re not there. This will let you catch those natural candid moments that can be truly unique.

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    This is sometimes easier said than done but blending in and being part of the background is essential. Remember, that people will often freeze up or pose when they see a camera pointed in their direction. What many photographers mistakenly do to avoid being seen is to shoot surreptitiously, hiding the fact that they are taking a photograph. The problem with this is that you will often end up with a shot that is either not in focus or not composed properly or worst of all shows no connection to the subject in any way. Many photographers think a zoom lens can help them capture candid photos but I don’t like this method much and don’t advocate it unless you’re paparazzi.

    I personally don’t want people shooting me without my knowledge so I wouldn’t do it to others, and using a zoom lens not only takes you away from the action so that you can’t truly partake and capture people’s true nature, but also makes you look creepy.


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    So how do you blend in and still partake in the action deeply enough to connect with your subjects?

    Well, remember when you first got your camera and you took a hundred gazillion pictures of your spouse and kids until they got so tired of you that they just ignored you? Well, that’s what you need to do with strangers (or clients) at an event you’re shooting.

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    Instead of hiding the fact that you’re shooting pictures, take the opposite approach and just shoot away. Don’t intrude into people’s spaces, but don’t hide the fact that you’re photographing everyone away. Now of course at first people will pop into their ‘pose smile’ or freeze up or even throw their beer at you, but you will find that in a very short while, people will start taking you (and your camera) for granted. You’ll become part of the background and that’s when you can now truly blend in, and start looking for those natural moments and actions.


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  3. Watch, wait, be patient:
  4. Now that you’ve blended in, the next step is all about patience grasshopper.

    Watch people and predict their actions beforehand to truly capture those peak moments. Many times if you’re following a conversation for example, you can tell just before someone is about to burst into laughter, so be ready before it happens. Often, you’ll need to watch a group of people for a few minutes before they do something really interesting, so don’t just take a shot and move on. Hang about, partake in the conversation if you can, and then be ready to capture the really unique moments.

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    I’ve often stood around talking with groups of people, listening intently to the conversation, and then suddenly pulled my camera up to shoot that very group as they burst into laughter (I’ll be laughing along with them too of course). Many photographers don’t have the patience to wait for reactions that are truly unique and interesting, but often if you wait long enough, something photographic will happen. Look around you, you’ll see people going through a range of fun and interesting emotions.

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    This all does take a bit of practice, but a great place to try this is at first is at with family and friends, where you’re already comfortable and already familiar with the people making it easier for your to predict their reactions and photographing them.


  5. Keep your camera and lens kit small and compact as possible:
  6. A big professional SLR brings unwanted attention to you when shooting candids. Try using smaller cameras, such as a Leica (expensive I know!) or a DSLR without a battery pack, in conjunction with prime lenses.

    This will allow you to use a compact kit that won’t alarm people allowing them to act naturally around you and forget about your camera. This is especially useful for candid street photography.

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Together, these 3 rules should help you take candid photos in a much more consistent manner. Keep practicing and keep looking for those special moments while using good composition techniques and you’ll find yourself taking some amazing unique photographs of people.