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What is candid photography? Although with a simple answer this might seem like a stupid question, it’s a bit more complex than you might think.
Taking a candid photo is more than just snapping someone’s shot who doesn’t expect it.
Candid photos, among others, involve a reasonable amount of planning, strategic positioning, and the right equipment.
Below, I outlined some straightforward photography tips that will inspire you to take the best candid images possible. Let’s start with it!
What is Candid Photography?
We first need to describe candid photography before we get to the photography tips.
A candid photo is of an unplanned moment in its simplest form. There’s no posing there. As a photographer, there’s no guidance from you.
Instead, you assume a position of “flying on the wall” and let things play out naturally, by clicking your shutter button along the way.
Clear photography has a distinct photojournalistic atmosphere in this regard. Instead of telling your subjects to look at a particular way or do something you like, you are recording something that happens.
This kind of photography is often full of life and emotion, which is why portraits of all kinds, from family portraits to newborn photography, and even wedding photography, are becoming so popular.
Why is it important to learn candid photography?
Many hire photographers to capture the events of the day, such as, a wedding, and provide a look behind the scenes at the events of the day.
The different uses of candid photography
Apart from photojournalism, for candid photography types and techniques, there are a variety of different applications. For candid photography, three of the most common uses are:
- Street photography.Street photographers use their camera to observe the street movements and events. Street photography usually produces intimate images of the street people to tell a slice of the story of mankind. Although street photography is usually candid in nature, it is not inherently street photography that is candid photography.
- Wedding photography. Candid wedding photography will capture the celebration’s uninhibited passion in a similar vein. A wedding photographer will catch the laughter, tears, and other “candid moments” that add up to a more detailed portrait of the wedding event. Typically, couples will hire one photographer to handle the formal portraits, such as the wedding party’s posed images, and then hire a second photographer to take candid shots all day long.
- Wildlife photography. Candid photography is similar in many ways to wildlife photography: you must mix in and remain unnoticed to capture the authentic self of your subject, and you must take many pictures before you get the perfect shot.
The question is, how are you getting ready to take the most effective photographs?
Start candid the right way with the right gear
With just about any camera, you can take great candid pictures, you just need to have it with you at all times.
Rather, the lens is the key component of the candid photographic moments.
Long lenses (i.e. a 70-200 mm zoom) allow you to hang back from the scene and naturally let things unfold.
Think about it – if you’re three feet away with a 35 mm lens trying to take clean portraits of your kids in your backyard, they’re not going to behave as naturally as they would if your 70-200mm lens were 10 feet away. In other words, the longer the lens, the more distance between you and your subjects, and the more space there is, the greater the likelihood that your subjects will be candid about what they do.
The other advantage of using a long lens is that you don’t sacrifice the moment’s warmth even though you’re farther out.
With the reach of a 70-200mm lens, you can still frame close-up shots to capture the moment’s emotions and feelings that are critical to creating the most compelling candid photos, as we will discuss below.But this doesn’t mean just use the 70-200mm lens all the time.
What are the best lenses for candid photography?
Once you have selected your camera, consider investing in the following lenses.
- 50mm Lens. This fixed lens provides a natural, undisturbed effect and is excellent for taking portraits on the fly.
- 24-70mm Lens. The 24-70 mm lens is a powerhouse that captures close-up details as well as the entire scene, a wide-aperture zoom lens that performs well in natural light and low-light scenarios.
- 70-200mm Lens. This is the most common telephoto lens, allowing unobtrusive photography from a distance, as the zoom helps you to catch your subject from a distance.
Your Observational Skills
It means you have to have an eagle eye with which to search large crowds or vast landscapes in order to find the moment in which an individual (or multiple people) enjoys a moment of candidness.
Not only do you need to prepare your eyes to see these times in the midst of chaos, you also need to be able to recognize the ideal conditions. That is, you have to look at the scene and ask yourself:
- How is the light interacting with the subject?
- What is the best angle from which to create a candid shot?
- What’s going on in the background of the scene?
- Are there interesting foreground elements that will improve the image?
When composing your candid photographs, the above questions are just a few considerations to make.
Good light will of course give you a better shot, so you need to be strategic on how the light interacts with the subject. On the one side, some wonderfully dramatic silhouetted candid portraits can be rendered by a backlit scene. Front-lighting, on the other hand, will make the emotions on the face of the person much more prominent.
Try to avoid taking everything from the eye level with respect to the view angle. With high-angle and low-angle candid photos, there’s something to tell as they elevate the image’s casual existence.
For instance, shooting a child’s portrait from their eye level as opposed to yours, invites the viewer to explore from their point of view the world of the child.
It is important to pay attention, as with any portrait, to what is happening in the background of a candid shot.
There are some important elements that you might want to concentrate on? Is the background unattractive and is it appropriate to blur? Are there distracting features (i.e. tree branches) to be framed from the shot?
It can be difficult to account for everything going on in the scene while taking off – the-cuff pictures like this. With practice, however, you will learn how to notice background elements and use them for an improved shot to your advantage (or eliminate them).
Finally, while watching the scene, keep your eyes out for elements of the foreground that can add visual appeal to the shot.
For example, shooting through something – a plant or a crowd of people-creates a clear photo with more depth and dimension. In fact, shooting through something adds to the photo’s candid nature, as if you captured the moment you went through without the subjects having any idea that you were with your camera there.
Take your camera everywhere
Candid photography is about capturing the moment. So, hold your camera out at a moment’s notice and always be ready.
Whether it’s wearing it with a shoulder strap or a sling strap, a wrist strap or a camera belt, just make sure your camera is ready to fire to get the picture.
Probably the best way to take photographs spontaneously is to always be prepared to do so. I have a DSLR that I take out when I’m on a shoot, but I like to bring a quality point and shoots and a shooting camera that I can pull out at a moment’s notice to catch the many opportunities that life provides us with for a good photo.
Also carrry your smartphone with you helps people to be more comfortable with taking their pictures. I think my friends and family already expect me to have my camera out so when I fire it up, it’s not a cue to pose, but it’s a normal part of our relationship–it means they’re comfortable and the pictures are perfect.
Suggested camera settings
Since every circumstance of candid photography is different, there are no hard and fast rules for the ideal setting of the camera.
There are some general rules that you can obey to get the shots of the highest quality, though:
- Minimize the ISO as far as possible in order to eliminate the shot’s optical noise.
- You will need to use a faster shutter speed if you want to freeze action. For example, children playing can require a 1/250 second shutter or faster.
- Open the aperture to blur the context. As noted above, there will be moments when the backdrop is ugly or distracting, so it will be helpful to reduce the depth of field by shooting with a wide aperture (i.e., f/1.8).
- In lieu of manual mode, use aperture priority mode or shutter priority mode. Manual mode is often too slow as all three exposure settings have to be changed. In low-light conditions, use aperture priority mode and shutter priority mode in action situations.
- Keep your camera on the autofocus of a single shot unless there is a lot of action. Turn to continuous autofocus in this case to allow the camera to monitor moving objects continuously.
- Use a Long Zoom. Clearly, the further away you are from your subject, the less likely they are to know that you are photographing them and the more normal and comfortable they are going to act. Using a telephoto lens or longzoom helps you to film your personal space from outside but maintain the feeling of intimacy in your shot.
Nothing will ruin a candid photo’s atmosphere like a bright, harsh flash in the face of the subject.
This kind of light always looks completely abnormal, which is why I suggested that you pay attention to how the light interacts with the subject matter.
If there is no ton of light, open the opening to let more light in, slow down the shutter speed to increase the duration of light that hits the sensor, or increase the ISO (or do all three!). Learn how the exposure triangle works by controlling the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to get a well-exposed shot.
Maybe the most obvious way you can show that you’re photographing them to another person is to use a light. There is nothing in the eyes like a blinding light flash to ruin the moment. When possible (and not always) try to shoot without the flash if you are looking for images that are candid.
Use a quicker lens, open your aperture or turn it on if your camera has a’ natural light mode’ when it raises the ISO setting in lower light situations. Hopefully one or a combination of these approaches will help you to mix a little more into the background.
Putting yourself in a position to get a great shot
I noted earlier the importance of developing a keen eye to see moments of candidness.
And while it’s important to do that, there’s another way that you can try to get consistent portraits-strategically position yourself.
That is to put yourself in a position where candid moments come to you, rather than running around trying to spot open moments.
An examples of this strategy is to be standing at the top of the stairs at Grand Central Station, positioning yourself outside the entrance of the wedding venue, or placing yourself in the middle of a busy street market.
As street photographers will tell you, finding a spot with lots of action and staying with your camera is much easier than walking around the city in the hopes of running into a great candid moment.
Shoot from the Hip
If your subject knows you’re there and you’ve got your camera out, they might be tensioning or behaving a little odd as they see you raise your camera to the eye. The advantage of digital cameras is that taking lots of shots doesn’t cost you much, and without raising your camera it can be worth shooting. You may want to adjust your lens to a wider angle setting to make up for any targeting issues you may have in order to do this most effectively.
Photograph People Doing things
Images of people doing things tend to be much more compelling than being passively there doing nothing. For one, your subject will concentrate on something that adds excitement to a photo (and takes the focus away from you), but it also puts it in perspective and brings a story aspect to your image. Timing is all in candid shots so wait until they’re away from you and focused entirely on what they’re doing or who they’re with and you’re going to inject a feeling into your images that they’re oblivious and that your image viewer looks unseen.
Photograph People with People
Something very interesting happens when you photograph more than one person in an image at a time – it introduces relationship into the shot. Even if the two (or more) people are not really interacting in the shot it can add depth and a sense of story into the viewing of the image. Of course ideally in candid shots you’d like some interaction between your subjects as that will add emotion into the shot also as we the viewer observe how the people are acting.
Frame Images with Foreground Elements
A trick I frequently use in candid shots is to deliberately include something in the shot’s foreground to make it look like I’m hiding behind it. You could do this by aiming over someone’s head, including some tree branch or a doorway frame.
Take Posed Shots into Candid Territory
One of my favorite times for getting candid shots is when others take formal shots. This is because the one factor (the other photographer) is based on everyone in the picture–but it’s not you. If the main photographer posed the happy couple of the day or their bridal partly search for another angle to take a shot of the same subject. Often you can get great shots if you take a few steps to the side and aim from nearly a profile position. It can also work well to zoom in to target just one or two of the people in a larger group at this moment.
Also try to zoom right out to take a photographer’s shot and his subject all in one. If you’re the only photographer and taking formal photos, a great technique is to take your posed picture and then keep shooting after everyone thinks you’ve done. Often it’s the shots that are the best just after the posed one as people relax and smile at each other.
Wrapping up: Take a lot of photos
If there ever was a situation prepared for an approach to “spray and pray,” this is it.
Of course, I’m kidding, but just a little bit…
One of the best candid photography techniques you can use to catch truly authentic moments is to take a ton of shots.
Place in the burst mode of your camera, frame the shot and fire away!
With that, the next time you go shooting, you have several candid photography tips to follow.
Remember, to capture authentic moments is the meaning of candid photography. It’s not about jumping out of the bushes to ambush strangers with your phone, nor is it supposed to be something sinister in which you are a voyeur and intruding into the personal space of people.
Actually, the purpose of candid photography is to concentrate on a moment’s emotionality, the emotions that people experience, and turn it into a picture that connects with the viewer.
Candid photography may be one of the most capable forms of photography in this regard to transport the viewer in time to a particular moment. That’s all about candid photography!
Content retrieved from: https://www.photographytalk.com/what-is-candid-photography.