A good candid photo can look fantastic. The aim of such photography is to capture the subject in their natural state. For many people, as soon as they see the camera on the, or have to pose for a picture, they freeze up. Their dazzling smile becomes a rictus, and their calm composure is exchanged for a manic and wide-eyed stare. Candid shots can show true personality in a person, bringing to the fore their best features and very essence. However, it’s not an easy method of photography to master.
When trying to capture your subject’s natural grace, it’s easy to be too obvious, or use the wrong camera settings, leading you to miss the perfect moment you’ve waited for. In this article, we’ll take a look at some easy tips you can implement to take better candid photos of the people you care about. Some may seem obvious, but many amateur photographers fail to consider them.
1. Carry Your Camera Everywhere – And Use It
This should be the number one rule for aspiring photographers, no matter what type of pictures you’re trying to take. You shouldn’t ever find yourself thinking, ‘I wish I had my camera right now.’ It should be in your hand or by your side whenever the situation allows. By doing so, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to use it. Don’t be scared to take the lens cap off and start shooting either. You may think that there isn’t an awe-inspiring shot in front of you, but you’ll be surprised just how much you miss with only a quick glance.
Carry your camera everywhere. The more people are used to seeing you with it, the more you blend in.
For candid shots, you’ll want your friends and family to be used to you having your camera out. If you only turn it on and start snapping away when you want a picture of someone specific, people will immediately notice. The more you use it, the more relaxed people will be around you.
2. Make Use of Natural and Ambient Light
The second most important aspect of photography is light. It will determine how your images turn out, and it can be a tricky and fickle beast. If there’s too much, you risk overexposing your subject. Too little, on the other hand, can mean your shots come out blurry. The temptation for newcomers to photography is to use the flash to compensate for poor lighting. However, this can absolutely ruin a candid shot if used incorrectly. Not only is it a total giveaway of what you’re doing, but it can bounce off the surroundings, create a red-eye effect, and completely wash out your portrait. Turn off the flash and use natural and ambient lighting instead.
Candid photography often means you’ll have to use any available lighting.
Going without a flash means you’ll have to rely on your camera’s settings more. You’ll need to choose a wider aperture and higher ISO. Look for light sources that illuminate your subject, but make sure they’re not backlit and that the contrast is acceptable.
3. Choose a Zoom Lens
In the point above, we mentioned how vital it is not to be too obvious. The choice of a zoom lens can really help with this. Prime lenses are often the choice for professional portrait photographers, due to their usually wide maximum aperture and shallow depth of field. It’s possible to create a nice soft background blur with them. However, they also require the photographer to be close to the subject. For candid shots, this isn’t always possible. A zoom lens gives you some distance from your mark, which means you can better manoeuvre to get a good angle. They’re less likely to notice you and more likely to be at ease. If you’re photographing a party, it means you can move around with far more freedom.
A zoom lens means you can get a close-up of your subject without being physically near them.
4. Use Burst Mode
It’s rare that your first attempt at getting a candid picture of someone will be as good as it possibly can be. When you’re waiting for a subject that doesn’t know they’re supposed to be looking fabulous, it’s highly likely you’ll catch them at a bad moment. To remedy this, try selecting the burst mode on your camera. This will allow you to shoot a series of photographs over a few moments, which increases your chances of securing a good one. It’s also an excellent mode for capturing a target that’s moving; it will reduce blur and can create a fantastic collage of candid goodness.
Using burst mode is a great way of capturing a subject that is on the move.
5. Make it Interesting
Again, this goes without saying in photography. Your pictures should tell a story or make a point, and your candid photos should show a person at their natural best. You want your pictures to be evocative and attention-grabbing. There are many ways you can do so. Composition is one; your subject should be the focus of the attention, but that doesn’t mean they have to be at the centre of the picture on a flat plane. Use the environment and other people to frame them or contrast with them.
Try to add as many interesting or evocative elements as possible to your image. Think about composition.
Composition isn’t always easy, and the ‘rules’ are meant to be broken. It can be hard to perfectly frame your shot without your subject noticing, but try to capture as many eye-catching elements as you can.
6. Be Subtle
Many of the tips we’ve covered so far encompass this point. Quite often, a few moments after your subject realises what you’re doing, the game is up. The moment will pass, and for a while at least they’ll be on guard waiting for you. As we mentioned, try to avoid using a flash or getting too up-close and personal with your subject. Try to capture them when their attention is focused on something else. They may be deep in conversation, laughing along with everyone, or lost in deep thought.
It’s not always easy to capture great moments, so try to be discreet.
Try shooting from the hip, or shoot while directing your attention towards something else. It can be hard to get a great shot this way, but it’s an effective means of not being obvious.
7. Be Patient
Good things come to those who wait, and so do good photographs. Because you can’t control the situation in front of you, you’ll have to wait until the perfect conditions arise. This quite often means you’ll have to observe your surroundings and anticipate what’s going to happen. When doing so, ensure that you get a few practice shots in. You can make adjustments to your camera’s settings while you wait, and ensure that you get it right when the perfect shot comes along.
It sometimes takes a while for the perfect moment to come along. Be patient!
The more you rush and charge about trying to get the right angle and lighting, the more likely you are to make everyone aware of what you’re trying to do.
8. Change Perspectives
If you’re at your subject’s eye-level, you’re highly likely to be noticed pointing your camera at them. If you’re to the side or behind them, you risk missing out on some great shots. To get the best of both worlds, try changing up your perspective. If you can get above the action, you’re far more likely to be able to pull off a good candid shot (although you’ll need a zoom lens to do so). Similarly, if you’re lower down or shooting from the hip, you may get a unique take on the situation that ends up looking fantastic.
Try capturing your candid shots from a different angle or perspective.
9. Shoot First, Edit Later
We’ve already mentioned how unlikely it is that you’ll get an amazing photograph at the first time of asking. Although this shouldn’t dissuade you from trying, don’t forget that you can always go back and edit your pictures afterward. It’s possible to use software such as Adobe Lightroom to bring out the best in your images. You should, therefore, focus on taking plenty of photos while you can, and making small adjustments as you go.
You’ll often need to put some effort into post-production to get the most from your pictures.
For the best results in post-production, shoot in RAW format. Your camera automatically processes JPEG files, but RAW files hold a lot more information, making it easier to improve them.
Ultimately, candid photography is an art form that takes a lot of practice. You will want to try out as many of these tips as possible in order to find out what works for you and what you need to improve on. Try using a range of different equipment, lenses, and camera settings until you’re familiar with how certain elements impact the situation. As we covered in our first point, you should aim to take as many photos as possible. The more you take, the better you’ll understand what you need to do to improve.
Practice really does make perfect.
The tips we’ve covered in this article can all be implemented with relative ease. Once you’re aware of the elements that can affect your photographs and method of shooting, it’s easier to make positive changes. Try adding a few of these each time you set out to take candid photos, and before long you’ll be capturing some fantastic moments for the important people in your life.