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Candid Photography

Friday, June 1st, 2007 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Candid Photography

You must have seen “Candid Camera” on TV, right? Well, candid photography is something like that. The only difference is that while those were staged to make you giggle, these are more natural. And that is what candid photography is all about. Capturing people, places and things without them posing for it and sometimes without their knowledge. Given below are a few tips you can use to get started with candid photography. Please note that these tips are not about taking sneaky or true paparazzi shots (for example, photographing people without their permission), but rather, they’re about how to add a more candid feel to the shots you take of the people you know. Let’s get started!

1.) Your camera should be stuck on you.

Probably the best way to take spontaneous photographs is to always be ready to do so. Carry a good quality point and shoot camera that’s small and easy to lug around. It makes it easier for you to whip it out on short notice to capture those Kodak moments that life presents us with when we least expect it. Taking your camera with you everywhere also helps people to be more at ease with you taking their photo. This means they are relaxed and the photos will be natural.

2.) Get the most use out of your zoom lens.

Obviously, the further you are away from your subject, the less likely they will know you’re photographing them and the more natural and relaxed they’ll act. Using a telephoto lens or long zoom enables you to shoot from outside their personal space, but keep the feeling of intimacy in the shot as well.

3.) Avoid using your flash and alerting your subject.

Perhaps the most obvious way you can signal to another person that you’re photographing them is to use a flash. There’s nothing like a blinding flash of light in the eyes to kill a moment. If possible (and it’s not always), attempt to photograph without the flash if you’re aiming for candid shots. When in lower light situations, increase your ISO setting (the speed of your film that can range from 100, 200, 300, and 400), use a faster lens, open up your aperture or if your camera has a natural light mode, turn it on. Hopefully, one or a combination of these approaches will help you blend into the background a little more.

4.) Take multiple exposures.

When you shoot multiple images of a person quickly, you can sometimes get some surprising and spontaneous shots you never would have gotten if you shot only once. For example, when you first take a picture of a person, it may be of them walking down the street. The next moment, he sneezes. If you were taking multiple exposures, you would have captured that too. So, switch your camera to continuous shooting mode and shoot in bursts of images. By doing this, you will increase your chances of getting that “perfect shot.”

5.) Location, location, location.

You probably have heard this about real estate. Well, it’s true of candid photography too. It is about capturing the spontaneity of a moment and getting that perfect shot at the right second. If you think ahead and anticipate what is about to unfold in front of you, you can greatly increase the chances of getting some good shots. So, for example, at a fashion show, get to the five-star hotel early (or even go to the rehearsal) and think about what will happen during the show and think about where will be the best for you to stand to capture each moment. Which way will people be facing? What will they be doing? What will the light be like? Thinking through these issues will save you a lot of running around, repositioning yourself when you should be shooting images. It will also save you from only getting shots of the back of people’s heads!

6.) Photograph people in action.

Images of people doing things tend to be much more interesting than people sitting passively doing nothing. For one, your subject will be focused upon something that adds energy to a photo (and takes their focus off you), but it also puts them in context and adds an element of story to your image. Timing is everything in candid shots, so wait until they are distracted and fully focused on what they are doing or who they are with. That way, you’ll inject a feeling into your shots of them being unaware and you’ll get a much better candid shot.

7.) People, people.

Something 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, in candid shots, you’d like some interaction between your subjects, because that adds some emotion into the shot also, as we the viewer observe how the people are acting.

8.) A wide angle lens helps.

If your subject is aware that you’re there and that you have your camera out, they might tense up or act a little unnaturally as they see you raising your camera to your eye. The beauty of digital cameras is that it doesn’t cost you anything to take lots of shots and it can be well worth shooting, without ever raising your camera. To do this most effectively, you might want to set your lens to a wider angle setting, which will make up for any aiming problems you might have.

9.) Be game for unusual angles.

The other beauty of shooting from the hip is that it gives you a slightly different perspective to take the shot from (for instance, shooting from three feet of height, instead of six). This adds to the candid nature of the shots. In fact, sometimes it’s the slightly crooked, slightly out of focus or poorly composed shots taken from this type of angle that end up looking the best, because they come across as quite random. Of course, you can add all these new perspectives to your shots without shooting from down there, but it’s more fun this way! Crouch down, get up high, frame your shots on an angle, zoom in close and then quickly zoom out to a wide angle, break the rules of composition, etc. and you will add a new perspective to your shots that will make them look fresh and surprising!

10.) Mask your real intentions.

A trick often used in candid shots is to purposely include something in the foreground of the shot to make it look as though you are hiding behind it. You might do this by shooting over someone’s shoulder, by including a little of a tree branch or the frame of a doorway, etc.

11.) Capitalize on a formal shoot.

Shoot candid shots when other people are taking formal ones. Do this, because everyone in the shot is focused on the one element (the other photographer) and not you. If the main photographer has posed the happy couple of the day or their bridal party, look for a different angle of them to take a shot of the same subject. Often, if you take a few steps to the side and shoot from almost a profile position, you can get great shots. Also, zooming in to take shots of just one or two of the people in a larger group at these times can work very well. Try zooming right out to take a shot of the photographer and their subject all in one as well. If you’re the only photographer and you’re taking formal shots, a great technique is to take your posed shot and then continue to shoot after everyone thinks you’ve finished. It’s often the shots just after the posed one that are the best, as people relax and look at each other.

There you go. Now, go on and have fun being candid!

~ Zahid H. Javali

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