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Capturing Family Candids

Monday, April 13th, 2009 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography


A gathering of family and friends, no matter what the occasion, is always special. Such gatherings need to be recorded for posterity on film! How else can you look at it years down the line and remember the good times?
The most common photos are the ones where everyone is sitting and posing especially for the camera. These are wonderful pictures and will always bring back poignant memories of the family together. However, a lot of us need to dig deep to dredge up particular instances to remember that particular occasion by. Why was everyone laughing at the table? Was that when Uncle Glen laughed so hard he sprayed everyone with wine? In the usual photos where everyone is posing, it is easy to remember how many people were present, who made it, who didn’t. What cannot be conveyed are the feelings, the adrenaline which was so evident during that gathering. Posing for photos doesn’t capture all these emotions, all these moments. That is where candid photography is required! The following eight tips will help you capture all these memories and more, if practiced well!


Tip #1
At any family gathering there is always someone taking photos. Most people like to put on an act especially for the camera or will avoid it completely! If you let your family know before hand that you will be taking photos and that they should ‘act natural’, the odds of you managing to capture everything on film is much higher. It is quite possible that not everyone will listen to you, but it is better if people are aware of the camera and ignore it than if you, as the photographer, distract them.

Tip #2
Now that you’ve prepared the crowd and they know what to expect, it is perfectly okay to be a tad bit sneaky while taking photos. Hide around corners and near the back of the crowd. Be polite. But don’t draw attention to yourself. There are chances that there is someone else in the family who already has the responsibility of saying, ‘Look over here!” while you are taking photos. The best way to make the most of that opportunity is to be prepared with the camera! Once people are done with posing for the standard photos, they are more relaxed and will start acting natural. This, then, is the perfect time to capture all those wonderful candid family memories!

Tip #3
Since you are not using a flash for your photos, light color is going to be an issue. The good news about this is that there are chances that most of the light will be from the same color temperature such as incandescent or fluorescent lights. The bad news is that this light will probably change from room to room and from indoors to outdoors. The easiest way around this problem is to shoot RAW. Shooting in RAW ensures that you have a great chance to correct certain lighting conditions during the post processing. If you set your camera accurately to the lighting situation, continue in the same direction as it is time-saving. If, however, you are unsure of colors, then shoot in RAW.

Tip #4
If you have a choice, choose an 80mm lens, or one that is slightly longer. A zoom lens is actually preferable, but the challenges in using that will be discussed in the next tip. A wide angle is helpful once in a while, but most of the time you will be capturing facial expressions of the people around you. And since you might not have much place to maneuver, you need to be able to zoom in from behind your other family members. With a telephoto lens (zoom or otherwise), you will be able to capture either one or two family members as they interact with each other. This is exactly what you are aiming for as candid shots. If the lens is too wide, the individual expressions of those being captured, will be lost.

Tip #5
It is highly unlikely that everyone would have a nice low f-stop lens in their camera bag. But if you have an option of taking just one lens, make sure it’s your fastest one. By using a low f-stop and a slightly higher ISO of around 800-1000, you will can avoid using a flash and therefore attract minimal attention to yourself. If you are interested, you could always consider renting a fast lens online prior to a family get together. You could check out DPS’ post ‘Where to Rent A Lens Online’ for more information and prices.

Tip #6
As with most people shots, a tight focus on the eyes in a must. Eyes, usually convey much more than words, and this is good when you are not recording sound. Some blurring in images is acceptable, especially when the flash is not being used. Care should be taken to keep the eyes of the main subject sharp.


Tip #7
The kitchen is almost always the hub of the family get together. Everyone, at some point or the other, is always in the kitchen. Either they are genuinely helping out, or just standing around conversing and getting in everyone’s way! The kitchen is also a more relaxed place where people are more natural than in a formal dining room.

Tip #8
Having fun is what a family get together is all about! Even if you are the designated photographer, don’t forget to relax and enjoy yourself. Take a few moments to reflect on what it is like to be surrounded by the people you love and to be able to capture these wonderful moments you have spent together for posterity.

~Zahid H Javali

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