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Portrait Photography: All About Candid Photography (A Quick Guide!)

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If you look up synonyms of the word candid, or candid meaning, you’ll notice words such as honest, truthful, sincere, direct, open among many others – all of which are a clear-cut sign of what candid photography is all about. A candid photo is capturing something or someone in the middle of an act. Candid photography is a style of photography that focuses more on spontaneity rather than technique. The subject is focusing on the camera, instead is focused on the situation or task that is engaging them.

Candid photos are safe to say unplanned and are the best way of depicting life through photography since the subject and the surroundings aren’t staged or aren’t posing for the click. The candid definition in itself means free from reservation – untampered, unposed. Every shutterbug worth his salt has dappled in candid photography either intentionally or unintentionally. While you don’t need a whole lot of equipment for candid photos, but it could be tricky getting it just right. The most basic of candid definition states it’s about capturing a moment – and moments are well…momentary.

The most important thing to know about candid photography is that you need to understand and capture unplanned situations of someone else’s emotions. A photographer would define candid photos as spontaneous shots. As a photographer, you’ll want to develop the skill of observing. The skill of taking notice, coupled with a ready camera is integral to taking good candid photos. While taking a candid shot might seem like an easy task, due to the lack of focus on a theme, topic, or setting, there are a few pointers straight off to keep in mind that will help magnify the quality and effectiveness of your click.

  • Make sure your subject is within your viewing range but isn’t paying attention to you.
  • Preparation and moving fast at the moment is important for the shot
  • You might not always get to choose the correct angle, so make sure your camera is pre-set appropriately.

Candid Photography: Tips for Camera Settings

Addressing the technical requirements when looking to take any candid photo, there are some settings that could go a long way. Assuming that you’re going to be using a professional photographer’s camera along the lines of a DSLR, there are some settings that could really help in preparing the capture of these fleeting moments with sharpness. There are some of these that can be easily applied to point and shoots or camera phones as well.

  • Shutter Priority Modes or Aperture

Most of the DSLR brands of today, bear two semi-automatic modes – Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority. This is true of brands such as Canon and Nikon as well. These two modes work well since manual mode tends to be too o slow when it comes to candid photography.

Shutter Priority lets you set the shutter speed values and the ISO, and the camera unconditionally calibrates the aperture for correct exposure. This mode is good when you’re looking to capture fast movements, like sports. Aperture Priority lets you set the aperture values and the ISO and the camera instinctively fine-tunes the shutter speed for correct exposure. This mode is beneficial when you’re shooting in low light, or looking to create a background blur or bokeh effect.

  • Zoom Lens over a Prime Lens

A zoom lens wins hands down as the best lens for candid photography. Taking candid shots means dealing with the scene changing before your eyes and your lens within a matter of seconds – which means you’re not going to have time change lenses or switch positions and accommodate a fixed focal length. This is the time when you should be opting for a zoom lens instead of a prime lens.

A zoom lens will define candid by covering a wider range. A telephoto focal length is suitable for maintaining your distance and even close-ups, while a short focal length is optimal for group shots. Remember a telephoto lens won’t invade the subject’s personal space, giving the shot a more natural and relaxed look.

As for the best camera for candid photography, top recommendations include a Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 USM for APS-C sensors, and a Canon EF 24-70mm f/4.0L IS USM for full-frame sensors.

best camera for candid photography
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4.0L IS USM(Source)

Read all about  35mm vs. 50mm- The Battle of Lenses!

  • Ditch the Flash, Use Ambient Light

The main rule of candid photography is keeping it natural, and capturing the moment as is, and nothing ruins that more than a flash – which is an instant signal to the subject that he/she is being clicked. Always attempt candid photos without a flash, although there are times this isn’t possible. When you’re dealing with low lighting, use a faster lens with an increased ISO setting and a wider aperture.

If your camera has it, you could also use the ‘natural light mode’. If you still want/need to use the flash, you could always use some tricks, like bouncing it off a surface to get the best of it.

  • Change the Autofocus Mode

Most of the DSLRs have a minimum of two autofocus modes that are worth the while. The first mode is known as One-Shot AF on the Canon models, Single Point AF-S on the Nikon models, which focuses the lens wherever you have your autofocus point placed. This is one of the more popular modes photographers prefer.

The other mode is known as AI Servo AF on Canon models and Continuous AF-C on Nikon models persistently auto focuses whenever the camera notes movement or motion. While this mode is less preferred its presence for high-action shots is irreplaceable. To rid yourself of a stack of blurry shots, switch to continuous.

candid photography tips camera settings
Continuous AF-C on Nikon (Source)

'Non-Technical' Tips for Candid Photography

After you’re well versed in the camera setting that will suit this style of photography, it’s time to get acquainted with some tips that will help in making you a worthwhile candid photographer.

1. Keep your Tool at Hand Always

The easiest way to click spontaneous and candid photos is having your camera handy at all times. Carrying around one everywhere will also make the people around you more at ease with you clicking them. When you do note a situation arising that you need to capture, firing up that big boy won’t make people conscious and stop or change what they’re involved in – and that’s what makes for the most natural photographs, shots with a most candid meaning.

2. Take a Bunch of Snaps

A rule of thumb is that only one out of every 20 photos will be a keeper. Which means if you’re looking to get away with five great shots, you’re going to have to take a hundred. The thing is that with fast-changing and moving situations, it’s necessary to grasp that candid moment even if it means getting a whole bunch of blurry shots while you’re at it because it’s easy to eliminate the unnecessary but you won’t get that moment back again.

best camera for candid photography
Burst Mode photography(Source)

Using the burst mode is also great so that you don’t miss out or lose out in any moments. The burst mode also comes handy when you’re puzzled about how to take candid photos of yourself – like when you’re traveling solo - since you can easily catch some spontaneous moments within this mode of yourself in action.

3. Shooting from the Hip

One of the popular techniques is literally shooting from the hip. This is totally a discreet way of photographing people without drawing attention to yourself or the camera. To make up for aiming problems, you can always set your lens to a wider angle. Not looking through the lens while shooting could land you with a whole load of shots worth disposing of, but with the onset wave of digital cameras (and the candid photography camera price is affordable to even the most budgeted of photographers), taking a multitude of shots isn’t really a problem at all.

Also, you’ll be adding a new angle shooting from three feet instead of six, bringing a whole new perspective to the candid nature since there isn’t any need for the subject to know how to pose for candid photos.

4. Invading the Posed Territory

Just because people are posing for a shot doesn’t mean you cannot derive from that moment. While they are striking a pose for the main element in the room but you, you can grab the advantage of shooting from an angle, off the side, profiles, including the photographer and the subjects in one shot - anything that catches your fancy that makes a pose struck capture also a natural one. An interesting moment to capture is when everyone thinks the shot has been taken, they are more relaxed and natural at that very moment.

5. Anticipate the Moment

If you’re one of those intuitive people then it’s easy to know when a perfect moment is going to present itself to you. In this case be prepared beforehand, correcting your exposure, pre-focusing, establishing your frame – all of which make for capturing that perfect candid moment, that you’ve anticipated all along.

6. Head towards some Action

It goes without saying, that livelier surrounding makes for great opportunities of grabbing some candids. Move towards public places like markets, beaches or events like a sporting event or a wedding or a party. Plenty of moments will present themselves to you waiting for your shutter to snap them. In public places, it’s normally alright to photograph people, unless someone objects wherein then it’s advisable to proceed only with permission.

candid photography examples
Candid photo captured at a Wedding

A slight tip, avoid snapping people’s back, it doesn’t do much for the camera, and the images are more often than not, boring.

7. The Essence of a Task

Photographs of people occupied with the work at hand or concentrating on a particular task always make for the best candid photos. It’s when the most naturality of the subject and the situation is brought to the forefront. Farmers, sports players, servicemen all in the middle of their day to day activities make for the best candid photography examples of subjects doing something.

8. Learn Post Processing

The secret to creating candids that jump out and amaze is proper post-processing. Candid photography is too impromptu a style to enable you to focus on all the elements that comprise of taking an excellent shot. A second’s delay can cost you a beautiful picture!

Therefore, long story short, it’s all the major and minor tweaks that are made the post the shot, all the cropping, and editing and balancing out the colors that make a photograph that inspires.

Candid Definition - Observe the Moment and Capture the Moment!

These tips are all meant to embolden your style of taking candids. You should be willing to get out there to capture the moment that you want, that you like. Don’t let artistic expression limit the way you shoot. Experiment, play around with different locations, scenes, angles, and draw inspiration from other’s photography.

Put all of these into practice, and it will give your shooting a purpose and a confidence that will show up in your photographs. Candid photography is one of the best ways to build up artistic flair without having to bother yourself with myriads of technical aspects of photography.