We offer a portrait photography course here at NYIP, but some of the best photos of people aren't carefully planned in a studio. Here we have some tips on how to take great candid photographs.
Some of the most powerful images a photographer can take are of candid moments. That’s because candid photography is personal. In a fraction of a second, candid photography can capture a person’s relationship with others or their relationship with an event or an environment.
Photographer Shane Darenger was impressed with a candid photo taken by his wife Tracey. "It's very rare that I get a photo of me because I'm always holding the camera, but my wife managed to turn it on and get a photo that I truly adore," he said about an image that has special meaning to him. "She had no idea how to use a SLR so that in itself is amazing, but to my surprise, it turned out.
"When I get old and my son is grown up, this picture will take me back to that exact moment – October, unseasonably warm, shoes off and my son's hand in mine. Doesn't get any better than that. "
Tell Personal Stories
I’m a wedding photographer, and I take pride in taking candid photos. I am always looking for stories and moments happening in a scene because I believe each candid image captures something personal about my subject.
The following photo was taken at one of my first weddings. The ceremony had ended, and the guests were outside waiting to celebrate with the newly married couple. I was taking pictures and saw the way the groomsman was looking at his wife. The wedding was the first they attended together since being married only a few months earlier, and he is giving her such an adoring look. I didn’t notice it at the time, but I also liked that there is a woman watching them with a knowing expression.
I also enjoy taking photos of the children at a wedding because they are often uninhibited by the camera. In this photo, the children were getting ready to walk up the aisle. In a fraction of a second, the oldest flower girl tried to kiss the ring bearer. It’s a humorous moment, and one that captures a part of their real personalities.
Tips For Taking Great Candid Photos
- Isolate your subject using shallow depth of field. You can isolate your subject and the story in a scene by using a shallow depth of field, meaning the background and foreground is blurry while the subject is in focus. My favorite aperture for candid photography is f2.8. However, aperture is not the only way to isolate. Longer lenses will make the background appear closer and often more blurry. I prefer to use a telephoto lens because the compression allows me to isolate my subjects better.
- Frame your subject with something that adds context. In the photo of the couple at a wedding, the crowd is an important part of photo, even though everyone else is out of focus. The story is that the couple only has eyes for each other, even in a crowd of people. If the other people weren’t evident in the photo, it might still be a nice moment; however, the story has more context because the couple is framed within a crowd.
- Photograph the listener. When I'm photographing a group of people talking, I always look at the expressions of the people listening. That’s because listeners have more relaxed smiles. The person talking is harder to photograph because moving mouths are not as flattering.
- Keep your camera near your eye. While holding your camera near your eye, scan a scene and ask yourself what is attracting your eye. If there is movement involved, you’ll want to have your camera positioned to take the picture quickly.
- When photographing children, shoot at their eye level. You will see the world as they see it if you shoot at their eye level, not yours.
- Experiment with angles and perspective. Try to photograph what is going on from all angles. Change your lenses from wide to telephoto. Get on the ground or high up on a chair. Every choice you make will affect how the action appears.
- You choose what goes in the frame. The magic of photography is that you decide what stays and what goes out of a frame. In this photo I chose not to include the groomsmen’s faces. That’s because I decided the story I wanted to tell was about the ring bearer's size in relation to the grown-ups.