An Amateur’s Guide to Candid Photography

by Mark Bailey

Candid photography is all about capturing the beauty of a spontaneous moment within a relaxed, casual environment. The subject is shown in their most natural state. The goal is for someone to be filled with emotions as they look at the pictures of people happy, laughing, and having fun – or the opposite, but making sure all these emotions are genuine and not staged.

While they may not look as refined compared to still portraits, taking candid photographs is not as easy as it may seem. It takes a lot of patience and skilled technique to seize the perfect shot. It also is much easier to start with happy subjects, as they’re more likely to react positively to you taking their pictures. If you are an amateur photographer seeking ways to successfully take inspiring photos of people during joyous moments, here are a few tips:

Get to Know Your Subjects Well

It is important to know your subjects well enough that you are able to anticipate their next move. Watch them carefully and always have your camera ready. Set the ISO, aperture and shutter speed ahead of time so you won’t have to stop in the middle of shooting.

Blend in with the Crowd

If you want to capture genuine smiles and laughter in your photos, you need to go unnoticed. Be quiet, blend in, and try not to draw attention to yourself. For practice, choose a setting that allows for subjects who don’t move often and have frequent emotional reactions. Visit gaming spot like a local bingo hall where you can capture the different reactions of people as they win – excitement, surprise, and accomplishment.

Don’t Hesitate to Get Closer

There will be times when you might feel that you are intruding the personal space of those you are photographing – don’t. The most amazing shots are those where you are close enough to capture the emotions that looking at the picture would make you feel like you are actually there. If you need to, you can practise with a friend at home. The trick is to give them something to do so they forget they’re being photographed. For example, you can invite them to play online bingo and document their reactions as they play. Similar to the bingo hall idea above, the unpredictable nature of the online game will mean that their facial expressions will change with the action. Or you can try having them watch some viral videos online, trying to capture the slight changes in their face as they respond – think “Elders react” series, only with a photo camera instead of a video camera.

Seize the Moment

It is not just about taking pictures of people laughing. It is about clicking that camera at the right time – when a woman tries to hold back her tears as she sees the love of her life get down on his knee with a ring or as the father of the bride lovingly smiles at her daughter as they dance. Photos that capture the emotions so when your subjects looks at them, they are taken back to that time and feel the exact sentiments all over again.

Find a Flattering Angle

One of the challenges of taking candid photos is being able to get the right angle so your subject would look great while you capture their emotion. Timing is also crucial. For instance, when you subject bursts into laughter, there are a few seconds when they would look great and beaming with happiness while the rest of it would simply be awkward. Of course, you would not know when the awkward and the glorious stages will happen, so it will be best to shoot throughout the entire laugh.

Keep Moving

During candid photography, your subjects cannot be manipulated into moving for you to get a better shot. The point is to capture them in their most genuine happy disposition and so it will be you who will need to move to get a good composition. So, get up and walk around your subjects so you can get them in the right position then start shooting and keep on moving as you shoot.

Shoot in Burst Mode

You only get one chance to capture the moment and you can never predict what happens next, so go ahead and shoot in burst mode to increase your chance of getting that perfect shot. Burst or continuous high speed is a shooting mode in still cameras that allows you to shoot ten frames or more per second. After you have shot a bunch of photos in burst mode, you can then choose the best ones.

As mentioned earlier, candid photography is not easy. These tips are here to help amateur photographers take better shots of people enjoying life, but to be really good at this, it will take lots and lots of practice. So, get started and don’t forget to have fun while doing it!

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