How to Capture Better Candid Photos

When shooting street photography or a fun event like a party or wedding, candid photos can be the icing on the cake. Not only do those photos provide extra life to the story you're telling, but they also depict people in their most natural and comfortable state. It takes some practice to nail the better candids. Here are a couple of tips on how to do just that.

Photo by Gservo (be sure to join our Flickr group and your photos may be featured in future blog postings.)

Make People Smile

We all run into the problem occasionally: you encounter someone that doesn't want their image to be taken. The best way to avoid an awkward situation where someone doesn't want you to take their photo is to make them smile. I usually do this by:

- Cracking a joke.

- Noticing a small detail about them and highlighting it to them. For some guidence, look at jewely. Watches, bangles, earrings, etc., which are unique can be great subject matter for photos.

- Catching them off guard when they are caught up in a moment. (In the case of a wedding this works best, since the bride and groom really want every moment captured.)

The key is not to lose confidence in yourself when shooting, and to remain calm about the situation. As long as you remain confident, you should have no problem in making people smile.

If it Elicits an Emotion, Put the Viewfinder to Your Eye

As humans, we have natural instincts to react towards emotional moments with specific facial or bodily expressions. This is true of both you and your subjects.

Now here's the tough part: Rewire your brain so that you put your camera to your eye to capture those moments. When you see something that surprises you, photograph it instead of reacting to it. This way you'll have that moment to look at, over and over again.

In general, emotional moments can provide you with great candid opporunities. If someone greets another person with a big hug, shoot it.

Have Generalized Settings

Depending on the gear I'm using, I tend to have generalized settings for the entire event. For example, with my Canon 35mm F/1.4 L on my Canon 7D, I'll usually have the shutter speed set to 1/60th of a second, and change the aperture with some variation in the shutter speed, at times. A flash can help.

Granted, this is easier to do with prime lenses than with zooms. The reason for this is because of the reciprocal rule of shutter speeds. To make it a bit easier, this is why I shoot with constant aperture zooms.

Choose Your Focusing Point Beforehand for Easier Composition

Want to do less work in the post-processing stage? Then try to compose the image in the best possible way before shooting. The focusing points in your viewfinder are often aligned along the cooresponding lines of the rule of thirds. In practice, what this will mean is utilizing, say, the top-right focusing point and placing that over a subject's eyes. This effectively puts your subject on that side of the frame, and allows you to do whatever else you want with the rest of it.

An alternative method employed by many photographers is using the Center-Focusing point to focus on their subject, and then carefully recomposing their image. Why the center? Because that point tends to often be the most finely tuned, strongest and fastest.

In the end, use whichever method works faster for you.

Be Stealthy

Have you ever heard of the photographer who is a fly on the wall? These photographers are often not noticed by their subjects for a variety of reasons and factors. They also have greater opportunities to shoot candids because of this sense of invisibility. Part of making sure that you're not seen (or heard) is turning off your Autofocus assist lamp in addition to the confirmation beep. Instead, pay attention to the blinking focusing points in your viewfinder.

Want to be even quieter? Use the mirror lock-up feature on your camera.

What do you do to shoot better candids? Let us know in the comments below.

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Great photos Chris!

 Great article.... Thanks!

 Last night, I posted a bunch of tips I use to get candid photos when photographing events... but it's not here anymore. It was there when I looked at the thread later last night... was it too long? I don't think I wrote anything inappropriate :-)

Oh, well... tried to help.