Candid Photography: Tips for Capturing Authentic Moments
The goal of candid photography is to capture authentic moments without posing or staging. It's all about capturing the natural, unguarded moments of people's lives, whether it's a spontaneous laugh or an intimate conversation.
Mastering candid photography is essential for wedding, documentary and street photographers. Even if you only plan to photograph your friends and family members, it's a great skill to hone.
Candid photography definition
A couple sharing a private moment on a park bench, captured from a distance with a long lens. A child playing in a puddle, captured using burst mode. A street musician captured in black and white, with a busy street scene in the background. A group of friends laughing and having a good time at a party, captured with a wide-angle lens.
These are all example of candid photography, and we can easily think of many more. Any authentic moment of life, captured in an informal, unstated way, can be the subject of a candid photo.
Now you know what candid photography is, let's review some candid photography tips and techniques that will help you take memorable candid photographs.
The first step in capturing great candid photographs is to be observant – even when you don't have your camera in hand. The better you can get at noticing interesting moments and interactions, the more ready you can be to capture them at a moment's notice.
When you are shooting, read the room and pay close attention to what's going on around you. Take your time and watch the scene unfold. With practice, you'll be able to anticipate special moments before they happen, giving you the best possible chance of capturing them on camera.
Use a long lens
Using a long lens is a great way to capture candid photographs without disturbing the natural flow of the moment. A long lens allows you to capture intimate moments from a distance, without drawing attention to yourself or your camera.
Remaining separate from the subject of a photo gives you a better chance of capturing them behaving in an authentic, unstated, unposed way. This is not to be confused with using a long lens to take photos of strangers without their knowledge or permission!
Try shooting in burst mode
When shooting candid photographs, it's important to capture the moment quickly and without hesitation. It's also a good idea to shoot as many frames as possible – even if you'll probably need to delete most of them later.
Shooting in burst mode can help. It allows you to capture multiple shots in quick succession, giving you more chances to capture that perfect moment.
Couples and Engagement Photography
Find interesting locations
If you're hired as a wedding photographer, you're unlikely to have much say in the location or venue. But for street, documentary, or family/friends shoots, it's worth choosing to shoot in locations that can provide good backgrounds for your candid images.
Look for locations with interesting architecture, lighting, or textures that can add visual interest to your photographs. Forests, beaches, libraries, cathedrals – the possibilities are endless!
In candid photography, patience is key. Because you can't stage or pose the shot to suit your needs, you have to wait for the magic to happen organically.
Without patience, you're likely to miss what could turn out to be the best shots of the day. That's why it's so important to wait for the right moment to capture a candid shot – and to be prepared to wait for several minutes (or even hours!) for the perfect moment to arise.
Edit your images
Just because you're capturing authentic, natural moments, doesn't mean you shouldn't do any post-production.
With simple retouching techniques, you can enhance the mood and atmosphere of your candid images without sacrificing their authenticity. Adjusting the exposure, contrast, and colour, for example, can help bring out the best in your candid shots.
There's no limit to what you can achieve with candid photography. As long as you use the right equipment, and try to be as patient and observant as possible, you're sure to capture something special – even if you have to delete multiple failed attempts first!
Learn the fundamentals of photography by downloading our free 90-page eBook, An Introduction to Photography.