Tips for grabbing candid shots

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There’s no doubt that a striking portrait can make a beautiful photo. However, sometimes I think it’s a lot more fun to take candid pictures. Grabbing a shot when your subject is completely unaware of your presence can really show very compelling emotion. A forced laugh for the camera will never look as magical as it does when your subject is totally caught up in a moment of hilarity while you quietly snap away from the sidelines.

Photo credit: Sherry Osborne

Photo credit: Sherry Osborne

However, taking candid pictures can be harder than it sounds, and once people realize you’re snapping them they won’t look as natural and in the moment. There are a few simple things you can do to help increase your odds of getting really candid shots.

  1. Turn off your flash. It sounds obvious but a lot of people forget their flash is on or don’t know how to force the flash not to fire (if they’re shooting in auto, for instance). All it takes is one bright burst of a flash to alert the entire room that someone is aiming a camera at them. Turning your flash off may mean a bit more blur if you’re in lower light but that’s not always a bad thing either.
  2. Lower your camera’s sounds. If you’re scratching your head over this, check your manual – a lot of cameras (especially point and shoot) allow you to turn down or turn off the auto-focus sound and the shutter sound. If the atmosphere includes a lot of noise then this may not matter but if it’s a quiet setting like a library or intimate dinner party, the “beep-beep CLICK” is a good alert system that a camera is in function.
  3. Photo credit:  pedrosimoes7

    Photo credit: pedrosimoes7

  4. Use manual focus. If you’re in low light and you’re using auto-focus a lot of cameras throw out a small light to help it focus on the subject. It’s almost as bad as a flash. Turning it off and manually focusing your camera will help you remain unnoticed.
  5. Photo credit: Digital Pimp

    Photo credit: Digital Pimp

  6. Use the right lens. While you might love using your 50mm lens for portraits, you might find you have better luck with candid shots if you use a zoom lens. It allows you to sit or stand further away, staying out of sight. Yes, a telephoto lens attached to a large SLR camera can attract attention but not as much attention as trying to subtly take someone’s picture a few feet away from their face.

Photo credit: Steve Punter

Photo credit: Steve Punter

Do you have any tips to share? I’d love to hear them and see some examples of your candid photography!

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