Who doesn’t love a great candid shot. A photo that truly captures the emotion, excitement, and joy in a moment. But truth is, these can be some of the hardest shots to capture. Especially during a professional shoot. The reason being is that it requires the subjects to not only experience a moment, but to also share that moment in front of other people – with cameras. I’m not sure about you, but for some people knowing that others are watching and even photographing you while you are simply trying to relax and interact with each other can can be a little harder than it sounds. So if you’re a lover of candid shots and are hoping to one day be the subject of one (or even if you’re looking for ways to help capture that great candid shot through your own lens), then you’re in luck! I have put together a few tricks I have learned over the years to help you achieve your candid goals.
From creating a natural environment to wiping that fake smile off your face, here are 5 ways to ensure your candid photos are at their best!
The biggest ground rule for capturing a great candid is to always be ready. You never know when that special moment is going to happen. Having said that, here are a few things I have found to be helpful for everyone involved in the candid capturing process. 🙂
#1 – Keep it Loosey Goosey
Sound silly? That’s the idea. I find what can make the biggest difference in capturing a great candid during a pre-arranged professional shoot is how I interact with my clients. Rather than simply jumping into the shoot and then staying behind the camera the entire time, I try my best to spend the first part of the session chatting with them, making some jokes, getting to know more about them, what they like, how their week was, what they find amusing, etc. Some of my clients can be a bit nervous when they arrive and many of them have never really had professional photos taken before, so by spending some time just talking allows them to relax and warm up to the situation. If I haven’t met them before (rarely the case) this also allows me to learn more about them and their personalities and how they interact with each other. I can then use this information during the shoot to help make them laugh, illicit a funny reaction, and keep a fun and comfortable environment alive for them while we are shooting rather than saying “act natural” and then lurking behind a camera silently waiting for a now forced “moment” to occur. Keeping it loose and relaxed can make all the difference.
#2 – Do Something!
The best way to get a naturally occurring candid is to have some kind of activity for my subjects to be doing. Something fun and interactive. It can be anything from a a piggy back on the beach (walking and racing are acceptable too – wink) to miniature golfing. I try to find a few things the subject(s) enjoys doing and incorporate this into the shoot. Themed sessions with vintage cars or fun wardrobes while more pre-arranged and seemingly less natural, can actually produce fantastic candid shots as the subjects tend to have a great interest in that theme and this allows them to really embody the feel of the shoot and even get into character and simply live in the moment. All in all the most important thing is to find something for my clients to do. This allows them to not think about the fact that they are being photographed and think about what they are doing.
#3 – Curing the Chandler Syndrome
I don’t know if any of you watched/watch friends, but if you did/do then you are probably aware of Chandler Bing’s inability to smile naturally for the camera. I remember laughing so hard watching him smiling and laughing naturally, until someone would bring a camera up to take a picture. Watching his face instantaneously contort into an awkward tight lipped half smile-half scowl nearly brought me to tears every time. Props to Matthew Perry cause he nailed it on the head. I can’t tell you how common this is. Many people (including myself) struggle with a natural smile when having their picture taken. Either they hold too much tension in their face or they snarl or take on the 1,000 yard stare. Whatever the smile ailment, I have the cure. In almost any case I have found the best way to get a natural, relaxed smile is to simply have my clients look at each other and hold each other’s gaze for a few moments. For whatever reason this will alway illicit a reaction of some kind. Most often it is laughter, but often it also results in a nice intimate moment. Either way you are almost certain to get a great natural smile and a fantastic candid shot. If you aren’t dealing with multiple subjects I like to tell my portrait clients to bring a friend or someone they can interact with off camera or I come prepared with jokes (I find Chuck Norris jokes have been particularly handy). Either way if you can get them to laugh then you can get them to smile. Somewhere on the way to laughing and on the way back down is perfect smile. There are always a few seconds after a good laugh where a natural smile lingers and this is your opportunity, so seize it!
#4 – Get Some Distance
Some of my clients can get a little intimidated by a lens being right up in their face. Who wouldn’t be! In some cases you can get some great shots when getting close, but I’d dare to say when it comes to candid’s you can get some of the best shots from far away. Using long lenses/telephoto lenses allows me to put some distance between myself and my clients so they have more space to themselves. This creates a more relaxed environment for them to act naturally in or talk to each other without me being able to hear. So they feel more free to whisper sweet nothings or tell inside jokes etc. This results in some fantastic moments that are captured as I am watching from afar. With long lenses I am still able to get in quite close to capture the expressions and emotion but with a far more fly on the wall perspective.
#5 – Encourage Truth to Self and Be Open to The Moment
This one is a bit tricky but can make all the difference when trying to get a natural photo. I have a lot of clients who have seen a photo or want to try to emulate this or that etc. Which is great! Sometimes the best way to communicate about things my clients like or don’t like is through a visual representation. However, one of the biggest hindrances I have found to capturing a great candid (or any photo for that matter) is when clients are fixated on getting a certain shot/pose/activity/etc. that either simply doesn’t work for them or they are so busy trying to duplicate it that they no longer look like themselves. The result is almost always a photo that feels forced and awkward. I am always up for trying anything and I want to produce the best images for all of my clients, and most of the time a client brings an idea or has seen something they want to try it works great! But embracing their individuality is key. Sometimes recreating certain poses or activities that just don’t match with that client doesn’t work. And trying to recreate a candid photo of all things can be the hardest. It almost seems funny in a way to try to act out a natural moment rather than finding ways to create a natural moment that pairs well with that individual. Again, I always try the ideas first and if it works then great! My encouragement is to not be fixated on only getting certain pre-conceived photos and be open to embracing the unique moments each shoot surprises us with as well. And that goes both ways! Sometimes I have ideas for a shoot but upon arrival I have to be ready to part with those if they just don’t seem to be working in order to embrace and utilize the environment, subjects, and situation to create a photo that compliments and unifies the whole composition.
That’s all for now folks! Hope this has been helpful in some way. Now get your candid on!