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Take Better Candid Images

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Take Better Candid Images

Some of the best pictures aren’t posed. They’re taken when people least expect it. Sadly, there’s a problem when you lug around your nice big digital SLR (or wait until your point and shoot is ready to take a photo). People know you’re going to take their picture, and they get ready as soon as you get your camera to eye level. By the time you take the picture, it’s too late.

Next time, you’ll have to be a little more prepared. I’m not saying you should sneak around the bushes and spy on everyone. You just need to get people to feel a little more at ease when you’re taking pictures around them. With the following candid photography tips, you’ll get all the shots without feeling like you have to become James Bond.

Get Everyone Comfortable With Your Role As A Photographer

When was the last time someone took a bad picture of you? These days, bad pictures aren’t just shared with a few friends a family members. Within mere minutes, they can be made available to everyone you’ve ever met through sites like Facebook. That might be the reason why we’re so quick to pose when someone gets out the camera. At the very least, we don’t want the picture to look bad.

That’s why it’s important for you to communicate your plan to only use the pictures that look good. As you walk around the room taking pictures, show them to your friends, and let them pick the ones they want to keep (or delete). Once they know you won’t use ugly pictures, they’ll let their guard down and allow you to get more candid shots.

Get A Telephoto Lens

When you’re further away from your subjects, it’s much easier to sneak in a shot without them noticing. That’s where a telephoto lens comes in handy. At at a 200mm focal length, you can stand all the way across the room and get a shot that fills the frame completely.

There’s one more thing I like about telephoto lenses. They flatter your subject’s face. The more you zoom in, the more the image flattens, turning that big schnoz into a mere footnote. That’s something everyone can smile about!

Try Not To Use Your Flash

Nothing screams “hey there’s a photographer!” more than a flash going off in the room. Don’t advertise your presence with every image you take. Put your flash away and try increasing your camera’s ISO sensitivity instead. The ISO sensitivity is a setting you can change that makes your image sensor more susceptible to light. This means you can use faster shutter speeds in rooms that aren’t as brightly lit. Most cameras allow you to change this setting but there usually isn’t a dial on the camera that allows you to do this. You have to find the different settings from the LCD menu instead.

There is one drawback to using ISO speed to compensate for not using a flash, and that is graininess. Images taken with at high ISO speeds tend to have a gritty and downright noisy look. This is mostly acceptable, especially if you just got that once-in-a-lifetime shot. Use this feature at your own discretion.

Use Objects To Frame Your Images

This is one of my favorite techniques. Position yourself in front of something so it looks like you’re taking a picture of it. Then, use that thing to frame the person you want to photograph. Most people will think you’re trying to get an artsy picture of the home decor, but you’re actually using it as a foreground element. When they ask, just tell them you really like the tree/vase/lamp and you want to get a picture of it.


Using the leaves as a foreground element helped with
catching the couple in a candid moment.

Not only does this make it appear less like you’re taking pictures of people, it actually makes for some interesting images. The items in the foreground add a sense of depth, and they immerse the viewer in the scene. So you’re killing two birds with one stone here. You get a more candid shot and a change of perspective.

Never Take Photos Without Someone’s Permission

It doesn’t matter if you can sneak up without being noticed, make sure you get permission before you take someone’s photo. I know what you’re thinking right now. “If they know I’m going to take their picture, they’ll pose.” Not necessarily. As long as people are comfortable with your role as a photographer, they’ll feel more at ease doing what’s natural. It’s up to you to give them a reason to trust you.

What does your lucky shot look like? How did you manage to get it? I’d love to hear your stories! Leave some comments and show me your work.

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About the Author ()

David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.

Comments (3)

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  1. Gabby of Tombstone says:

    Added a year later. As a period-dressed ‘board-walker’ in Tombstone, the town that re-enacts the “Gunfight at the OK Corral” three times daily, I’m the subject of many photos by visitors from around the world. I’m just one of a number of locals who “dress-up”; we answer visitors questions and pose for photographs. Asking ‘permission’ can be as simple as catching the subjects eye and raising the camera an inch or so.

    Thoughts. For street photography in this type of situation, be sure to look at the background before taking your photo. If there are modern ‘automobiles’ there, don’t be shy, have your subject move a bit, and’or move yourself. There are some parts of Allen Street where a bright background and an auto-exposure setting will result in faces being too dark to see. Flash – or ask the subject(s) to move. Do you want the subject to look at the camera or not? A full-length shot, or head and shoulders? Ask for what you would like. I would not be surprised if similar ideas applied to any historic setting where ‘docents’ provide living ‘color’ to the venue.

  2. Gabby of Tombstone says:

    What I’ve found is that I can be either a photographer or a participant in the party, event, whatever. It’s not easy to be both and come up with good photos. I find myself standing back, moving around the venue, looking for angles to get what I want. Problems encountered? If people are eating or talking – especially if I’m trying for a shot of two people. Take plenty of photos, and be prepared to delete “a bunch” later.

  3. D.W.Dissanayake says:

    I like to receive your mails on photography.

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