Formal photographs make stunning portraits, but do not always capture emotion in the same way that a natural, unposed shot can. Candid photography often results in more intimate photographs and reveals sincere emotion. When a shot is posed, subjects may feel self-conscious—this can sometimes show through in the final product.
Luckily, creating candid moments with your photography subjects is surprisingly easy. Oftentimes, the beginning of a photo session is awkward. Unless you’re working with models, many people are unsure of what to do with their bodies and wind up looking tense and uncomfortable. The goals here are to 1) make yourself less conspicuous, and 2) make your subject(s) comfortable. Exactly how to accomplish said goals depends on who your subjects are, where they are, and how many of them there are.
Getting candid shots of a single person can be extremely difficult or totally effortless depending on the circumstances. Capturing natural images of an individual at an event is pretty straightforward because that person is likely not paying much attention to the photographer; if your subject is uncomfortably aware of your presence, though, it is relatively easy to catch him or her off guard during a distracting moment.
Now, exclusively photographing one person (especially one with no modeling experience) can be a much more daunting task. Patience is essential, as is a sense of humor. It is important to make your subject feel comfortable, and this will usually take some easing into. Be reassuring and encouraging, and snap twice as much as you normally would. In between those tense, uncomfortable moments, you’re bound to catch some nervous laughter and organic smiles.
If you are working with two or more individuals, the process is a bit easier. It’s easier to dissuade any discomfort when your subjects can interact with each other. When I take a couple out on an engagement shoot, I like to find activities for them to do–nothing extravagant, just simple things to direct their attention away from themselves. Props really come in handy in these situations and I often suggest that the couple brings something along.
Even if you don’t have props, it’s not too difficult to capture those genuine moments. Here’s another good strategy: Position the couple ways away from you, then ask them to casually walk toward the camera and talk to each other. This trick gives them something to do and puts you further away–making them less aware of your presence.
Children are especially great subjects for candid portraiture because the younger the are, the less likely they are to have developed the sort of self-consciousness that hinders adults.
Also, a lot of kids are naturally curious about the camera and don’t mind being in front of it. My only advice for capturing candid photographs of children is this: Don’t forget about them! They can be some of your most honest and most interesting subjects.
As a wedding photographer, I have taken more than a few group photos. Most of my clients ask for standard, posed pictures with their friends and family. While those are important, the group photos with the most life in them are the ones that are unexpected. Getting these shots is easy. Simply shoot the formals, then keep on clicking while everyone is getting readjusted or regrouping. Keep shooting even as everyone is walking away–by then, they have had time to relax and you will be able to photograph them even more naturally.
If you are working a wedding or any other big celebration, there is a pretty good chance that dancing will be involved at some point. This is a perfect time to get some great shots of lots of totally uninhibited, blissfully unaware party-goers. You’re guaranteed to capture sheer (occasionally booze-fueled) joy.
So while strategies vary slightly depending on the subject matter, the most important thing to remember is to keep shooting, even if you don’t think you need to. Those brief, unsuspecting moments in between thoughtfully composed shots often result in some of the most poignant and sentimental photographs.
Of course, if you need a little extra boost to really convey the spirit of the image, the writers here at Sleeklens are happy to help. Try playing with light, adding some different effects, or adjusting your colors on your next editing session – Good luck and see you next time!