Candid photography has its ups and its downs. You have the chance to work in all sorts of places, and in all sorts of good and not-so-good lighting scenarios. You are not nailed down to one spot, and yet you must remain completely unnoticed. As a candid photographer your unrelenting goal is to remain completely unseen to your subjects. They must hardly notice that you are even there, much less that you have a camera in your itching fingers. Due to the pros and cons in this arena, I thought I would throw out a few things that I have learned as a candid photographer, and have gleaned from watching other candid photographers.
Item #1: To Flash or not to Flash?
If you can get away without a flash, do so. Again if your policy is to remain as inconspicuous as possible, flash will work against your goal. Outdoor events are especially fantastic for getting away without a flash. Indoors with incandescent lighting can be more difficult not only because of brightness, but also the yellow tungsten hues can make everything off colored. To use flash or not to use flash…now that is the question. My opinion is to try and use your flash the least you can so as to remain in the ‘background’ of your event. As the photographer it is really up to you whether you need your flash or not, experiment with different lighting environments and learn what you can and cannot get away with.
Item #2: Where in the world are you? Considering the type of event before your shoot.
If you are attending a formal type event and are asked to get candid photos of the event, there are a few things that you will definitely want to avoid. Alright you dedicated photographers! We all know that when we want a particular shot we will go to any length to get it. However, when in certain environments, do not do certain things. #1: No sitting of lying on the floor. This is a distraction as well as quite odd at a formal or professional event. Try and remain at a humane level! There is nothing worse than a candid photographer who has become the focal point of an event. It’s the equivalent of a speaker who has forgotten to turn off his microphone after leaving the stage! At an informal event where lots of activity is occurring, by all means, roll on the floor as much as you like! Just always keep in mind that invisibility is your goal.
Item #3: Closing In or Heading for the Outfield.
Some of the greatest expressions are lost when we do not close in on our subjects. Children especially are perfect for close-ups. The laugh in a person’s eyes is not caught at 10’ away. You need to get right in their face (I speak figuratively of course. Use your zoom lens!). Also, there are other times when perspective is needed. Sometimes size must be taken into perspective to make a photo more dramatic and realistic. This is especially true with photos that contain both children and adults. The biggest thing to keep in mind when framing your subject is that you are not taking a portrait. The angle, depth of field, and cropping can be quite different in candid work.
As time passes I will jot down some other candid photography tips and pass them onto our blog readers. Be sure to make a comment or ask a question. Below are some candids that were caught using the tips that I have suggested above:
Perspective is key in this photo. If I had cropped to closely, it would lose the proportion difference in the subjects. The smaller you can make children look, the better. Pictured above is Howard Phillips autographing something for my little brother, Phillip.