Taking candid shots and photographing without posing subjects is one of the most common styles of photography. Having the ability to capture candid moments on camera naturally is a skill every professional photographer should practice and learn well. Candid photography is a great way to photograph a wedding, though many clients may want a mix of both formal and candid shots—practice both and keep a wide range of photographic styles in your back pocket. Being well-versed in candid wedding photography for is a great way to make money while you pursue your other passions, which might be candid street photography. The essence of candid photography is to be comfortable with the camera and to easily blend into any situation.
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At its most basic definition, candid photography is a style of photography where the models and the scene have not been posed. This does not specifically mean that the photograph is voyeuristic or has a paparazzi style, or that the subject is not consenting to have their photo taken. It simply means that neither the photographer nor the subjects have intentionally posed the image in any way.
While candid photographs can be taken anywhere—at home, in the bedroom, at a grocery store, a child’s birthday party, etc.—the style is generally attributed to both street photography and wedding photography.
Street photographers use their camera to observe the rituals and the happenings on the street. Generally, street photography creates candid portraits of the people on the street to tell a slice of humanity’s story. While street photography is usually candid in nature, candid photography is not necessarily street photography.
In a similar vein, candid style photography can be used in weddings as way to capture the uninhibited emotion of the celebration. A wedding photographer who is adept at taking candid photographs will capture the smiles and laughter shared between people, the occasional tears, and all the “candid moments” that add up to a more complete portrait of the wedding.
In many ways, candid photography is similar to wildlife photography - you must blend in and remain unnoticed, and you have to take many images before you get the perfect shot.
The history of candid photography is nearly synonymous with that of photography itself and as such, hundreds of photographers have practiced the style—many to great acclaim. Henri Cartier-Bresson is widely recognized as the godfather and master of candid and street photography through his images of decisive moments in 1930s European streets. Other photographers famous for their candid shots are Garry Winogrand, who shot from the hip on the sidewalks of New York often capturing strange expressions, and Helen Levitt, who photographed the children and families living in the tenements of New York’s Lower East Side and Harlem. More recent photographers who have gained notoriety in this genre are Nan Goldin, Ryan McGinley, and Olivia Bee, who all shot the intimate, candid moments that happen between their friends and lovers.
As someone who takes candid photographs, you must blend in with your surroundings by remaining comfortable with the camera and around people. The best way to get comfortable taking candid shots is to always have your camera on you. Do not leave in the morning without your camera ready to take pictures, and keep it by your side throughout the day, all day, every day, even into the evening at home (and maybe in your bed!). If you are uncomfortable taking photos, people will most likely sense that and be uncomfortable having their photo taken—so the key here is to get comfortable with the camera. By interacting with your family, friends, coworkers, etc. with your camera, they will become accustomed to having their photo taken to the point that they no longer notice it. As a wedding photographer who takes candid shots, the ability to easily blend into any situation is a prerequisite for the job.
To describe someone as a person “who shoots from the hip” can mean many different things, but when used to describe a photographer it means quite literally that they shoot images from their hip. This is a great technique for capturing candid photographs, as it allows you to compose your image from an entirely different angle. It also frees you from having to look through the viewfinder and finiking with the composition of the image—you can just shoot almost at random and hope for the best. Shooting from the hip is an especially great photographic technique when at a wedding with small children, as it allows you to capture images from their eye level and their perspective. Some of the best photos are those shot from the hip.
For this type of work, you will want a camera that is as unobtrusive as possible. The “classic” camera for candid photography is a Leica due to their slim body and small lens, but any digital camera will due—digital specifically because you can take hundreds of photos and are not limited by the cost and time of using film.
Using a flash is certainly not ideal and not recommended when practicing candid photography because a bright flash of light will distract your subject, potentially ruining another photograph and worse, will draw attention to you. Choose a camera with a high ISO (film speed) so that it will be able to take great photos even in low light. However, many weddings can take place indoors or at night (or both), so sometimes even the highest ISO won’t save this very low-light situation. For this, you can invest in a bounce flash, which points the flash in a different direction (usually angled about 45 degrees up) to bounce the flash off the surrounding walls and ceilings. This creates a more “natural” lighting effect with little effort. You could also purchase a diffuser, which is a plastic, translucent device that covers the flash and allows it to be better dispersed in the area and less harsh.
By practicing candid photography and learning the best ways to naturally capture those special, impromptu moments, you will have the tools to be a versatile photographer who can bring in more clients and business. Just blend in, take lots of shots, shoot from the hip—and have fun!
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