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Hey Photographer, it’s Shannon again!

My interest in photography really deepened once I started examining the candid shots of other photographers. I am fascinated by human behavior, so when I see a subject in their natural state, seemingly unaware of the camera lens pointed towards them, I can’t help but feel a more intense connection to the photo. It is now something I strive to capture when I shoot. As a new photographer, taking candid photos might seem awkward or intimidating, so I’m here to offer a few tips to take the pressure off your next natural, uncontrived photoshoot!

  1. Carry your camera with you as much as possible – One of the best ways to practice shooting candid photos is to be ready with your camera at any moment. You don’t necessarily have to go somewhere with the intention of taking pictures, but sometimes, a golden opportunity can present itself and you want to be able to whip out your camera immediately! This is also a good way to practice being observant and training your eye to recognize awesome, candid situations.
  2. Don’t shoot candid right away – If you’re actually in the process of beginning a photoshoot with someone and you’re striving to create a candid feel, you want your subject to be extremely comfortable in front of the camera. You also want to avoid overly posed shots. To achieve this, I actually suggest going in the complete opposite direction when you first start shooting them. Make them very aware that the camera is there so they can get used to its presence. The idea is that eventually, they will become so accustomed to it, it’s as if the camera doesn’t even exist! Perhaps you can take them for a brief, casual walk and photograph them at various points during your journey, but make it more directional so they get used to the process of having their photo taken.
  3. Distract your subject – Once you’ve taken the time to NOT shoot candidly, you want to develop tactics to keep the person comfortable and natural once you finally do start. One trick is to ask questions or have them tell a story about themselves. This way, they are more focused on retelling their experience, and less consumed by you snapping photos. Be specific with what you want to know so they can really get lost in the story and relive whatever emotions they felt at the time. You will probably get a lot of awkward, mid-sentence shots or ones with their eyes closed, but at the same time, you’re bound to capture some gems too!
  4. Set your camera to a medium ISO – Try adjusting your camera settings to a mid-range ISO of 400 to 800. This will automatically increase your shutter speed. With many candid shots, a subject is often performing some type of action, so in order to avoid major motion blur, you’ll want to increase your shutter speed a bit for clearer shots. You may, however, make the artistic choice to create a blurry effect, so that’s totally up to you!
  5. With that being said, shoot people doing things – Again, you want your subject(s) in their most natural state, so if they are absorbed in a task, chances are they are less likely to notice you taking photos of them. Try photographing a family gathering, perhaps a barbecue or game night where people are interacting with others and engaging in some type of activity. If you’re doing a one-on-one shoot, you can ask them what they like to do beforehand and make sure they come prepared to perform that action (if they’re okay with it!). Maybe they like to play an instrument, knit, or even just curl up in a cozy chair and read a book.
  6. Don’t have a specific subject – Sometimes, it’s best to go out and play “tourist” for an afternoon and shoot strangers in a crowded place. If you’re in New York City, Times Square could be an interesting place to start. You’ll blend right in with everyone else, and it’ll be less obvious that you’re photographing specific people. It’s a perfect way to remain discreet and stress-free (at least when it comes to photography…Times Square can be a very stressful place in general!).
  7. Avoid using your flash – Speaking of being discreet, nothing will ruin that intention than having a bright flash go off every time you try to take a shot. Consider turning your flash off and exploring other ways to achieve great photos in various lighting environments. (hint – pay attention to ISO!)
  8. Try switching between single autofocus mode and continual autofocus mode – You’ll want to make sure your subject is in focus as much as possible, so it’s best to play with both single autofocus mode and continual autofocus mode. Sometimes, the person will be standing or sitting still, making it easier for you to focus them before each shot, but other times, the person will be moving, so you want your camera to continually focus on them as you shoot.  
  9. Shoot in burst mode – You have a much better chance of capturing a great candid if you’re shooting many shots in a matter of a few seconds. People’s expressions and positions change constantly, and often times there is so much beauty to be found in their transitions!
  10. Take tons and tons of photos! The more you shoot, the better you become! Plus, you can’t always wait for that perfect shot before you press down on your shutter button. Try utilizing some of the camera settings mentioned above to take photos continuously. As you’re sifting through them, you might be pleasantly surprised to find you caught the perfect one. 🙂

Happy shooting!

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