What is a Candid Photo (8 Tips for Stunning candid photography)

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Photographs are not always planned shoots and posed portraits. Sometimes a candid photo tells you a lot more about the subject , the surroundings or the situation rather than a planned photoshoot.

Photograph of a person or any other living subject taken without his knowledge is known as candid photo.

Candid photography is a vast subject and its also a very popular stream in photography. With everyone carrying a mobile camera it has also become very easy to take a candid photo. If you find yourself in the right situation , you can quickly take out your phone and take a candid shot.

Photographing candidly shows the real beauty of life. Instead of posed portraits that are meticulously planned and edited to look flawless, candid photos are spontaneous and authentic. In candid photos authenticity is more important that perfection.

It can be difficult to capture this authentic look. People notice photographers and are quick to change their behavior. You must be fast and catch people before you get their attention to capture candid shots.

Family portraits are great examples of candid photography , candid photos of kids turn out really great.

Street photography is also very popular form of candid photography. You can read more about it here.

What is candid photography ?

Photographing someone having no knowledge that you are doing it is candid photography. A candid photo or a candid picture is something where you capture the subject while doing certain activity , thinking , having conversation with someone etc.

Candid photography meaning

The dictionary meaning of candid is ” truthful and straightforward “. Candid photography means capturing things as they are without any external influence. Candid photography alters nothing in terms of lighting , subject , situation. It just presents us with the reality in as aesthetically pleasing way possible.

A candid photo is not planned and subject is not aware that he is being photographed. Candid photo can be of a person or even an animal. Sports photography , street photography , travel , wildlife give you more opportunity to shoot a candid picture.

Candid photography is an art in itself and it is not easy to master this art. However the results can be beautiful. Candid photography has an advantage in terms of capturing an interesting moment with real emotions and expressions.

what is a Candid photo
Candid photo of old guys playing chess

Candid photographs appear more natural and tend to have more feeling in them. In planned photoshoot with people who are not professional models , they get very conscious and tend to be not at their photogenic best during the shoot.

This is even more applicable for kids photoshoots . Kids are already a hard subject to photograph and if they become conscious about someone taking picture of them, then it becomes even more difficult.

In general candid photography can produce some amazing pictures but one must be aware about how to find and shoot the right moment and this is not easy.

Let’s see some tips about finding the opportunity to shoot and actually shooting candid pictures.

Candid photography Tips

Candid photography is difficult to master and here are some tips to get you started ..

Tip 1 : Shoot with a long / telephoto lens

When you want to capture someone in a candid way , expressing the way he or she is then you need to be sure that you are not intruding the personal space.

If you have a small focal length say a 35 mm prime lens and try to take a portrait shot then you need to be only a couple of feet away from the subject. If you this close to the subject , it it likely that the subject will not be comfortable and you will not get candid pictures.

The best way to take a candid photo is by staying out of the personal space and still being able to capture the right moment. This is only possible if you use a longer , telephoto lens . 100 mm Prime lens , 70-200 telephoto zoom lens are very popular candid photography lenses.

Candid photo
Candid Photo

You can easily stay around 10-15 feet away and still capture some nice close shots with these lenses.

Using a fast lens is also very critical as you need to have a fast shutter speed to capture the perfect moment. A slow shutter speed will mean you get blurry photos or miss the right moment.

Tip 2 : Always carry your camera !

The minimum thing that you need to take a picture is a camera ! if you are into candid photography or you are going somewhere , where you expect to get some candid photos then you must carry your camera around.

candid photography example
People waiting at train station

If its going to be too difficult to carry DSLR with a long lens , simple point and shoot or mirrorless camera is also fine. Mirrorless cameras these days can produce some amazing results in a small form factor.

street candid photography
Candid photography

If nothing else , you should at least have your phone with you. Modern day phones can take some amazing candid pictures , even in low light conditions.

People will be more comfortable getting their photos taken if they know you have a camera with you everywhere. My family and friends expect me to always have my camera with me.

So when I fire up my camera, it’s not an indication to pose. It’s just part of our interactions. When I do take a few images, my subjects are more relaxed and the photos turn out natural.

Tip 3 : Try to Photograph people doing things

Images of people doing something are more interesting than images of people just sitting there doing nothing. They also tend to have more natural compositions.

People captured at the right moment while doing something really add energy to the image. Viewers can feel as if they are part of the story , surroundings and closely relate to the subject.

candid photography

In candid photography timing is key. Wait until your subject is completely focused on their activity. This will give your photos a sense of authenticity.

Your subject does not have to be involved in something complex or difficult – they could be just dancing or talking or playing , having fun.

Tip 4 : Do not use flash

Using flash while trying to capture a candid phot is probably the worst thing you can ever do. The person you are trying to capture will feel really awkward and photos will come out unnatural.

Keeping flash off is easier said than done. You need to use high ISO , fast lens to ensure you have sufficient light to capture the right moment.

no flash candid photograph

In some cases where avoiding flash is practically impossible. The light is just too less and you end up with grainy pictures. In that case you can bounce the flash up the ceiling to get some overall light without disturbing the subject.

Tip 5 : Take as many pictures as you can !

Well more pictures you take more is the chance of getting the right one! Take as many pictures as you can once you have the opportunity.

Using burst mode is also very effective. You can set your camera to continuous shooting mode and fire the shutter button. It will take burst of images. Depending upon which camera you use it can take anywhere from 3 to 10 pictures per second.

Since you are looking to capture a very fine and precise moment as the candid moment, your chances of success are a lot more if you use burst mode. You will be surprised to see how many better images you can capture just by shooting in burst mode.

Taking more than one picture is very crucial when you shoot birds or animals. Candid photos of animals are amazing. Though animals do not tend to get awkward in front of camera, they do behave a bit differently and are certainly not natural.

Tip 6 : Find a vantage point or a strategic location

Reach to the location early before everyone else arrives and try to identify locations where you will not be intrusive to others and can still capture all the actions.

This is very helpful while shooting wedding , birthday parties , kids sports , beach action etc.

When you are travelling or just doing some street photography you can find a location where people get attracted to something , some person and where all the action is.

candid photography tips
Vantage point

Find a spot from where you can see everything clearly and just wait and have patience for things to happen.

Railway bridges , popular shops , statues , water bodies etc. are some typical locations at tourist spots where things get interesting.

For shooting candid photos at sports venues , car or bike races , courts etc. , finding the right location is almost key to getting the right picture. A wrong location and you can spend the entire game without getting even a single good picture.

Tip 7 : Observation is key

Candid photography is all about observing your surroundings and paying attention to things happening around you.

If you observe things and people carefully you will find a lot of candid photography opportunities.

If you are visiting a location such as a nearby park , mall , station , beach often , then you can observe and identify spots or things that are good for photography.

Find spots where people generally react to something and then you can take a candid photo. Observing people behavior is key to capturing great candid images.

You of course need to have the patience and wait for the right moment. It can take a minute or an hour of waiting time to get the right picture.

In case of wedding photography people generally have two photographers. One to take the formal pictures and another to roam around and take some candid shots. Observing people coming to wedding and their behavior can get you some really nice candid shots.

Tip 8 : The right camera settings

There are no exact settings that always work but here are some recommendations of basic camera settings for candid photography.

Camera ModeTv or Time Value mode. Any camera mode where should be able te the shutter speed namually.
Shutter speed valueAnything less than 1/250 second is good starting point. You can refer shutter speed chart for shutter speed values recommended for different subjects.
ISOLeve ISO on auto mode and set the max value to the limiting ISO for your camera. Above this value the images get grainy.
ApertureShoot at the widest aperture possible where your les is sharp enough. Some lenses tend to become soft at their best apertures.
Picture styleStandard setting should work just fine
Autofocus modeUse continuous AF if available. You can also use all focussnig points avaialbe with zone focussing.
Picture modeUse burst mode as much as possible
Image formatWe always recommend to shoot RAW but in this case even JPEG is fine for the purpose. 
Camera settings for Candid photography

Candid photography examples

There are many places and locations suitable for candid photography but some photography streams are very popular. Lets see some of them.

Outdoor candid photography

outdoor candid photography
Outdoor candid photography

Candid couple photography

Candid couple photography
Couple candid photography

Candid wedding photography

wedding candid photography

Street Candid photography

street candid photography
Indian tea seller
street candid picture
Indian priest

Family Candid photography

Family candid photography

Final Words

Candid photography is a wonderful stream of photography which deals with taking pictures of subjects without them knowing it. It can give some amazing and surprisingly beautiful mages.

These candid photos have a lot of emotions , feelings and preset the reality as it is.

The focus is to present what you saw rather than the quality of the photograph or the orchestration behind it.

So take out your camera and head out to the streets ! Lets take some great candid pictures ..