Event Photography Portrait Photography

8 Tips for the Perfect Candid Photos

The Holidays are the perfect time to take a few candid photos. Use these tips to make sure you capture the right moments and create lasting memories!

The Holidays are right around the corner, and for photographers everywhere, that means all kinds of opportunities for candid photographs. It’s not only family gatherings, but Christmas parties and other seasonal events, too. You can even apply these tips to non-holiday events like weddings or conferences. With those thoughts in mind, here are a few of my favorite tips that are sure to help you take many meaningful candid images!

1. Wait for a Special Moment

Candid photos are all about capturing people in the most natural way possible. Don’t simply snap photos of idle people. Wait until they’re engaged in something — opening a Christmas present or sharing a laugh over a joke someone told at the dinner table. Remember that the purpose of candid images is not to create portraits, but to create memories.

8 Tips for the Perfect Candid Photos

2. Strategic Positioning

Very few people are comfortable when a camera’s lens is pointed at them. In order to create natural candid images, look for ways to minimize your role as a photographer. This means that you’ll likely need to stay around the fringes of whatever is happening. However, make sure that even though you aren’t directly interfering, you’ll still have a great view of the action.

3. Don’t Hesitate to Use Burst Mode

Candid photography is similar to sports photography in that you’re trying to catch a fleeting expression or a special moment that only lasts for a split second. If you think something photo-worthy is about to happen, use burst mode to ensure that you capture it.

8 Tips for the Perfect Candid Photos

4. Choose the Right Lens

Candid photography doesn’t give you lots of time for lens changes. The best way to make sure you can take photos from close up or far away is to use a long zoom lens. In low light situations, you may also want a lens with a wide aperture so that you can avoid using a flash or a tripod.

5. Make Sure Your Images have Context

Great expressions are only half of the image. If someone’s face lights up, show everyone why by including the object that is causing the expression — a partially unwrapped present, for instance. When someone is laughing, make sure to include some of the other people that are a part of the conversation. By giving your candid images context, you’ll tell a complete story in every photo.

8 Tips for the Perfect Candid Photos

6. Avoid Flash

There are many great reasons to avoid using a flash for candid photography. Few things put people on the spot like the bright bursts of light produced by a flash. If everyone is watching for the flash, then they’re not giving you many opportunities for candid images. Flashes without diffusers also provide harsh lighting, which isn’t always flattering when it comes to portraits. And, if you use diffusers or umbrellas, you’re making yourself that much more prominent as a photographer, which means that people are less likely to behave naturally around you.

7. Be Flexible with Perspectives

Most images are taken at eye level, which is fine, but it helps if you can mix things up at least a little bit. Whenever you see a good opportunity, try shooting from above or below your subject. You can also try capturing reflections of people — a family gathering or a photo of a child reflected in a Christmas ornament, for instance.

8 Tips for the Perfect Candid Photos

8. Mind the Backdrop

When you’re taking candid images, you won’t have complete control over the backdrop. Distracting objects, people, and other unwanted elements will find a way to sneak into the frame. Look for ways to make these things a part of your image, or be prepared to move around until the backdrop, your subject and the timing all match up. Fortunately, the Holidays make the backdrop conundrum a little bit easier. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to take candid images against sparkling Christmas lights, snowy landscapes, greenery and more.

Candid photography is one of the most rewarding types of photography, not only because you’re creating memories, but also because it is so unpredictable. You never know what may happen at a particular event that will make for a spectacular photograph!

About the author

Will Moneymaker

Will has been creating photographs and exploring his surroundings through his lens since 2000. Follow along as he shares his thoughts and adventures in photography.