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As you experiment with photographic storytelling, you’ll want to capture not only portraits (think posed photos) but also those special candid shots that freeze a moment in time. The final product of the best candid photography might seem effortless, but in reality, it requires practice, skill, and a lot of thought. Try these 10 tips to start telling your story through candid photographs.
1. Train your eye to capture special moments
When you begin experimenting with candid or documentary-style photography, you’ll need to retrain your eye. Instead of looking through your lens for action, focus on faces. Follow the main subject’s face to look for emotion. When you notice your subject begin to engage with the action, start shooting.
2. Look for key relationships
As you focus on faces, look for interactions between key players in the scene—think bride and groom at an engagement party, or child and best friend at a birthday party. Most of the action will be between these individuals, so keep your camera focused on them. (Try these tips for capturing love of all types in photography.)
3. Shoot in burst mode
Shooting candid photography is like shooting sports. The action moves fast, and you don’t want to miss the “money shot” during your camera’s recycle time. Avoid this by shooting in burst mode on your iPhone or sports mode on your DSLR. The time you spend culling through photos later will be well worth it.
4. Experiment with lenses
The kit lens that came with your DSLR is a good starter lens, but you’ll quickly outgrow it. As you dive into candid photography, try a zoom lens to capture emotions and action up close without intruding on the scene. A prime or “fixed” lens is another lens to explore. Because these lenses have a fixed focal length, they’re lightweight, and they offer a larger aperture, which translates to quicker shutter speeds.
5. Turn off the flash
Not only will a flash distract your subjects, but also your camera’s flash recycle rate might cause you to miss the perfect candid shot. Try relying only on ambient lighting for candid photography. Adjust your ISO to a higher speed (800 or above). Any graininess in your photos will be offset by the moments you’re able to capture.
6. Move around to capture different angles
As you shoot, try moving around the action and the subject to capture different angles. Stand on a chair to shoot from above for a bird’s eye view, or lie on the floor, propping your camera up with your forearms. A different vantage point will produce interesting results, especially when you’re shooting photos of little ones.
7. Shoot from the hip
“Shoot from the hip” is a frequent tip for candid photography, particularly when shooting scenes with lots of people and activity, such as a festival or party. You’ll end up with some clunky throwaway shots, but the camera position offers a wider angle and doesn’t attract as much attention. Hold to the camera by your lens and just press the shutter button for an interesting experiment.
8. Blend in with your surroundings
For optimum candid photography, you want your subjects to forget you and the camera are present and just go about their business. Think of yourself as a photojournalist—you want the action to happen without any interference from you.
9. Ask lots of questions to engage your subject
This might seem contradictory to the previous tip, but if the subject is hyper aware of you and your camera, try asking lots of questions. Engage the subject in conversation as an icebreaker. This is particularly helpful when you want to take a candid-style environmental portrait—for instance, a chef cooking in her kitchen rather than looking directly at the camera.
10. Take lots and lots of photos
Don’t put your camera down, and keep shooting. Make sure you have a backup battery. After all, the worst photo is the one that never gets taken—and professional photographers take hundreds of photos that never see the light of day.With a solid collection of candid photos, you’ll be well on your way to creating a custom photo book or calendar using Motif. Motif connects seamlessly with Apple Photos and uses innovative autoflow technology to help you create the first draft of your photo project. Check it out on your Mac or iPhone today.
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