Portraits – Candid

Candid shots can be hard to pick out from a few select pictures because posing does not have to show the subjects awareness of the photographer. However for our purposes we will call those posed shots candid anyway for simplicity’s sake.

What does “Candid” really mean? :

“Truthful and straightforward; frank.
(of a photograph of a person) Taken informally, especially without the subject’s knowledge.”

So we could even say that the most important quality of a candid photo is not, the lack of knowledge on the part of the subject but how truthful the image is to practical life versus our Utopian fantasy. This is not to say, a photo should include our frustration, irritation and messes, but rather kept simple and uncomplicated.

Is that easier said than practically applicable? Perhaps, although here are some suggestions to inspire your own creativity for simplicity.

  1. Focus on your subject and what has drawn their attention.
  2. Beware of your frame corners so as not to include distractions.
  3. Intentionally use backgrounds that support your shot and not stealing your viewer’s attention.

Focusing on your subject and the object holding their attention: Using a macro lens will crop a lot of the surrounding scenery bringing your focus to rest on your subject and their object of attention.

Being aware of what your frame corners catch which may distract a viewer is easy to forget. In fact I have found that if I am not paying attention I still catch minor undesirables. It can sound like photography is an art impossible to meet or only for the totally devoted  who do nothing else but study for the next super-image. I can nearly guarantee you this is not the case in most photographer’s cases.

Intentionally using backgrounds that are not flashy or precisely perfect have helped me draw out more of my subject’s presence versus a nice scenic shot with a presence.

Simplifying The Message

I find it difficult to discern the line between too much interest in a photo and too little. Let me give you some background about myself and some things which I have found helpful when I am on a photo shoot.

In college I was required to prepare and if called upon, give a public speech which was at-least 25 minutes in length and not to exceed 45 minutes. This can be a challenge! How does this apply to photography?

  • How do you gather enough interest or information for a photo (or to last 30 minutes)?
  • After putting together what I have, how do I put it in order?
  • Once a “dry run” is complete, how do I pare it down and still make sense?
  • What are the “key words and phrases” I must include?
  • How can I “beef” it up to be more than reading a script?

These are all very valid questions. Let me start by saying that in photography there hardly is ever a concern for “gathering interest”. I am grateful to have such beauty and splendor around with which to use as a back-drop!

The difficulty often comes when trying to put it all in order. Most of the time I take shots in neatly manicured gardens so that I do not have to set things in order. They already are in order! So, what about when I do not shoot photographs in a garden? I make sure of my subject (the person or object which the photo will display) and find a way to use the best available scenery as the back-drop.

Now to leave out the things that do not matter or take attention away from the subject. Getting closer to the subject or zooming closer in is a quick and easy solution, but do not be shy about moving around and changing the perspective of the shot to avoid specific things. Do be sure to keep your attention on the subject so that the shots do not come out with an odd feel because you were focused on not including “…that!…”

Our next to last question is even more subjective than the previous three, because this is part of your “style” as a photographer. I have seen many friends’ engagement photos and thought to myself, “I would have shot that different”, “I would have included this…” or “I would have excluded that!” That is just fine. Just because someone else would have done it another way does not mean that they are right, but shows the difference in style of photography. Remember: couples will usually ask for a portfolio of your work and it is your style that will grab their attention and get you the contract (providing of course prices are competitive and people skills are not horrible). The point is, price and people skill may be great, but if they do not like what they see in your portfolio, it probably will be a “no go.”

So whether you are shooting pictures of your adorable kids, or fascinated adventurer with a camera, remember; keep it simple and let your story be told!