Friday, March 16, 2012

Step Six: Capturing Good Candids

There is nothing I love better than capturing a good candid shot, one in which the interaction between my subjects is real and genuine because they either don't know or have forgotten that the camera is upon them.

It can be hard to do sometimes because:

  1. People tend to change their demeanor and/or tense up their face the minute a camera is pointed their way. I'm not judging here. I'm the same way. I'm just stating simple facts.
  2. Some (who shall not be named...MATT) don't like having their picture taken no matter how inconspicuously you try to hide the camera and thwart your efforts by throwing their hand(s) up in their face or make frowny faces showing their displeasure.
  3. Others can't stop hamming for the camera and immediately go into their "camera pose".
How do I get around this? First of all, I try to have my camera in ready mode if I'm at a place or time where I know I may want to get some pictures. One of the best pieces of advice that I received about candids was from a class I took with Karen Russell. Her DSLR is always left "on" and her lens cap is always left "off". This ensures that as long as your camera is within hands reach, you'll be close to ready. With point and shoot camera's this is harder to do because they automatically turn off after a certain length of time with no activity and the lens doesn't generally have the reach needed to be unobtrusive. 

I might point the camera in a direction in which I can get the settings close to correct before I turn it to ones I want to photograph. By doing this hopefully they won't have time to notice me or react before I get some shots in. Here we were at the Louvre as I spotted the girls showing each other pictures they had taken. I pretended to be interested in a piece of priceless artwork and then turned my camera to them to take a couple of shots. I would have liked to have the aperature opened up a bit more, but sometimes time isn't a luxury to get everything perfect. And that's okay.

Second, depending on the circumstance, I use as long of a lens as I can to keep as much distance between me and the ones I'm capturing. In this photo below, I used a telephoto lens to capture a tender moment between my sister-in-law and her sweet niece. The shot is nice and tight yet I was far enough away that they never even noticed me.

Remember, too, that a picture doesn't have to have people looking into the camera to be a good picture. In the picture below, it's the interaction between Brie and Max that I love so much about the shot. It wouldn't have the same emotion if they were both looking at the camera. 

If I can't do that, I act normal when I bring the camera up and if necessary, I carry on a normal conversation with my subjects or someone else as I snap away. If they stop and pose, I may take a few pictures and then I'll either put the camera down for a few and try again. 

Finally, shoot, shoot and shoot some more. With candid shots, I find that I do need to take a fair number of shots because you don't have a subject matter frozen. 

I also try to use a wider aperture so I can blur out more of the background since I'm not in control of the 
surroundings. I rarely shoot in manual mode when shooting candids because often times it's a challenge to get the shot so I'd rather be in aperture or priority mode so there is just one control I'm worried about.

With candids, I'm not so critical of my imperfections because, again, for me they are about the moments and if I can get the shot with the feeling that it was not about the camera (or the awareness of it), I'm happy. 

If there were one thing that I wish I could do better with candids, it would be move around more. I tend to get a lot of back of the heads or off to one side angles because I'm hesitant to move around a lot. That's one of the things, I'm working on improving this year. You'll notice that I do tend to fill the frame with my subjects in most of my candids. This is because I'm trying to eliminate the "noisy" or distracting background and put the focus on what's going on with the subject or between the subjects. If I can't get close enough to do that with the lens or camera, I don't hesitate to crop out as much of the distractions as I can after I download my photos.

After portraits, I'll talk about editing and what I do to get the best photo, post camera.

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