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Tips and Ideas on Candid Photography for Beginners

Candid photography is a genre that has been around for decades, with many renowned photographers preferring to shoot unstaged, spontaneous scenes. Understanding how to take great candid shots is important for any photographer as it can improve your works in different photography genres. In this article, you will learn what candid photography is about, how you can implement it in other genres, and what gear you should use. Our guide also includes essential tips and ideas on capturing candid scenes and emotions.

What is candid photography?

Candid photography is a genre dedicated to shooting unstaged situations and scenes with people who don’t pose for a picture. It captures sincere emotions and fleeting moments. Candid photography is about knowing the perfect moment to take a shot. In this genre of photography, it is not necessarily that models don’t know they are being photographed. They might know before and after a shot, but candid photography is about taking photos of true, sincere interactions instead of staged ones. Candid photography has its routes in photojournalism and early street photography, when people were shot spontaneously and often didn’t notice. what is candid photo

Candid photography in other genres

With the approach of candid photography, you can shoot a variety of genres. As mentioned above, candid photography is related to street photography. In an urban environment, you can shoot your models without staged postures as they go about their activities. Photographers also use this approach with portrait photography. The intersection between candid and portrait photography is sometimes called lifestyle photography. Candid photography is often used in wedding photography, shooting events, family photography, and many other related genres.

Equipment for candid photography

Candid photography is an authentic genre, so the gear you use doesn’t matter as much as in other specific genres (such as night photography and macro photography). You can take an awesome candid shot with any equipment you have at hand if you know how to make the most of the possibilities with your existing gear. If you enjoy film photography, experiment with taking candid pictures on film. Mobile photography is also very convenient for candid shots. However, if you want to invest in new photography gear, consider a DSLR camera with a set of lenses. Purchase a 50mm fixed lens to be able to work with a wide range of apertures. In case you need to photograph your subjects from far away, consider getting a universal telephoto lens 70-200 mm. For more on lenses, check out our guide on focal length. candid photography

Tips and ideas for great candid shots

If you want to try candid photography but don’t know where to start, here are some tips and ideas. They will help you understand more about how to work with this genre.

1. Use shutter speed priority mode

Shooting people requires using fast shutter speeds. Even if they seem like they don’t move, a shutter speed of 1/30 might still create some unintentional motion blur, meaning you will need to shoot with a real fast shutter speed like 1/500. For a beginner, it might be challenging to adjust all of the three settings that influence exposure (aperture, ISO, and shutter speed). It might be hard even for an experienced photographer to quickly choose the settings in a manual mode when they need to take a picture as fast as possible. This is why you should opt for a shutter speed priority mode so that you can set the shutter speed you need and your camera chooses two other settings automatically. It might not bring precise exposure, but you can always adjust the settings later not to sacrifice some great shots you need to take quickly. candid shots

2. Create intentional motion blur

You don’t need to always take crystal sharp images when you shoot candid photography. Actually, there are some examples of outstanding candid photos that use the contrast of a motion-blurred subject with sharp and focused surroundings. One of the greatest candid and street photographers of all times, Henri Cartier-Bresson, used motion blur a lot in his works. Use slower shutter speeds to create a similar effect to add some life and dynamics to your pictures. It will blur your subject but keep the surroundings sharp. Note that you need to stabilize your gear for long exposure photography, as you won’t be able to hold your camera steady for a whole second. If you don’t, there’s a high chance that not only your subject, but the background and foreground will also get blurred.

3. Choose specific locations

There are certain locations that offer an abundance of subjects for your candid photography in urban environments. A train station, a crowded marketplace, parties and events, concerts and festivals, and even city streets during daylight are awesome places to practice candid photography. There, you’ll find people who are busy with their own things that are easy to capture with no posing. 

4. Move fast and change your angles 

For a candid photographer, it’s crucial to be careful. Models might be aware of your presence, but you need to make sure you are as discreet as possible. If you shoot with a zoom lens, you can even get by unnoticed. If you shoot with a prime or a fixed lens, you will have to change your position all the time. If you stand at one position and shoot from one angle for too long, you might actually make your subjects uncomfortable, and the candid, unstaged moment will be ruined. That’s why you need to move fast not to disturb your subjects. candid moments

5. Be careful with your flash

An external source of light can be a lifesaver for photographers who shoot at night. However, when it comes to candid photography, you should be very careful when you want to use your flash. First of all, it might distract your subjects or make them notice you if they don’t know they are being photographed. Second, a built-in flash and even a speedlight fixated on your camera might create harsh shadows or too much of a contrast when you work with portraits.  If you need to make a scene lighter, opt for an external flash with a light stand and a diffuser and place them in your background. Of course, if you have time for that – for instance, when you take a candid family photoshoot.

6. Make your shots interesting with contrast and details 

It’s not so easy to take unique and intriguing pictures in almost any photo genre. However, there are certain ways to make your candid shots more appealing and eye-catching. When you research a location, pay close attention to details and contrast. Maybe a person you want to shoot wears something bright and you can find a contrasting background at a scene, or you notice some unconventional details you would like to include in your frame.


Candid photography as a genre is a must for any photographer. It’s hard to downplay its role and influence throughout many genres we have today. A skill to take unstaged, sincere, and candid photos are useful for anyone who wants to improve their portraiture, event, or street photography.