It seems rather obvious, but you can’t record those spontaneous moments and reactions unless you always have your camera with you. These are the kind of photos that happen when they happen, and disappear forever if you’re not prepared to shoot them.
Not only must you have your camera with you, but also it must be ready to shoot: an appropriate lens attached, the correct settings selected, etc., so all you have to do is point, compose and record.
Often, recognizing spontaneous photo opportunities requires that you are keenly aware of the environment in which you find yourself. People’s candid looks are typically a reaction to or a part of their surroundings. Seldom are good candid images of just the person. To be a good photographer for any type of subject matter, it’s important to develop your observational skills. Instead of walking through an area haphazardly, pause and slow your pace to take a much closer look at the interactions of people with their environment.
Obviously, candid photography doesn’t allow for much time to fiddle with the settings on your camera. Rely on its auto functions to record an acceptable image from a technical perspective, while you concentrate on the spontaneous composition. You can fix most technical issues during post-production.
- Of all your camera settings, ISO may be the most important for spontaneous images. Select an ISO that is a bit higher than “normal,” (which is often 100,) such as ISO 400. You’ll maintain control of digital noise, but also will be shooting at a fast enough shutter speed to stop any action or movement that may occur. When you shooting candids, you are more likely to be moving quickly around your subject. Conversely, sometimes a bit of movement in a spontaneous image provides added creativity.
Don’t glue your eye to the viewfinder. Candid photography is a great opportunity to learn how to shoot from the hip or to use a low or high angle. Some of the best street photographers use these techniques to move into the middle of a crowd, but without anyone realizing they are snapping pictures.
Great spontaneous images of people often requires a bit of sneakiness. This is when a zoom lens with a substantial maximum focal length, such as 300mm, is very handy. You can position yourself at some distance from your subject, making it even easier to capture them acting naturally. An essential part of shooting this way also requires that you learn how to find and select the best distant locations, so, for example, you have a clear view of a wide section of a street without people walking in front of your camera.
Many spontaneous people pictures become more compelling when you shoot them with the black-and-white setting or convert them during editing. Those gritty street scenes or high-contrast, low-light photos at night become an entirely different statement when viewed in black and white instead of color.
Often, an excellent place to start to develop your spontaneous photography skills is to shoot people focused on their occupations. The worker in the factory, the construction worker, the flower arranger in a floral shop, the baker and the mechanic are just a few of many activities occurring throughout your community everyday.
Often the best street photographers or those focused on capturing candid images have an important skill other than photography; and that is the ability to ask strangers permission to take their picture. If you can overcome any reluctance you have to approach strangers in public places to become your subjects, then you’ve unlocked one of the biggest secrets to excellent spontaneous photos. Of course, some people won’t want their picture taken. Thank them cordially and look for another subject.
As this PhotographyTalk article should have made clear, capturing spontaneous photos isn’t as easy as you might have thought. That is why it is important to be always shooting and to ask other photographers through the PhotographyTalk Forum to share their candid images and techniques. This is another type of photography that requires constant practice and a good bit of trial-and-error.
- 2013 Photographer's Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Selling Your Photography
- Best Business Practices for Photographers
- The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan: Build a Successful Photography Venture from the Ground Up
- Group Portrait Photography Handbook
- The Best of Family Portrait Photography: Professional Techniques and Images
- 500 Poses for Photographing Group Portraits
- Selling Your Photography: How to Make Money in New and Traditional Markets
- Starting Your Career as a Freelance Photographer
- Photographer's Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age
- Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images
- Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell
- Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer
For many photographers, especially beginners, the biggest challenge is recognizing and capturing spontaneous moments; those candid images when people are being themselves and unaware of the camera. It’s easy to pose people or ask them to stop what they are doing, but some of the best people pictures are those in which they are acting naturally and providing facial expressions and gestures that could never be staged.
Like any photography subject matter, taking better spontaneous photos is a matter of learning, practicing and using a series of techniques; and many of them are explained below.
Image credit: stefanolunardi / 123RF Stock Photo
People who read this PhotographyTalk.com article also liked:
Your feedback is important to thousands of PhotographyTalk.com fans and us. If this article is helpful, then please click the Like and Re-Tweet buttons at the top left of this article.