This may not prove to be one of my most popular articles, at least to those that can't get past the title. For those portrait photographers who immediately took offense, let me say that I enjoy good “set up” portraiture, too. I simply think that there are certain elements to candid shots that make them more interesting and more marketable, too. So, without further ado, let me share a few of the reasons that I prefer to shoot candid shots of people in almost any situation.
This has to be the most obvious reason. One of the most powerful ways to create a captivating image is to capture a moment that just “happened”. The typical pose and shoot situation may give you an occasional moment, but they'll be rare and you're more likely to miss them because you're focused on the controlled situation.
2. Interaction Between Subjects
Photos of people involved with other people add life to a portrait. It doesn't matter whether you're dealing with members and/or guests at a wedding, people backstage at a performance or just folks interacting at any level on the street. Hanging back a bit and waiting for those moments when people are involved with one another in some way sets the stage for a story, and that's what great photography is about.
Think about those “mood” portraits that were popular for a while in the 70's and 80's. There's a reason the fad didn't last. (My apologies to those readers who just took offense again.) It takes a very talented model to convey a specific emotion in a portrait and even then most people will see the difference. On the other hand, the photographer who simply puts him/herself in the right place and waits for the right time will capture honest emotions that transfer themselves to viewers.
4. Sales Potential
This is one of the main reasons I prefer to shoot more candid shots of people than posed. If you're hired to shoot a series of individual or family portraits, your potential buyer is the customer that hired you. They'll choose what they want and order enough for themselves and you may have the opportunity to sell some to their family members via something like a KeepSnap account.
On the other hand, let's say you're out at the beach and notice a family having a great time together, so you grab some candids without interrupting their fun. When things die down a bit, you hand a parent your card and explain that you're a professional that couldn't resist photographing their beautiful family, and that you'll post them to an online gallery where they can purchase and download any they really like. Many people will enjoy photos like this even more than studio portraits, because of the reasons listed above.
If you have a knack for talking to people, as most portrait photographers will, you now have one potential client. You can gain more by telling them they can share the gallery with family and friends. What's more, you have a set of images you can use for editorial purposes and in many other ways, especially if you can get a release signed. (You can do that simply and quickly with one of a few great phone apps out there.) You can offer them a few free downloads to clinch the deal.
So, you see, while I love taking photos of people, it's about more than just the photo. Candid portraits are a gold mine for a savvy photographer, with the potential to earn you money in several ways. When you're shooting people in any venue, don't forget to grab candid shots at every opportunity. You'll be surprised at the earning potential when you use a service like KeepSnap.