What makes a great candid photo? For me it's capturing real emotion at exactly the right moment in time. For my clients, a great candid photo is one that will impact them emotionally when they see it again many years from now. Having been a full-time photographer for over ten years now, and having photographed hundreds of weddings all over the world, as well as fast paced professional sports events, and special occasions of all types, you would think that capturing a great candid would be easy for me. Truthfully, it is easier now than it used to be, but there are many things that go into capturing a great candid photo. Over the next few blog posts, I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned over time to help you improve your skill in candid photography. Simply having a camera and being at the right place doesn't always mean you'll capture the moment as I feel it should be captured.
My approach as a wedding photographer is to look for the little moments that I call “Emotional transactions”, that are occurring all around me, throughout the wedding day. I have always felt that it’s the photos of these intimate moments that often have the greatest impact, and truly convey the emotion and feel of the wedding day. From my perspective, as soon as your subject knows that he or she has a camera pointed at them, they change their behavior, and the opportunity to capture that candid moment is gone.
One of the most important things that I try to ingrain in all of my interns and associate photographers is to always be alert and anticipate when a great candid moment may happen. Some moments like the groom’s expression when he sees his fiancé in her dress for the first time are obvious, but what about the little private smiles, their hands nervously clasped while they are on the alter, or their reactions after the ceremony as they exit the church, and are alone for the first time as a married couple. All of these moments can make for great candid photos, but you have to be looking for them constantly.
Your choice of equipment will also have a big impact on your ability to capture great candid photos. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I can give to photographers who are trying to improve their candid photography skill, is to learn your equipment like the back of your hand. Knowing your equipment well allows you to react instinctively to moments as they happen without having to worry about your camera settings. Teach yourself how to adjust anything on your camera without having to look at it and keep things simple. If you’re carrying three camera bodies with you all of the time, there is no way you’ll have the time, or energy, to react quickly when a moment presents itself.
I typically work with one camera body and 2 lenses during a wedding ceremony. That doesn’t mean I don’t have backup equipment within reach all the time, it simply means that during that one portion of the day I have one or two of my favorite lenses, and a camera body in my hands. I find that when I have too many equipment options available, I tend to get too caught up in technical decisions and my reaction times are slower. The KISS (keep it simple stupid) concept applies here! Some of my favorite lenses for capturing candid moments are telephoto lenses. Telephotos in the 100 to 300mm range allow me to keep a considerable distance between me and my subjects so that I don’t influence the moment. Trying to shoot a wedding with a wide angle lens means that you will have to be very close to your subjects and it can create an awkward invasion of private space which is exactly what you are trying to avoid. Choosing the right lens for the situation is critical to candid photography. Speaking of equipment, there is a new camera that I can’t wait to try out called the Light L16, which combines 16 lenses, of varying focal lengths into one compact body, which would seem to be a great fit for my purposes. If it works as advertised, I think one of these may find it’s way into my bag.
In the next post I’ll discuss how to anticipate and react to moments that create great candid photos. Stay tuned!