Candid Street Photography Tips

Candid street photography is about being able to capture a shot without the subject noticing that their picture is being taken.

This will provide completely natural un-posed pictures and can capture street life or unusual situations.

To achieve good candid photography art without the subject either realizing that you are pointing a camera at them, and before the scene has changed, you will need to have quick reflexes and a camera that can be ready in an instant.

The Equipment

A lot of the basic models of digital camera can be rather slow at firing up or being ready to take the next shot. So if candid street photography art is something that you are in to, it is vital that you invest in a fast response camera.

Candid Street Photography - Digital LCD Screen Picture by George Vnoucek on Flickr
  • A quiet camera is also beneficial in not arousing the attention of your subject and so losing the spontaneity of your image.
  • A benefit of the digital camera is the ability to show your subject the picture you just took using the LCD screen. This can be very useful in situations where someone wanting to know why you have taken their picture approaches you. By showing them the image, you are being completely open with them and this alone can allay their fears and reassure them that your intentions are completely harmless.
  • A good lens to use for candid photography is an 80 - 300 mm zoom lens. This will enable you to get close shots of your subject without having to be physically close yourself. It will also allow you to crop out any unwanted details in the picture.

The Technique

Candid street photography will require you to take a lot of pictures on your shoot. The more you take the better chance you have of capturing something interesting and well composed. With digital cameras there is no film wastage, so fill up those memory cards and discard anything unusable later.

Another good reason for taking lots of shots is that it is very likely that a lot of your images won't be any good at all. This will be due to bad composition, someone or something being in the way, missing the action and camera shake.

  • If the person of scene is still in position after you have taken your first shot, try to move your own viewpoint to capture a second shot which may be a stronger image. If the scene changes before you get the chance to take another shot at least you still have the first but it is always good to try and improve on your image if you can.
  • To support a long lens you will either need to have a very steady hand of something to support it on. Use nearby walls or your camera bag as a make shift support if necessary.
  • If your camera has a swivel LCD screen you can try to take pictures by pointing the camera at the subject but with you looking at the screen that is pointing away from the scene. This may also work well with the camera held down at waist level so that you can look down at your camera screen.

  • Another photography tip to try with this technique, which I have heard other photographers say can work quite well for getting in close to a subject, is to, hold the camera down at your waist and get quite close to your subject.

    While doing this pretend to be doing something else completely like playing with your mobile phone. This can make you less conspicuous.

  • Make sure your flash is turned off. I know this seems pretty obvious but with many compact cameras it can be quite easy to forget that the flash will fire automatically if there isn't enough light. This is a definite no no in candid street photography.

  • To over come low light conditions with no flash try increasing the ISO setting on the camera or using a faster lens with a wider aperture.

The Subjects

Candid Photography - Picture by Aislinn Ritchie
  • Choose locations where you know something interesting may occur. Festivals, demonstrations, weddings or just market days will provide many opportunities for great candid street photography.
  • Planning ahead and positioning yourself will help you to achieve a well-composed image. By bagging yourself a good advantage point you will be far more likely to have a clear view of all the action, so arrive early and find the best place where you will be comfortable and not too conspicuous.
  • Choosing subjects who are involved in doing something will make them far less likely to be aware of your presence. These sorts of subjects will also provide a far more interesting composition than one with someone simply sitting on a bench.
  • Candid street photography of a group of people will allow the viewer to imagine a story unfolding in the picture. Having two or more people in the frame, even if they are not interacting with each other, will make for a much more dynamic situation, with the possibility of relationships developing between the people in the scene.