Candid portraits. These are gaining popularity amongst clients and the media alike for uses in advertising, social media and marketing platforms. What is a candid portrait and how can you shoot better images of your family and besties in ways that are both flattering yet natural?
Candid simply means unposed, usually because the subject is unaware (at that precise moment) of being photographed. When you photograph your laughing five year old as she runs towards you at the beach, that is a candid photo. Genuine, beautiful moments are usually some of the best people photography we capture with our cell phones and digital cameras. Getting better at candid portraiture entails being able to anticipate those moments or better yet, plan around them.
You want to start by observing the person you intend to photograph. By that I mean, getting to know their facial and expressive idiosyncrasies so well you'll sense when they are relaxed and feeling comfortable in their own skin. You'll be able to tell when their smile is most pleasant, what little gestures, or ways of holding themselves are particular to their character and define their way of being.
Engaging in a genuine conversation with your subject, watching their interactions with others, or being with them during an activity they love, these are all great ways to get them into a situation that will yield the right moment without the distraction of "being photographed". There is nothing more un-spontaneous than a person who is keenly aware of a camera focused on them. Patience here is key, as is of course, not calling attention to yourself.
In terms of techniques, when using your DSLR, keep it simple and on the portrait setting. That will minimize background distractions by creating blur, and holding the focus on your subject's face. If using a cell, try to keep the lens perpendicular to the person so you're not distorting the image further. Our phones use wide angle lenses that warp perspective to accommodate a larger view of the scene. On portraits, this accentuates the most prominent features on a face such as the nose, brow and chin. Just try to take a selfie without adjusting the angle and you'll see what I mean.
When composing your shot, think of where the light is coming from and what the background is doing. Is your subject's face shadowed or in light so bright they glow like neon? Are you being distracted by objects seemingly "growing" out of your subject's head. If the light is too low, chances are your photo will be blurry and pixellated, especially with cell phones. If you use the flash, then you've got one chance at this before you blow your cover. If you can shoot multiple frames without going undetected, do it. But remember that beauty is in the emotions here. Candid images showcase what is uniquely engaging and emotionally evocative about a person in that singular moment.
Candid shots are not easy. But a successfully taken candid portrait is one of the purest ways of telling the story of someone you love.