Many photographers are under the impression that great candid photography is just a matter of being lucky. If only that were true… it would be a lot easier.
Most often my candid photos, while not posed, are pre-planned. I will notice a situation that has potential for a great shot “if only things were like this or like that”… but if you interfere and try to pose and create “this and that” you will often ruin the shot (and certainly damage the candid nature of the photo). So how to capture a candid shot with the results of a posed shot? Patience and planning.
The young girl playing with her bubbles is one of my favorites. I was driving down the road past a park in Leadville Colorado when I saw some children playing with bubbles. I thought to myself “that’s a photo”. But i cannot just go ask them to pose for me. In part because I have no skills for posing people, also it would probably ruin the moment and lastly parents don’t like strangers approaching their kids in a park to take photos.
So I locked on a big telephoto and sat myself at a picnic table a good distance away. In an effort to ensure my subjects were unaware that I’m shooting them, I placed myself such that it looks like I was photographing the mountains (just out of camera frame). This kept the kids playing as they naturally would. After 20 minutes of shooting I was able to get the shot I wanted.
The man “floating” above the water (top) was taken at the Dead Guy Days festival in Nederland Colorado. People dressed in all sorts of attire would run down a snowy runway and do their best flop into the cold waters of the pond. The key here is pretty straight forward. Find your best position and then rapid fire to freeze the subject where you want him. But the point here is that I did not just happen to lift my camera and capture this moment by chance. It spent a good hour testing positions, waiting for subjects who fell in “belly flop” form and shooting until I could get the look I’d envisioned from the start. It is a candid shot, but it took planning.
Candid photo of pie in the face.
This pie in face shot looks like It could be posed in that the man seems fully aware of the photograph… but I am actually shooting from many yards back over the shoulder of his friend. I purposefully was shooting from behind the friend knowing that in all likelihood the “pie guy” would be laughing and looking toward his friend after being hit. Sometimes you have to choose your shoot location based on factors unrelated to photography. In this case it’s more about understanding how people are likely to react under certain circumstance. If you put a tad of thought up front before shooting, you are often rewarded with much better photos.