10 Tips & Tricks for Taking Awesome Candid Photographs
By Severin - 5 min read
Anton Kawasaki explains how to get the perfect candid shot and ensuring the subject doesn’t know they’re being photographed.
A candid shot is a photograph that’s taken without the subject knowing they’re being photographed. What results in hyper authentic photos is an art on its own and often takes years to master – so we’ve asked our friend Anton Kawasaki for the ultimate 10 tips & tricks to get you started.
Be warned: you need to have the guts and some acting talent to get them all right. For some inspiration check out the albums candid and streetphotography.
This is the short version of a blog post that was first published on www.mobilephotoworkshop.com. All image copyrights © by Anton Kawasaki.
1. The phone call
Pretend to make a call using headphones attached to your phone. Instead of having the phone to your ear you can aim your camera while “chatting” away and use the “volume up” button to take your shots (but only in camera apps that support “volume snap” functionality).
2. Walking into your shot
If you see someone interesting coming down the street, get your smartphone out quickly and position yourself so that you’re (mostly) shooting in the person’s direction, but at a slight angle so it doesn’t seem like it’s all about them. Pretend you’re taking a shot of something else – at some point, they will literally “walk into” your shot.
3. Play the tourist
This is a great technique in big cities or heavily populated touristy areas. No need to be sneaky here… the point is to be OBVIOUS that you’re taking pictures. Keep your phone held up in front of you, scan around as if you’re looking for something interesting to shoot and shoot the perfect candid.
4. Window shopping
Look for a shop or cafe that has people standing or sitting inside right near a window. While you’re pretending to window shop, try sneaking a pic this way — it’s a great way to ease yourself into candids as there’s a natural barrier between you and the subject.
5. Ask for directions
A bolder way of getting candids. While keeping your phone up high, look around as if you can’t understand the Maps app on your phone and you’re lost. In reality you have your camera app open and get up close and personal for your shots.
6. Find someone “in their own world”
Some of the most intriguing and powerful candids are the ones where people are having a contemplative or reflective moment, being “in their own world”. Be careful of not crossing the line with this method, however. You don’t want to take advantage of someone who’s having a truly bad day or has an unfortunate life (like someone who’s crying, someone who’s homeless, etc.). Be respectful.
7. Look for people craving attention!
Often you will find someone who clearly WANTS their photo to be taken. Feel free to be as brave as you want to be with such subjects — these are people who will not really care if they spot you! But they also make good candidates for developing your candid skills — as it won’t really matter if you’re caught.
8. Misdirection (/w a partner in crime)
The good old “distraction method” is not only effective, but potentially fun. Have your partner point to something really far away, pretend to almost trip, or simply make a fool of themselves — while your subject is distracted, you take the shot.
9. That annoying photo couple
One more way to use a partner for taking candids is to pretend you’re shooting each other. Position your partner directly in front of your intended subject, then take a shot (or pretend to), and indicate you’re done. This is your partner’s cue to move far enough to the side so that you can quickly take the REAL shot of the interesting person or moment behind.
10. “Check out this awesome app!”
A final way to use a friend to help you out is by pretending you’re showing your partner a cool new app or game on your phone. That way you can lift your phone up in the direction of the scene you want to shoot, while looking like you’re doing something completely different.
Make sure your friend is “in” on what you’re doing, or else he/she might inadvertently give you away!
Header image by @GustavoPaz