How to Take Flattering Candid Photos

by David Em

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Candid photography shows people and a scene exactly how they are in real life. It’s a style of photography that’s supposed.

Couple holding hands and walking in a forest.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

Out of all the types of portrait photography, candid photos are beautiful because they’re genuine. It’s about authenticity and reality rather than perfection.

Candid photography doesn’t always require hiding, as it’s also achieved through excellent communication and comfortable subjects.

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The following covers everything you need to know about candid photography, along with tips for better results and what camera and lens you should use.

What’s candid photography?

Candid photography refers to any type of photography that captures a person or scene in a real-life and genuine moment.

A candid photograph shows the beauty of authenticity, as subjects are unposed. It adds life, movement, and genuine emotions to your image.

Some of the best photos are from candid photography because facial expressions and body language are real.

While it’s a rewarding style of photography, it’s not easy because you must understand the right time and be prepared to capture spontaneous and unplanned moments.

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Tips for better candid photography

Fake expressions are easy to spot. With candid photography, you’ll capture real emotions. Additionally, it’s an excellent way to take better wildlife images.

Regardless of the type of photography you do, a candid approach results in beautiful photos.

To capture stunning candid photographs, use the following tips and techniques.

Focus on the face

Couple with their heads together and laughing.
Facial expressions provide context and enhance the image. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Real emotions are the goal, so focus on your subject’s face. A person’s facial expression gives you insight into how they’re feeling and what may be going on.

Also, focus on your subject’s eyes. If their eyes are blurry, the image will feel off.

With their eyes in sharp focus and their face with genuine expressions, you’ll capture a compelling candid photograph.

Related article: 15 tips for stunning headshots

Photograph movement

Person riding a bicycle on the street.
A person riding a bicycle with a blurry background shows movement and direction. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Candid photography is about reality and capturing a natural moment. One of the best ways to do it is to photograph movements and actions.

Examples include a person walking, hugging someone, drinking, eating, opening a door, or picking something up.

Regardless of the specific action, capturing movement is an excellent way to take better candid photographs.

It provides a viewer with context about what the subject is doing, and it gives a sense of motion.

Tell a story with the composition

Person painting near a lake, trees, and mountains.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Yes, candid photography is about capturing authentic moments. However, the composition can enhance the image by helping you tell the story.

Use compositional techniques, such as the rule of thirds, framing, leading space, and any other technique that helps a viewer focus on the subject and gain context.

Try setting up the composition first and then, wait for someone to step into the frame to snap the photo.

Pay attention to the background and foreground, and remove distracting elements from the frame.

With the right composition, your candid photo will be striking.

Be discreet

For all other types of photography aside from family or portrait sessions, be discreet.

When you’re photographing events, wildlife, or doing street photography, you should be unnoticeable.

By staying out of the spotlight, you can watch and document the authentic moments that happen before your eyes.

A perfect way to be discreet is to shoot from your chest or hip. It may take a few tries because your camera may miss the focus. However, it’s a great technique when it’s achieved.

Also, you must find a good position. Walk around to find the best location to capture candid photos while being discreet.

Avoid using flash

A photographer taking a picture with the camera flashing.
Turn off your camera’s flash because it’s distracting. Photo courtesy of Canva.

Turn off your camera’s flash. The bright light will distract your subject and may cause them to be unnatural.

As a candid photographer, you don’t want to stand out. Your job is to sit back and document candid moments.

So, use a large aperture or increase the ISO to balance the exposure.

Keep your camera handy

As a candid photographer, you’re looking for authentic moments to unfold.

Since they come and go quickly, you need to keep your camera close and ready to quickly take a picture.

If your camera is in a bag, you’re losing precious time and may miss the shot. So, use a neck, wrist, or hand strap to ensure your camera is available to seize the moment when it arises.

Get in the middle of the action

People in a crowded street.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

If there are a lot of people or many things going on, get in the middle of it because there are more opportunities for stunning candid photos.

Busy places also make it easier for you to be discreet and blend in.

When you’re in the middle of the action, authentic moments will unfold right in front of you. So, have your camera ready.

Observe what’s around you

There are beautiful moments to be captured all around you. Take time to observe your surroundings and look for opportunities.

Observe interactions, see how the light changes, and learn to quickly recognize genuine moments to capture amazing candid photographs.

Be friendly and have great communication

Not all candid photography requires you to be discreet. If you’re photographing portraits or a family, they know you’re there.

So, the key to getting beautiful candid photos is to have excellent communication and be friendly.

Since people can become stiff when there’s a camera lens pointing at them, make your subjects feel comfortable by having a conversation and providing positive feedback.

The moments between posed shots are also perfect for candid images.

Take a lot of photos

When you spot a candid moment, use continuous shooting or burst mode to take a lot of photos of that moment.

Since the moment will evolve quickly, you’ll have more photos and may end up with even better candid images.

The best photography equipment for candid photography

Your photography equipment plays an important role in capturing incredible candid photos.

The goal is to not be distracting, so a high-quality camera and short lens are ideal.

Generally, a mirrorless or point-and-shoot camera is better than a DSLR for candid photography because it’s slimmer and more discreet.

For the lens, a 50mm or 85mm prime lens provides versatility and beautiful results. If needed, use a 24-70 mm or 70-200 mm zoom lens.

Keep your set-up minimal, so you’re drawing a lot of attention.


Whether you’re photographing an event, portraits, families, wildlife, or doing street photography, capture candid images.

Be discreet or communicate with your subjects for them to feel comfortable. It’ll help you take the best candid photos full of genuine and unposed moments.

Featured image courtesy of Canva.

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