Taking candid photos

Hilda - alternate 2 Hilda behaves naturally while I "set up" my camera

This past weekend I took some publicity photos for a local organization, and I was dealing with the most difficult photographic subject in existence (besides cats, of course): people.

As soon as you point a camera at someone, they freeze and put on a bland, slightly nervous expression. All the natural lines around their eyes and mouth disappear, their eyes fix on the lens, they square their shoulders... it's a mess. The trick, then, is taking all your photos before the subject can freeze.

My standard technique for capturing candid photos pretending to "get the settings right" on my camera "before I start taking pictures". Since I have a swivel-out, flip-up LCD screen, I can hold the camera at chest level and start shooting surreptitiously while I talk with the person. Then I go through the photos with them and allow them to select the photos they like. (Warn them first that there will be a number of really weird pictures of them in mid-transition from one facial expression to the next.)

This latest photoshoot revealed a new trick: Have an accomplice talk to your subject as you "get your settings right" on your camera. You'll be sure to get plenty of 3/4 view photos, rich in emotion and with very little stiffness. These pre-pose photos are a goldmine.

Responses: 5 so far Feed icon

  1. Sally Carson says:

    Cool! I like this idea. All of our family photos are so stiff and unatural, they don't really evoke any emotion or any particular memory other than remembering the moment that we were annoyed when we were asked to pose formally for a photo.

  2. Tim McCormack says:

    I hadn't thought of the group photo problem, but you raise an interesting question -- could the same trick be used?

  3. Giantgem says:

    HA! People suck. Cats are just assholes. You have a clever way to get people to open up and be photographed. I may try this with my cat. ~J

  4. James Weber says:

    I like the pics, but I take issue with your caption "Hilda behaves normally while I 'set up' my camera." Shouldn't it be naturally? Because, really, what is normal? =P Best, James

  5. Tim McCormack says:

    Hah! You're absolutely right. I was a little uncomfortable with the caption -- thanks for the suggestion.

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