Being Candid

Being Candid

I don’t do so well taking posed portraits whether it’s in a studio or not. Directing people, choosing backdrops, controlling lighting – not my strengths. But shooting candid shots, well, THAT gets my blood flowing. What could be better than capturing a spontaneous, unselfconscious look that tells a great story in and of itself.

Not that candids are shot without planning, plotting, and anticipation, but in my experience the opportunities just seem to appear in continually surprising ways. And while I have all the respect in the world for good traditional portrait photographers and their craft, I know I’m not one of them.

Here are some recent candid shots that illustrate what I’m saying. The first one I stumbled upon while nonchalantly shooting the ceiling of the Chihuly Bridge of Glass (like everyone else does who walks under it) on a nice sunny day. But I happened to spot the reflection of three women who had stopped to photograph the ceiling and admire the imbedded glasswork. An amazing image appeared – their reflections looked as if they were a part of the artwork themselves! I shot it at 1/30 sec, f/4, ISO 100, 75mm, on a tripod.

The next one is a normal everyday shot I got when scanning the gathering at a friend’s wedding with my 70-200mm IS lens. I purposely shot the repeating figures with a shallow depth of field (f/2.8) with the focus on the nearest one, but what I didn’t realize until I was told later was that they were all siblings. Nice chance natural “portrait.” (1/100 sec, ISO 3200, 200mm, no flash.)

The third image was taken at the same wedding during the reception when they were contra dancing, but this time I played with a slow shutter speed (0.6 sec) using an on-camera Speedlite flash to try and freeze some of the motion while blurring the rest. In the manual mode, I also set the ISO at 3200 to shed light on the background dancers. This image was the best of the experiment and the wedding couple’s favorite.

Each and every one of these candids was a treat to capture because of the surprise element. They all required pre-planning the exposure settings and watching and waiting for the fleeting opportunities to emerge, but each paid off as if they were great discoveries.


I am headed to Nicaragua to shoot a project to help coffee harvesters and hope to write about it in upcoming blogs. In the meantime, have a meaningful and safe holiday everyone.