40 Splendid Examples of Candid Photography

Candid photography shows life as it really is. Unlike posed portraits, which are carefully planned and crafted to look perfect, candid shots are spontaneous and genuine. For candid photos, authenticity is more important than perfection.

This authentic look isn’t always easy to capture, though. People are quick to notice a photographer and change their behavior. To get a truly candid shot, you have to be quick and catch people before they notice you.

In some ways, candid photography is like wildlife photography. You have to blend in, yet also position yourself for great photos. If you have trouble remaining unnoticed, read through these 8 ways to get candids without being noticed.

Also, like with wildlife, you’ll want to use the burst mode on your camera or shoot continuously to ensure you get those “golden” candid moments. Many fantastic candid shots capture a brief emotion or facial expression that lasts only a second. By shooting in bursts, you’ll be more likely catch these fleeting moments.

When you’re shooting candids, you never know what exactly you’ll see and capture. There’s a great deal of surprise and spontaneity. This openness can sometimes lead to a lack of inspiration, as you’re overwhelmed with possibilities. If you’re not sure where to look or where to start, here are a few ideas.

Focus on the face.

A person’s face is the first place to look for emotion. Even without any context or background scenery, a face can express a lot. It’s also constantly changing from emotion to emotion, giving you an endless source of interesting shots. When you’re struggling to find inspiration, try looking at faces and go from there.

For examples of candid street photography with close-ups, check out this collection of portraits by GianStefano Fontana.

Amlan Sanyal – The Priest
Amlan Sanyal - The Priest

Create a striking composition.

A candid photo doesn’t have to be completely unplanned. In fact, you might get better shots if you plan part of the photo, then wait for the other part. For instance, you can plan the composition, then wait for someone to enter the frame. This forethought can make the difference between a good candid photo and an excellent one.

But even if you’re taking a quick shot, it’s worth spending a split second thinking about composition. Need some guidance? Read through these 10 tips to improve your compositions.

ivan sgobba – Paris
ivan sgobba - Paris

Capture social interactions…

A prime spot to look for candid photos is in a group or pair of people. Social interaction is full of emotion and meaning, from a surprised laugh to a shy smile. Even a simple conversation between a cashier and a customer can be loaded with interesting expressions to photograph.

aminefassi – Wedding at Tnine Chtouka
Wedding at Tnine Chtouka

And moments of solitude.

A person standing or sitting alone is a classic subject for candid photos. Sometimes, the solitary person is at a distance, only photographable with a telephoto lens. But you can also find people who are alone in a crowd. Though they’re physically surrounded by people, their facial expression and body language show that they’re mentally somewhere else.

When you’re at a party or event, remember to look for these moments of solitude along with the social interactions. Even if you’re shooting festive wedding photos, you can capture a unique side of the party by focusing on a single person, standing apart from the crowd. They might be savoring the view or smiling at the music. After all, a person can feel just as happy alone as in a crowd.

ivan sgobba – paris
ivan sgobba - paris

Connect the subject with the setting.

Candid photos generally revolve around people, but the background scenery and surrounding objects are still important. They add to the photo’s atmosphere and give the subject a context.

Sometimes, you can find inspiration for a candid photo by looking at these elements first. Then, if you find an interesting object or background, you can wait for the right people to show up next to it.

For instance, a famous statue will invariably draw tourists through the day. You just need to wait for the right tour group to get a great candid shot of tourists photographing the statue. Similarly, a bus stop with an interesting advertisement could be a good setting for a candid photo. If the right person sits down, you’ve got a nice shot already set up.

Fabio Boer – Strange Shapes
Fabio Boer fat man

Go where the action is.

More people means more possibilities. For this reason, places that are bustling with activity tend to be better for candid photos. Markets, train stations, and parties are all excellent places for candid photography. Even small towns and villages have places where people congregate at certain times of day.

Besides giving you more options, a busy place will make it easier for you to blend in. With so much going on, you’ll be able to walk around with your camera without drawing notice. The crowd acts as a kind of “camouflage,” allowing you to capture genuine moments rather than suspicious or embarrassed looks.

Danny Santos – Untitled
Danny Santos blue dress

Look for people who are lost in thought or absorbed in an activity.

If you can’t blend in, you can still find people who simply aren’t paying attention. Whether they’re looking at their phone or thinking deeply about something, they wouldn’t notice you even if you were standing a few steps away. This absent-mindedness gives you plenty of time to compose your photo and get a nice shot.

Fabio Boer – Alone Together
Fabio Boer teenagers on smartphones

Give the photo a good title.

In some types of photography, like landscapes or long exposures, the title can be an afterthought. In candid photography, though, the title can be crucial for understanding and interpreting the photo. Not all candid shots need a thoughtful title, but if it’s unclear what’s happening or what you’re photographing, select your title carefully. It’s an opportunity to give your photo more meaning and, perhaps, make your viewers smile.

Mario NR – Spotting an old friend
an old friend

If you’re still stuck after experimenting with the above suggestions, try browsing candid photos to get a feel for what you like. If you see a photo that’s particularly striking, you can try taking a similar photo or using the same technique.

To get you started, here’s a good selection of candid photos from our community on Flickr. If you manage to get a nice shot, add it to the group so we can be inspired by your work!

saddarkness – proud grandma
grandma baseball game

jordan parks – layla
little girl balloon

Ralph – On the metro of Paris
On the metro of Paris

Bahadır Bermek – Shhh Turkey – Istanbul – Taksim
Bahadır Bermek Turkey - Istanbul

Bahadır Bermek – Need Some Rest
Bahadır Bermek man on staircase

Ben Roffelsen Photography – Cycling in the Snow
Ben Roffelsen Photography - Cycling in the Snow

Mario NR – Suddenly, deep silence
customer

Mario NR – Jazzy
trumpet player

Bahadır Bermek – little boy Turkey – Istanbul – Sirkeci
Bahadır Bermek - little boy Turkey - Istanbul - Sirkeci

Thanawat Thiasiriphet – Nanjing # 16 : Lunch on the move
Thanawat Thiasiriphet - Nanjing

Danny Santos – Untitled
Danny Santos umbrella

Nimit Nigam – Sneak Peek
Nimit Nigam child

Mario NR – Time Passes Slowly
old men socializing

Children of the Mist – Turkey´s Death Row
Turkey´s Death Row

Mario NR – Fascination and awe
woman at mosque

aminefassi – Don’t worry man…1 customer lost, 10 found, tomorrow will be better…
sister and brother

aminefassi – Marrakech – Vitamin Blast
Marrakech - orange juice

Mario NR – Red Line
airport

Mario NR – The reader
woman by the ocean

Matthew Coughlin – Las Vegas Extravaganza
Matthew Coughlin - Las Vegas

Luis Miguel Torres Manchola – São Paulo, Brazil, 2015.
Luis Miguel Torres Manchola - São Paulo, Brazil, 2015

Ubo Pakes – grown apart
Ubo Pakes old couple

Children of the Mist – Book Fan
Book Fan

ro_nya – In need of a way out
man in door frame

Alexandro Valcarcel – La Fe / Das Glaube
Alexandro Valcarcel catholic woman

Mario NR – Next Generation
children tablet

ivan sgobba – Looking for, en cherchant De Chirico ….
ivan sgobba red umbrella

aminefassi – I’m your only chance to cook your fish in Moulay Bousselham
street vendor

Fernando De Santis – Observando…
Fernando De Santis thoughtful woman

John – child
kid at aquarium

Cuba Gallery – kids
child looking out window

Ralph – Difficult difficult difficult
woman choosing a card

aurora

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