Candid Photography – Everything you need to know

Candid photography is a genre of photography that spontaneously captures the organic, genuine, and unposed moments of a subject. Although you may photograph the subject with or without their knowledge, you need to ensure that your camera doesn’t jolt them out of their moments. This way, you can retain the real emotions of the moment and capture their genuineness. Additionally, the success of your candid photography depends on how you look at a scene and use it to your advantage. However, the knack of choosing the decisive moment grows with practice, and this experience elevates your level of expertise to a professional photographer. 

Is Candid Photography Illegal?

While photographing the candid moments of people, you may record the unposed moments of random people without their knowledge. Although it may sound creepy, you will not be scrutinized by the law as long as you use the image for artistic purposes. However, commercial use of these images is not encouraged in many countries. While in some other countries, you require your subject’s permission to photograph them, which poses a fresh challenge to capture their candid moments. However, you may adopt a posed candid photography technique to overcome this challenge.

Best Candid Photographers

Despite its rarity, candid photography has been in use since the birth of photography itself. Many photographers have practiced this style, perfecting their mastery over the years. Some of them include:

1 . Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) 

Henri Cartier-Bresson is the French humanist photographer of the 20th century who pioneered street photography in capturing a decisive moment. Henri is one of the earliest users of 35mm film and is widely acknowledged as the master of candid photography. In the 1930s, he was known for capturing historic photographs of decisive moments in the streets of Europe. Additionally, he traveled through Asia and other parts of the world, photographing events of significance. For example, in 1948, he captured the last Chinese imperial eunuchs in Beijing a few hours before the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Further, in the 1960s, he became the first photographer from the West to capture the post-war Soviet Union. 

2 . Garry Winogrand (1928-1984)

Garry Winogrand is a mid-20th-century American street photographer known for portraying life and social issues in the United States. Garry, as a photographer, is credited for transforming the art of street photography. He emphasized participating in the events on the streets and captured strange expressions on the sidewalks of New York in the 1960s and 1970s.

3 . Helen Levitt (1913-2009)

Levitt is another American photographer specializing in capturing street photography around New York. She photographed children and families who lived in the tenements of Harlem and the Lower East Side. Though her works are the most celebrated, she is the least-known photographer. 

Some of the recent photographers who have proved in this niche include:  

  • Nan Goldin
  • Ryan McGinley
  • Olivia Bee. 

They specialized in capturing intimate and candid moments amongst their friends and lovers.

Uses of Candid Photography

1 . Street Photography

Street photography tells the story of people’s everyday life. Hence it is filled with candid moments of people who are part of the happenings on the street. Therefore, street photography is quite candid. However, it varies indefinitely from candid photography. 

2 . Wildlife Photography

Wildlife photography is pretty similar to candid photography as you have to be hidden to capture your subject in their natural way. Additionally, you have to opt for a burst shot to get the best out of your work. 

3 . Wedding Photography

Wedding photography is an atmosphere full of emotions and happenings, making it a perfect time for candid photography. As a result, you need to be instinctual in photographing the moments of laughter, tears, and enjoyment to paint a complete picture of the wedding event in the minds of your viewer. 

4 . Candid Portraiture

When you take a documentary approach to portrait photography, you have candid portraiture. In this style, you capture your subject’s real interactive moments and emotions without being noticed. 

Camera and Equipment for Candid Photography


An ideal camera for candid photography should allow you to take a burst of shots without film. Hence in this way, the best choice to pursue are:

Nikon D7500 20.9MP DSLR Camera

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Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera

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Sony Alpha a7 III Digital Camera

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    • Leica The typical camera is often preferred for candid photography due to its slim body and small lens. Your subjects fail to notice this camera due to its compact nature, advantageous for you. 
Leica D-Lux 7 Digital Camera

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Camera Settings

Although there are no fixed rules for the perfect camera settings, there are some general rules you can adopt to get that overwhelming shot: 

  1. Reduce the ISO as much as possible to cut down the digital noise in the shot.
  2. Maintaining a faster shutter speed helps you freeze the action.
  3. In case of a distracting background, you may want to blur it. For this purpose, reduce the depth of field and shoot with a large aperture
  4. Shooting in manual mode is quite time-consuming as it involves changing the aperture settings. Instead, prefer to use an aperture priority mode during low-light situations and a shutter priority mode in action situations. 
  5. If your subject is located in a busy area, choose continuous autofocus to capture the moving objects. Alternatively, switch your camera to single-shot autofocus if your subject is isolated


  1. 50 mm Lens: This lens provides a natural effect without distortion with a fixed focal length. Hence, it is suitable for portrait photography while you are in motion. 
  2. 24-70mm Lens: These lenses work well in abundant natural light and low-light scenes with a wide aperture. Apart from capturing the entire set, this lens also records minute details. 
  3. 70-200mm Lens. The most popular long-focus telephoto lens captures a distant object and gives its enlarged image.


You can enhance the beauty of your candid shot with some extra accessories. They include:

    • Bounce flash: Candid photography doesn’t require a bright flash as it can distract your subject and diffuse your opportunity to photograph. However, you will still need some natural lights in your scene. For this purpose, you can use a bounce flash that will divert your flash in a different direction, and its reflection will create a natural lighting effect. 
2-Sided White/Silver Bend Bounce Flash

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    • Diffuser: A device that covers your flash to disperse the light is called a diffuser. Since the light is softened, you will be able to shoot your image unobtrusively.
Etekcity 24″ (60cm) 5-in-1 Photography Reflector

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    • Memory cards: As you would be on a photographing spree once you bump into your subject, you will end up taking more photos. Hence, it is better to load your kit with as many memory cards as possible. 
Ritz VideoPro CFExpress Type B Card 256GB

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    • Tripod: Whether you are using a telephoto lens or want to shoot at low light conditions, you can always avail yourself of help from a tripod to help stabilize your image. 
Amazon Basics Lightweight Camera Mount Tripod Stand

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  • Backup batteries: Finally, include some backup batteries and chargers in your kit to ensure you don’t miss the opportunity to click that decisive moment you had been waiting to get. 
Pack Of 2 NP-FH50 Batteries

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How Do You Shoot Candid Photos?

1 . Carry Your Camera Wherever You Go

Candid photography is all about encountering that decisive moment and photographing it spontaneously. To ensure you don’t miss that unplanned moment, use a shoulder strap or sling strap, a wrist strap, or a camera harness to carry your camera ubiquitously. Additionally, when people get accustomed to seeing you with a camera, they naturally behave even while you photograph them. 

Wolven Pattern Canvas Camera

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VKO Black Camera Hand Wrist Strap Compatible

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Cotton Carrier CCS G3 Camera

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2. Opt For a Telephoto Lens

A telephoto lens is a long-focus lens that lets you photograph a distant object precisely. In the case of candid photography, these lenses are advantageous because: 

  •  You don’t get too close to the subject, so you can capture the action as it unfolds without distraction. 
  • Even if you’re farther away, you don’t miss out on capturing the emotions. 

3. Stay Away From Using the Flash

A bright flash can distract your subject, especially when you want to shoot them without noticing. A disturbed subject melts the decisive moment and changes how they carry themselves. To prevent your subject from this discomfort, try increasing your ISO instead of a flash, opening the aperture, and reducing the shutter speed while you shoot them under low light conditions. 

4. Hunt for your subject

You have to be pragmatic to identify your subject. For this purpose, go to an area that is bustling with activity as it helps you blend in and capture emotions without getting noticed. Additionally, you can scan the people around you in a crowded place and look for instances. You can capture: 

  •  The social interactions between people, introduce a relationship and weave a story around them in your image when you capture their candid moments. 
  • Moments of solitude carry an emotion when they ponder over something.
  • Focus on people who are wholly absorbed in an activity to add context and elements to your story. Additionally, these images will transfer a great deal of energy to your viewers.
  • Children are an epicenter of happiness and energy. Although it is pretty challenging to photograph them, ensure you click them to add a sense of buoyancy to your images. 
  • If you bump into a subject commencing the activity, wait for the perfect moment when they sink into the action. This way, you can make your subject unaware of your existence and add authenticity to your images.

Once you locate your subject, get close to them and observe their activities without disturbing their natural position. 

5. Compose an Incredible Image 

Aside from concentrating on the subject, you need to survey the environment and see how elements of nature come into play in your image. For this, consider the natural lighting, an abundance of natural illumination helps you get a great shot. Therefore, you need to look for a position when your subject receives optimum light. Further, focus on your subject’s face to capture the emotions going through them at that instant. Finally, if your subject is aware of your presence, you need to talk with them and establish a rapport. Sometimes, great photography is possible by creating a good relationship with your subject. 

6. Be Mindful of the Angle of View

Pay attention to the angle of view with which you photograph your subject. Usually, a shot from the hip level hides you from their vision or, you can try from different angles, be it high or low. 

7. Support Your Subject 

Include some foreground elements like a tree, cycle or archway, or door to make your image enjoyable. Finally, take note of the background and see how it connects to your subject. If it seems to distract, either blur them out or try making it attractive. 

8. Click When You Spot the Decisive Moment

Once you find everything in its place, quickly click on the button before the moment fleets. Ensure to shoot in burst mode to obtain innumerable images of a single moment. Later, you can isolate the image in which all the elements of photography perfectly synchronize in harmony. 


How to shoot candid photographs?

Candid Photography Tutorial

Candid Wedding Photography vs. Traditional Wedding Photography

Tips for taking candid photos

Final Thoughts

Candid photography is one of the genres that transports your viewer to the emotions displayed in the image. Therefore, if you plan to capture those candid moments, look for scenes that overflow with emotions and pay attention to the environment. When everything synergizes together, ensure to take many photos to not miss out on the peak moment.