How To Take Candid Portraits – Photographing A Crowd Of People Without Drawing Attention To Yourself

candid portraits


As a photographer I have faced a number of different situations with candid portraits. I have photographed weddings, landscapes, portraits and everything in between. One thing that stands out to me the most is how not to stand out when aiming for stunning candid portraits.

What does that mean exactly? Well, in a perfect world we would be able to take candid portraits of whomever we wanted and have those photos turn out exactly as we imagined. We do not live in a perfect world and sometimes, through no fault of our own, these candid portraits do not turn out.

I am referring to photographing people in public places without drawing unwanted attention to yourself. This is what taking candid portraits is all about. There are some events such as weddings where you most definitely need to be the focus of attention when commanding people to sit and stand the way you want. But what about events like public protests, street photography and even birthdays? Is it possible to take candid portraits so publically without being seen?

The big question is how do you take candid portraits whilst remaining candid yourself? A photographer can do well to stay out of sight during public displays of art and culture or whilst shooting street photography. These are two different types of photography where remaining out of sight can be crucial to the success of your candid portraits.

However, if you are at a wedding or birthday party, just how does a photographer remain out of sight and still manage to take those fantastic candid group shots? The secret here is all about timing. The only effective way to be able to get a photo of a group of people is to manage and organise it yourself. There are ways you can capture a terrific group photo and still remain unseen.

People will always be weary of a photographer and your camera, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable they are with having their photos taken. So one of the keys to success in relation to candid portraits is shooting from afar and watching your group for the perfect timing. Timing is everything in candid portraiture, especially if you do not know the group of people. It’s important to stand back on the sidelines and observe people for a good while first, to get to know their mannerisms first, before photographing them.

Photographing a group of people in the hope to gain several good candid portraits, and hoping for an opportune moment is always a challenge over photographing just one or two people. You must contend with people walking in front of the camera, some smiling and some frowning and some people leaving the group altogether. This is where candid portraits can become a challenge.

Once you watch and observe, just wait until you see a joke being told, some others joining the group or perhaps some people dancing. These are catalysts for smiles and laughter that can lead to beautiful candid portraits. Weddings are especially good for candid portraits as they are generally happy occasions and it’s not that hard to take photos of smiling people. Or birthdays for that matter.

Candid portraits are not that difficult, but it’s not a breeze either. Once you have your lighting established then simply wait for opportune moments before taking several photos. I have used the continuous shooting feature to make sure that once I see a great candid portrait, that I do not miss the few seconds after. It has proved to be an effective strategy time and time again.


candid portraits


About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time.

Comments (9)

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  1. Cameron says:

    You’ve got great Photo Tips and Tricks, keep up the good work!

  2. Bob says:

    Amy thanks for your article. Can you tell me how to take standard portraits? In all lighting?

  3. Cathy says:

    I was wondering how this works for street photography.

  4. Mark says:

    I tried to shoot candid shots at a wedding and no luck! My photos all turned out blurry and out of focus. Why would that happen? I was using a flash.

    • Without seeing your photos I can’t tell exactly, but usually digital photography images are blurry because the shutter speed is too slow. It may be that your flash was not strong enough, or perhaps you were too far away.

  5. .On the other hand when a photographer captures a candid moment a look a gesture it can be magic. No amount of posing will create the subtle body language that speaks with such emotionwell almost no amount of posing there are some masters of posing that can recreate candid moments given enough time..

  6. Kellie says:

    I think this article is great, because I was planning to shoot some parties over Christmas. I didn’t want to stand out too much in the crowd and just wanted to blend in and not be notice at all, thank you very much for this great info. Love your ezine by the way, it’s awesome!

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