Candid Photography Tips

Unlike carefully set up shot, candid photography focuses on spontaneity rather than technique. The videos below will show you some tips for taking great candid photography. That includes how to train your eyes to look for and capture those spontaneous moments.

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Tips For Street Or Candid Photography


A telephoto lens and a wide angle.

A telephoto lens is a necessity, something in the range of 80 mm to 200 mm works well.

The lens even with the lens hood doesn’t look that imposing.

Longer focal lengths like a 300 mm or longer are of course better, but you will surely stick out like a sore thumb.

Another lens of necessity is a wide angle something like a 15 mm or 16 mm if your camera has a magnification factor and doesn’t have a full-size sensor.

When you’re in a crowd and you can’t possibly move back, the wide angle lens is more versatile and easier to work, especially if it’s a zoom.

Wide angles also allow you to shoot from the hip without raising the camera to your eye for true clandestine work.

Digital SLRs work better than point and shoot cameras. But if a point and shoot is all you have, shoot at your longest focal length and at a quality to give you the largest file size. Don’t use the digital zoom.

You want to use your maximum optical zoom and also your quality or lowest compression giving you the largest file size.


Set your exposure for the lighting conditions beforehand.

This is all part of being ready. When shooting in the streets, you have little or no time to be fiddling with aperture and shutter speeds.

Most people think you don’t need to do this with today’s cameras because of all the automatic modes and autofocusing.

I recommend you set the exposure manually then all your camera needs to do is focus when press the shutter speeding up the process.

If you set the camera on automatic, the camera has one more operation, deciding what combination of shutter speed and aperture to set while trying to focus on your subject. And that slows it down.

Since you already know you want to emphasize your person and what they’re doing, you’ll be using your widest aperture to blur out the distractions in the background and foreground.

Remember not be too pushy when taking pictures of people in public.

The law says no one should expect privacy in a public places. But when a worried mother flags down a cop because you’re taking pictures of her and her child in the public park, it is more than likely you’ll be asked to stop or leave.

The First Amendment protects free speech, which means that no law enforcement official can prevent the photography or filming on the street or anywhere else that is considered public property.

In practice we all know some cops can get overzealous and heavy-handed just because they are the ones with the guns and handcuffs.

About the author
Read an illustrated version of this article by Riverside freelance photographer Peter Phun. Peter teaches photography at Riverside City College. He does portraits, weddings and editorial work. He writes about photography, Macs and the internet. He also designs websites and is a stay-at-home dad. Previously, Peter worked as a staff photographer for 18 years at The Press-Enterprise, Southern California’s 4th largest daily newspaper. He is the webmaster for the Mac user group in the Inland Empire. For more information about this Riverside based photographer, visit

2 Responses to “Candid Photography Tips”

  1. melani says:

    Great article. Being discreet is key. The whole dynamic changes when you pull out a big lens. I have been using a Flipbac angle viewfinder on my G9 and now my G10 and I love it. I am able to see my LCD from different angles but nobody even knows I am taking a photo. It looks like I am just fiddling with my camera so the subject just ignores me.

  2. Amit says:

    suberb article..the videos are vry helpful..thank you

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