How to Embrace Candid Photography (Your Kids Will Thank You)
How to Embrace Candid Photography (Your Kids Will Thank You)

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When you start learning about photography your main subject may be your children. However, candid photography can be a challenge when starting.

Not many years ago, as in like 2 or 3, I was just your typical “say cheese” Mom. I understood the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO and a basic understanding of light. I had become pretty good at the technical part of picture taking, if I do say so myself. And I loved photography, but my family didn’t share that love.

Read more: 8 Ways to Avoid Photographer’s Child Syndrome

If I saw my boys doing something cute I would grab my camera, run over get everyone to smile for the camera and completely destroy the moment. It was the only way I knew how to capture the memory. They were so cute and I wanted to soak up every last part of their childhood, but photography started to be a negative thing for my kids. It meant they had to stop playing, stop having fun, slow down and then do boring things…like stand still and smile.

It got to be such a fight that I even put photography on the back burner for a while. I had to find a happy medium where my artist soul could be happy but still find a way not to torture my children.

Eventually with the help of Pinterest, educational websites (like Click it up a Notch!) and a whole lot of practice shooting in different kinds of light, I adopted a different style. Instead of “say cheese” my new motto became “let them play”. Read more on how to find your unique photography style.

My boys’ disdain for all things photography, among many other reasons, is one of the eight reasons why I’ve chosen to focus on the candid details.

What does candid mean in photography?

Candid photography is when you photograph the subject without asking them to pose or look at the camera. If you have children who shy away from the camera this may be the perfect type of photography to practice. You are not asking anything of your subject or disrupting what they are doing.

Often times if kids are burnt out from the camera it is because they have been asked one too many times to stop what they are doing and “smile for the camera”.

Read more: How to Keep Your Kids From Running From the Camera

How do you take candid photographs?

There are a variety of ways to take candid photos but the biggest thing is to not ask anything of your subjects.

Instead, patiently sit back and observe and wait. It helps if you can anticipate what may happen next. For example, if your child runs to greet your older child each day when they get off the bus, you can patiently wait for this to happen and then take the photo.

This will give you a beautiful candid photo instead of you asking your kids to hug and smile at the camera.

Why is candid photography important?

Candid photography allows you to capture true emotions. Expressions are not forced or faked. Candid photography doesn’t always have to be joyous as it can be very powerful when you capture hard moments as well.

Years ago I asked a friend to come with me when I had to put my dog down. Without me knowing, she captured a candid photo of me saying good-bye. The emotions are raw and real and although it isn’t something I plan to frame in my home, it is a perfect example of a candid photo and why it’s important to photograph the good, bad, hard and easy moments.

Which lens is good for candid photography?

Deciding which lens is best for candid photography is largely due to the type of photography style you have. However, I recommend the 35mm or the 50mm. These are great everyday lenses that allow you to capture a lot of the environment you are shooting in.

If you are looking for an all around zoom lens that will work well with candid photography, I recommend the 24-70mm lens.

Why & How to Embrace Candid Photography

Your Children Revolt

This is probably the biggest reason why I changed my approach from posed to more candid photography. Both my boys and even my husband would huff and puff when they saw my camera.

I found myself getting upset with my boys for not cooperating for a picture. However, I never wanted to be that person when I started on this journey.

As my style evolved my children’s natural laughter became my absolute favorite thing to shoot. That is the way I’ll want to remember the golden days of their childhood.

boys laughing in candid photo

To Better Document Their Personalities

My kids are good at ignoring my camera and know they don’t have to smile (if they don’t want to). They get to keep playing as if my camera wasn’t there. When I first started getting more natural shots I would guide them or just talk to them to distract from the fact my camera is in their face.

If I miss the action I’ll tell them “That so was funny! Do it again!” or maybe “Wow! That was so cool, I bet you can’t do that again!”

For older kids, it works great to show them the pictures you take so they understand what they’re helping create. After all, when you allow your children to just be themselves their authentic personalities will show. And isn’t that better than their “cheese” face?

boys on tire swing in candid photography photo

Use Candid Photography as a Creative Outlet

When you’re looking for natural moments or details you will have endless possibilities! You can creatively crop in camera or in post processing, you can use the light or shadows, different focus points, even editing to tell the story. Photography can be your creative outlet if you give it wings.

Allow the Kids to be More Active

Photography has encouraged both me and my tablet-loving children to get outside, go on an adventure, check out a new park, hiking trail or lake. I try to do at least one new fun thing each week. Now I’m more conscious these days of making memories with my boys– babies grow so fast!

Create Beautiful Decor

I love having pictures of my family on the walls. It’s meaningful art and a visual reminder of good times that we’ve had together, but I for one think that you can only have so many posed “smiling at the camera” pictures on the wall.

Nowadays there are so many options in how you can display your work and if your kids are like mine, they love to see themselves and talk about how fun that vacation was or reminisce about that fish they caught with their Dad.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

I consider myself more of an introvert and photography has helped me come out of my shell. I take my camera almost anywhere now and taking picture in public can be a bit scary! What if people stare at you and think you’re crazy? What if you drop your camera?

Over time my desire to get the image I wanted became greater than the fear of what others thought of me. Now I wear my “crazy lady with the big camera” badge proudly. After all, my children will never be this young again.

Forces You to Slow Down

Photography has encouraged me to slow down and see the beauty of the light that is everywhere. Even when I’m not holding my camera I’m more likely now to notice a pretty sunset or the way the light streams in the window. Everyone can benefit from slowing down and seeing the beauty right in front of them!

Embracing Imperfections

A lot of the time in photography (and life) things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes if I just let if flow the image actually turns out better than I pictured in my head.

When initially started transitioning into more natural shots I would give some guidance to my kids and most importantly never told them to ‘act natural.’ (Nothing kills the mood more than someone telling you to pretend the camera is not there.)

Mostly, I just talked to them, made jokes, asked questions about what they were doing and also was gentle on myself when I missed the shot. There will always be a next time, especially now that my boys find photography as a positive thing!

Read more tips for candid photography with your kids

7 Tips for Capturing Genuine Emotion in Children

8 Ways to Avoid Photographer’s Child Syndrome

3 Tips to Photograph the Child Who Doesn’t Smile

A must read for any photographer with kids! Read - "Candid Child Photography and Embracing Play"

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