Candid Photography: 7 Tips For Achieving Natural Photos

more often than not, the very first things my clients say when inquiring to hire me as their photographer is…”i just love how natural your photos look!”  the days of studio portraits of everyone looking at the camera are long long gone and today mothers (because, lets be real, it’s the mothers who hire us) are looking for photographers who can capture the honest and true emotion elicited from their children and family.  they are looking for candid photography.

it’s no secret that children grow in the blink of an eye, making it more important than ever that we photograph each and every little thing about them.  skip the photos of them staring blankly at the camera and focus on achieving photographs that contain natural and honest moments of them being their true selves.

need some ideas on what activities to do during family sessions?  check out my 8 Tips for Photographing Natural Family Photographs to inspire how you plan and organize your next family session.

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Candid Photography : 7 Tips for Achieving Natural Photos

Candid Photography : 7 Tips for Achieving Natural Photos | Bethadilly Photography

1.  Whisper Secrets

one of my favorite props to achieve a natural looking photograph is to have my subjects whisper secrets to one another.  this helps to take their focus off my camera and instead place their focus on one another.  even better, funny secrets.  having them tell funny secrets encourages laughter and an element of surprise that is so much fun to photograph.

2.  Forget Everything You Once Knew About Taking Photos

i absolutely cringe when parents stand behind me while i am photographing their children yelling, “say CHEEEEEESE!” or “look here!”  if you want to truly capture honest emotion, you must forget everything you once knew about the perfect portrait.  today, the perfect portrait is one that is honest and true.  it is not a photo that contains a fake and cheesy “let’s get this over with” smile.  once you relax and realize that successful photographs don’t have to contain the subject looking at the camera, you will be much more successful.  because my clients know my style of photography is candid and natural, they don’t pressure their children to look at the camera with fake smiles.

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Candid Photography : 7 Tips for Achieving Natural Photos | Bethadilly Photography

3.  Do An Activity

one of the most important things to remember about candid photography is that, even though the moment may be natural, it is important that you help set up or encourage the moment.  for example, have your subjects do an activity together to encourage a natural moment.  remember, your clients don’t know how to “look natural” so it is important that you help them do it.  have them walk together down a road, lift their little ones in the air, or tickle on another to help achieve a natural moment.

 4.  Be Inconspicuous

most of the time, achieving candid photographs involves being sneaky and inconspicuous.  i often prompt my clients to do a certain activity, like lift their little one in the air or tickle, while i stand back and document the moment with my camera.  sometimes it is the moments in between the prompted activity that contain the truest emotion, so be sure to photograph all the time.  it’s during the moments that clients feel comfortable and relaxed that the most candid photographs are achieved.

with newborn clients, i often stand outside of the room to give them space, yet document the moments as they come.  peeking around the corner and photographing from afar is a wonderful way to capture true life.

Candid Photography : 7 Tips for Achieving Natural Photos | Bethadilly Photography

 5.  Encourage Laughter

there is nothing that will create a more true photograph than laughter.  when one gives themselves to laughter, their entire body, from head to toe, reacts.  this reaction is your key to candid photography.  while your job is to be a photographer, tap into your inner comedian as well.  encourage laughter throughout your session by telling jokes, saying funny words, making funny sounds, etc.  not only will laughter help you create natural looking photographs, but it will also encourage your clients to loosen up and get comfortable.

6.  Play the “Look At…” Game

without fail, i play this game with all of my clients during each session because it is one of the easiest ways to encourage laughter and, in turn, achieve candid photography.  i start out by having the entire family look at me and then i tell them, “look at….MOMMY!”  after a fit of giggles from the little ones (which i photograph, of course), i say, “look at….DADDY!”  and so on and so forth.  we keep playing until we have looked at everyone in the family and end with them all looking at me again.  that final photograph contains relaxed and happy smiles, instead of forced awkward smiles.

Candid Photography : 7 Tips for Achieving Natural Photos | Bethadilly Photography

7.  Encourage Interaction

i always tell my clients, “if you leave my session tired and sore, your photos are going to look amazing!”  my sessions are hands on and contain activity.  i love to encourage interaction between family members because it helps to encourage client comfort, which results in successful candid photography.  by having my clients cuddle close, lift their kids in the air, hold hands, and give plenty of kisses, both my clients have fun and relax in front of the camera and i score some amazing natural photographs.

when you hand a mother a photo of her child laughing, with their nose crinkled up and their eyes full of happiness, you are giving her something she will cherish forever.  instead of photographs of children looking straight at the camera, smiling because they were told to, focus on creating situations that elicit honest emotion and photograph the emotion.

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  • Andrea - I love this style of photography and definitely try to capture these more candid moments when I’m doing sessions with families. But for the purpose of the 52 week challenge (and because I don’t have kids or any sessions lined up this week) any other suggestions for how to shoot a candid photo?? My go-to subject is my dog, but I’d like to try to branch out a bit more than that. lol. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • {beth} a-dilly - ha ha, my dogs are usually my go-to subjects as well! i would encourage you to photograph…you! it is a great challenge and i think candid photos of ourselves are some of the most beautiful!ReplyCancel

      • Andrea - I had thought about that actually! Thanks for the suggestion, I will definitely try that route!ReplyCancel