Why you should axe the pose and get candid already!
When professional photographer and journalist Whitney Bryen and her husband decided to quit their jobs, sell their house, and travel the country in a shiny Silver Streak camper, Bryen left her tripod at home.
She knows all about photography. That’s why she understands the value in a candid photo.
Bryen also values authenticity — in her words and travel advice. That’s the premise behind the couple’s new travel blog, The Traveling Sidekick.
“Our goal really is the unabashed adventure,” Bryen says. “We want to be real about the cost, challenges, joys and everything in between. It seems like not a lot of other travel bloggers are doing that. Being candid is our goal.”
Candid stories — and candid photos — are more interesting, she says. After a while, all selfies and posed photos start to look alike.
How many of the same standing-in-front-of-the Eiffel-Tower photos have you seen? But the thing about unposed photos is no two are ever exactly the same, Bryen says. They’re like a second frozen in time. Like magic, courtesy of your camera.
“They evoke natural emotion, more of the genuine character of the subject. Posed photos are generally easier to take but are less fulfilling.”
For the next year, Bryen’s goal in documenting their adventure is to get as many candid photos as possible.
“I want to share the good, the bad and the ugly of our journey, from the leaky pipes in our camper that James spent days fixing to the peaceful day we had a beach all to ourselves. We want to share an honest, unabashed account of our adventure — the candid version,” she says.
But even with natural, candid photos, there are a few techniques to keep in mind to get the best shots.
Here are some of Bryen’s pro tips on how to prepare for the best unprepared moments.
1. Basic photography rules still apply:
Lighting and composition are still key in getting a great shot.
Unsure about the basics of a good photo? Check out “The Basic Book of Digital Photography,” by Tom and Michelle Grimm. They wrote the bestselling, classic “Basic Book of Photography” back in 1974, and this is their modern spin on the art.
2. Look for opportunities for good candids — and be creative:
“There isn’t a bad moment for candids,” Bryen says. “Practice makes perfect, so start looking for candid shots, even if you don’t have a camera on hand.”
Watch people interacting with each other, working hard or doing something they love. People are interesting most of the time; we just don’t always notice each other.,” Bryen says.
For example, a few years ago, Bryen took a photo of a young girl in rain boots playing in a mud puddle in front of someone’s destroyed home, following one of the worst floods in Colorado history. The child wore bright clothes and splashed around in the dark water that had devastated the county where Bryen worked.
She took out her camera and captured the image, which she felt captured the purity and innocence in the middle of tragedy.
3. Pretend you are a fly on the wall:
The more inconspicuous you are, the more natural the subjects will act. That’s not to say they don’t know you’re there, but try taking a step back. Be quiet and observe. After a while, the subject often becomes more comfortable and loosens up a bit, or better yet, forgets you’re there at all.
Look for cameras with a silent shutter, or if you’re using your smartphone, make sure you turn the sound off completely. It can be distracting.
4. Get to know the subject:
This is key, Bryen says. Observe their facial expressions, movements, habits and mood. Anticipating what they’re feeling or doing can help you position yourself for the best light or composition before a great moment happens. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to anticipate great moments once you start paying attention.
5. Look for feelings:
What Bryen thinks makes the most powerful candid photo is when you catch a real moment — someone feeling something.
“Most of my favorite photos are candids,” Bryen says. “The one my husband took of my mom and I looking at each other, communicating without any words. The one of my husband, James, working on our camper, determined and focused. Even my favorite photos of myself are candids of me hiking and snowboarding. Photographs of me laughing at James when he makes a funny face are true depictions of our personalities. That’s the real us.”
6. It’s OK to do it later:
Bryen says editing generally plays a bigger role in her candids because there’s usually only one shot of that moment. There’s no redo. There’s no fixing the light if it’s off. It can help to blur distracting surroundings, lighten or darken parts of the image or crop to help define the image. Just remember not to be too heavy-handed, she says.
Once you have a number of candid photos, be sure to include them in your next photo book.
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