Author: Dan Feildman
Nothing defines a place as much as the people who live there work there or visit. It is fascinating to observe them and their culture. They can also provide a rich source of photographic potential too.
Not everybody is comfortable taking candid shots when visiting a particular city or location.
It takes a certain amount of confidence, quick reactions and a real eye for a picture, but with a little courage and practise, candid photography can add a human touch to your pictures of places that you visit.
A few simple rules
Here are a few simple rules when taking candid shots of people that you don’t know, often without their permission. As taking their picture has the potential to be fraught with difficulties, follow these simple rules to ensure that you won’t offend or upset the people that you photograph and you won’t have any problems:
Have respect for the people you are photographing and for any cultural differences that there may be when visiting far flung destinations. If you have any doubt, please do some research before you leave. It is very important that you don’t insult or offend the people whose country you are visiting.A lot of people are very camera shy so if somebody spots you and indicates that they are not happy being photographed, please respect their feelings. Be sure to let them know that you understand. You won’t usually be breaking any laws by photographing people in public places but that does not give you the right to upset anyone.
If you have any doubt about whether or not they would be offended about having their photograph taken (such as if they are working on a market stall etc), ask! Most people in general will be more than happy to be photographed as long as you talk to them first. This takes some practise at first, especially if you are shy or don’t speak their language, but it is just good manners to do so. Learn to say please and thank you in the language of the country you are in it will go a long way. The first words I learned in Cambodian were ” Taught Rup Moi ” meaning one picture please, and occun chiran (thank you).Taking photographs of children is especially sensitive. Please be very careful to get their parent’s permission, and explain what you are doing, if you are taking candid shots of children. Depending on where you are, anxiety about your motives might be so strong that it simple might be best to avoid photographing children.
Don’t be surprised if street performers, artisans, street sellers or beggars ask for payment for a picture. Never just take a snap and run.
When taking a photograph, try and take a picture of them doing something, such as laughing, talking or working. This will produce more interesting and more ‘human’ images.
Finally, never hesitate. If a shot doesn’t work, simply delete it. Don’t waste a few vital seconds deciding whether or not to take the picture. If you do the moment will be gone forever. Also, don’t worry about technical excellence and waste time trying to get your camera settings right. A little blurring or noise can add atmosphere to candid shots. Just concentrate on composing and taking the photograph.
As with any kind of photography, the more you do it, the better you will become at spotting and capturing those fleeting moments in time that say something meaningful and interesting about your subject.