Lots of photographers love the idea of getting a candid portrait. Capturing the moment is a romanticized dream but not really discussed otherwise. So instead of going out to find those moments, why not make them come to you. We will talk about the candid portrait and how you can do it in your own studio, at home, at a subject’s home, etc. Believe it or not, this isn’t all about gear; it’s about people skills and being empathetic. Are you ready?
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Don’t Start with the Camera in Your Hand, Start with Conversation
First off, you don’t necessarily have to do the candid portrait style of shoot in a studio. I suggest you do it in a subject’s home, your own place, etc. Choose something informal. Begin by asking them a few genuine questions that get them turning the cogs in their head. Here are a few great questions to think about:
- Tell me about the best thing that happened to you this week.
- What are you super excited for this month?
- What do you think has been the biggest shift in your personal identity in the past year?
- Take away what you do for a living. What do we have left that defines who you are?
These are profound questions that go deeper than the surface. Folks need to consider the question before they respond, and their answers will often reveal a whole slew of things. Do this without a camera in your hand. It will get them comfortable with you. (This method is also a prevalent photojournalism tactic.)
Set the Scene Up
While asking these questions, I typically listen for a bit and then quickly interrupt to tell the subject to keep talking while I set up to take photos. This shows them what I’m thinking about doing and continues to keep them comfortable.
Ask Mentally Stimulating Questions That elicit Specific Emotions
This specific tip requires people and conversation skills. If you’re an extrovert, it will come quickly to you. But even if you’re an introverted empath, it’s pretty easy to get these working on someone. If you want to evoke a positive emotion on someone’s face, ask them questions that draw out that emotion. Don’t try to make someone laugh; get them to do it themselves. You can find ways to get people to express many other genuine emotions.
Overall, this should feel more like a conversation than a photoshoot where you’re working to get candid portraits. Make it all flow organically too.
Don’t Keep Your Eyes Glued to the Camera Screen
If you keep your eyes in the viewfinder or on the camera screen, you’re going to lose the humanity of the process. Every now and again, put the camera away, move around, continue the conversation, and engage in sincere and honest dialogue. This will keep up the momentum when getting all of these genuine emotions out of people.
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