Saturday, May 15, 2010

Candid Photography

I would describe my style as ‘Candid Photography’ which is sometimes also listed as photojournalism (although I think of that term more for storytelling in politics and the news).  Wikipedia defines candid photography as  photography that focuses on spontaneity rather than technique, on the immersion of a camera within events rather than focusing on setting up a staged situation or on preparing a lengthy camera setup.  Sometimes I suppose you could call what I do a little bit of Lifestyle Photography, which aims to portray real-life situations in a controlled setting (not everything I do is spontaneous).  Basically I like to capture moments and tell a story with my photos.

I’ve sort of stumbled upon this style based on what I like, what feels natural for me, and what others have pointed out to me.  Also I’m just not very good at staged studio type of photographs, partly because I can’t relate to my subject this way and also because I don’t find them very exciting (although that doesn’t mean studio shots are bad…there are some amazing photographers who can do this really well). 

Recently Domestic Photographic commented:

I really love your photos. I have a question for you--how do you manage to get such good pictures "in the moment?" I feel like a lot of mine are kinda posed, but I'm not sure how to capture candids without them just looking like crap. Thoughts?

I’ve had this sort of question before, so I thought I would try to answer.  It has taken me a LOT of practice to get the good shots while also capturing the moment.  When I first started I could capture the moment but I would end up with poor photos – blurry or out of focus, under or over exposed, limb chopping or poorly framed photos.  I was also a shutter addict and would take tons and tons of photos hoping for one of them to turn out.

Now I spend time thinking about the shot before I take the photo.  I practice without my kids around and have learned what settings I need in order to get the good shots.  I also stay zoomed out most of the time and crop/frame the photos in post processing.

One of the most important things I do to get better at candids is to put my camera down.  I spend very little time in a day actually having my camera available for taking photos.  Instead I spend time participating in my life and watching for those moments I want a photo of.  I then imagine how I would frame the photo if I did have my camera.   This lets me ‘see’ the moments long before I have to worry about what settings I need or what it looks like in the view finder. 

By practicing ‘seeing’ the candids I can more quickly decide when to take a photo or not.  I now take 10-25 shots (instead of 25-75 shots) and often I have to really choose which 2 or 3 I love.  Honestly I could probably fill every post with 10 or more photos.

I have to also be honest, not all of my photos are moments I haven’t seen before.  I keep a running list of things that I see my kids do that I would like to have photos of and then when I see them doing it again or sometimes I can ask them to do it again (this is where it’s a little closer to lifestyle photography), then I take a photo.  I also keep a list of things some of my readers have asked for (ice cream shots, bug shots, mirror shots, and so on) to give me inspiration.  For example, the American Idol shots are something I’ve wanted to get for a few weeks now, but they were particularly cooperative last night.  I gave them the broom and asked them to sing for me and then clicked away.

A lot of people are amazed that I can get my kids to look at the camera, or ask how I get so many good photos of 2 toddlers.  Here’s my secret:  I talk to them and play with them as though I didn’t have a camera.  So here is how the events unfolded to getting yesterday’s photos:

Charlotte driving on her box.  I got my camera and did some test shots to get my settings right.  Cooper beginning to escalate about not having a box.  I ask, Charlotte is that your car?  Cooper do you want a turn?  Then I let them fight a bit (we try not to break up every fight) and snapped some photos before breaking up the fight.

Then I found another diaper box and set it up for Cooper.  I had to find a ‘steering wheel’ and gave him an old pizza tin.  Then I asked them if they were driving their cars and where they were going.  I made a vroom noise and then a beep beep noise.  Then I snapped some photos.

They got bored with the cars fairly quickly and Cooper put his box on his head.  I asked if he was wearing a helmet and if Charlotte could get inside too.  I told them they looked so silly and played a little peek-a-boo with them.  Then I snapped a photo.  Cooper then decided to sit in the box and he wanted me to push him.  Since I wanted to take photos and I can’t move all that well, I asked Charlotte to push Cooper.  And I snapped a couple photos.

Here are a couple of other photos from yesterday where I interacted with them.  I also asked Cooper to look at me through the holes in the pizza pan and if Charlotte could make a hat, so I got these two photos as well.  My kids have learned that when mommy brings out her camera it’s play time so they ask for the camera whenever they want to play with me.  Sometimes I get it and sometimes I just play with them.  I really, really try to just enjoy all these moments with my kids and only take photos as an afterthought.  Let me know if you have anymore questions!


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Jen said...

Great post!

Care said...

love this post! thanks for linking it on tb! mike&care

Niffer said...

I just now got the time to read this post, but I really enjoyed it!

As long as you're keeping tabs on reader's requests... spinning, somersaults, reading books, hugs, holding hands, close-up of eyes.