The Long-Lasting Effect Of Nan Goldin: Here’s How To Take Candid Snaps Of Significance
The word candid is defined simply as something that is ‘truthful and straightforward; frank,’ and this is precisely the reason why candid photographers have managed to find significant platforms throughout history.
It’s difficult to imagine a more impactful photographic experience than the bedroom exposures captured by Nan Goldin, or the insight into 1930s Europe offered by the Godfather of the candid shoot, Henri Cartier-Bresson. When we view these images, we’re catapulted into a private world that, in so many ways, can say a hundred things that an in-studio shoot never would.
In an age where instant Instagram uploads reign and smartphone cameras become the photographic main-stay, candid photography is seeing its heydey, replacing even traditional wedding shoots with more naturalistic, personality-filled focuses that add depth, and meaning, to even the most innocent-seeming of pictures.
Despite how easy it looks, candid photography can be incredibly difficult to get right. Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself as a photographer or start up this hobby for the first time, we’ve got some tips that you simply can’t skip if you want to start a candid collection you can be proud of.
1. Choose your equipment wisely
With candid photography, bulky equipment like DSLRs is simply never going to get the best effects. It doesn’t matter what you do – your subjects are always going to struggle to stay natural with a lens the size of their arms pointing at them.
Instead, remember that candid shots are all about a naturalistic approach that, most often, isn’t even planned. This means you want camera equipment that you can take anywhere with you and that blends into the background, even when you are taking those all-important shots. Luckily, we live in an age where we all have a piece of equipment that could work for this purpose and which we typically take around with us anyway. We are, of course, talking about our smartphones, especially those with enhanced cameras like the iPhone.
Now a go-to for even great photographers, iPhone photography holds impressive candid power, especially if you learn all the tricks in advance (of which there are many.) Not only are iPhones compact and convenient for subtle shoots, but it’s also possible to enhance pictures within a range of fantastic apps, upload directly onto your platform of choice, and even learn how to recover deleted photos from iPhone trash cans – none of which are possible with even the latest DSLRs. Other phones with cameras worth using for this purpose, and which share many of these same benefits, include the Samsung Galaxy S21 and the Sony Xperia L4, either of which is worth bringing along for candid captures that no one will forget in a hurry.
2. Relationships first, pictures second
To some extent, camaraderie with your subjects is crucial no matter what you’re shooting. After all, they’re effectively your colleagues, and developing a good relationship is the best way to share creative ideas. But, while relationships typically develop during a shoot with staged photography, candid snaps are all about relationships first.
Think about it. Would Nan Goldin have captured the relationships of her closest friends so well if she hadn’t known what made them tick, or the struggles taking place behind the camera? Of course not. Hence why you, too, must spend time getting to know the people you’re shooting, generally integrating yourself into their daily activities for at least a few meetings before you get your camera out. Then, and only then, can you capture images that truly speak volumes about who these people are, what they want from life, and what story you’re trying to tell by shooting them.
3. Become a people-watcher
Even outside of specific subject relationships, a candid photographer needs to develop an eye for the quirks and behaviors of people in general. Understanding everything from body language to conversational queues is all part and parcel of developing an eye for the factors that go into a candid shoot that reveals as much as possible.
Wherever you can, it’s therefore worth taking the time to watch and make notes about the people around you. Spend time in a cafe wherever possible and sit at the window seat so that you can watch individual behaviors without the context of sound. Consider what these people’s stories could be, and look at the things that reveal these facts to you.
Then, make an effort to transfer these lessons, and look out for those same narrative indicators, when you’re spending time with your subjects and trying to get the perfect shot.
4. Shoot in burst mode
While your photographs will always be the crux of a project like this, candid photography typically has a lot more to do with the aspects that go towards a photograph than the actual shooting. In this way, this art form is unique, but it pays to think about your shooting itself, too.
Much like studio shooting, candid photography relies on your ability to capture multiple images and select the best from your finished photo reel. Unlike studio photography, many of the images you capture are going to involve closed eyes, subjects that are altogether turned away from you, and a range of other issues along a similar vein. None of this matters when you finally find a picture that works but to make sure that happens, you’re going to want to take as many pictures as you can in quick succession. Burst mode, available on most smartphones and even modern cameras, is the easiest way to do that, ensuring a series of pictures taken one after the other which, hopefully, helps you to capture that all-important crucial moment.
Nobody said candid photography was easy, but when you get it right, the satisfaction is well worth the effort. Remember, too, that candid photographs don’t have to be the pristine, finished products that many other photographers lean on. Instead, you simply need to keep these tips in mind, have fun, and find a photograph that, despite anything else, contains a thousand words.