Candid photography

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For the Soviet aircraft with the NATO reporting name "Candid", see Ilyushin Il-76.
Candid photo of Matthew Perry during the Tribeca Film Festival

A candid photograph is a photograph captured through motion mostly, without creating a posed appearance. This is achieved by avoiding prior preparation of the subject and by either surprising the subject or by not distracting the subject during the process of taking photos.[1] Thus, the candid character of a photo is regardless of the subject's knowledge or consent as to the fact that photos are being taken, and regardless of the subject's permission for subsequent usage such as distribution, but related to the apparent absence of posing. It is distinguished from making secret photography by the photographer usually remaining discernible to the public and not wearing cover.

As an art form[edit]

Candid photo by YBA artist Henry Bond

Some professional photographers develop candid photography into an art form. Henri Cartier-Bresson might be considered the master of the art of candid photography, capturing the "decisive moment" in everyday life over a span of several decades. Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, was one of the great photographers to document life in the streets of New York to often capture life — and death — at their rawest edges.

Almost all successful photographers in the field of candid photography master the art of making people relax and feel at ease around the camera, they master the art of blending in at parties, of finding acceptance despite an obvious intrusive element - the camera. How subjects react to photographer's presence with the camera depends on how knowledgeable the artist is on the craft, the approach and the execution of the shot. This is certainly true for most celebrity photographers, such as René Burri, or Raeburn Flerlage.

It could be argued that candid photography is the purest form of photojournalism. There is a fine line between photojournalism and candid photography, a line that was blurred by photographers such as Bresson and Weegee. Photojournalism often sets out to tell a story in images, whereas candid photography simply captures people living an event.

Camera equipment[edit]

The 35mm Leica camera first introduced in the 1920s is associated with candid photography.
One of a series of candid photographs taken in 1908 known as the Evolution of a Smile, taken just after a formal portrait session, while William Howard Taft learns by telephone from Theodore Roosevelt that he has been nominated by the Republican Party for the office of President.

Unobtrusive camera equipment, often small in size, is preferred for candid photography to avoid disturbing subjects. Black-painted cameras have long been preferred.

Candid photography also typically requires use of available light since flash alerts subjects to the camera and may startle them, causing them to react or become self-conscious and stage their photo appearance rather than behaving naturally. For this reason, early candid photography took place outdoors, where the sun provides ample light. Indoor candid photography required the development of more sensitive films with higher film speeds (ISO) and aggressive methods of developing films ("push processing") to increase sensitivity. Therefore, candid photography was historically associated with the grainy, high contrast images that result from these techniques. The introduction of digital cameras has made it easier to take pictures in low light conditions without flash.[2] Full-frame DSLR cameras have brought high-ISO noise to historically low levels, allowing for clean, saturated images at speeds up to and beyond ISO 6400.

Although point and shoot cameras with affordable lenses have been used widely for candid photography, the resulting photographs can suffer from vignetting, distortion and over saturation of color. Due to short reaction times for the photographer, exposure or focus may be slightly off. Since flash cannot be used, pictures are often taken at low shutter speeds and show blurring from movement of the subject, or camera shaking. All these faults are usually considered acceptable because of the limitations of candid photography.

Candid film photographers have been forced to use black and white, rather than color film because of its greater film speed. This has given candid photos a characteristic appearance. Film provides roughly 3 stops more dynamic range compared to earlier digital cameras. However, improved, smaller digital cameras are providing photographers with increased dynamic range, greater lens speeds and sharpness, enabling them to capture high quality candid images.

Lomo rule photography describes the fashion of using inexpensive Russian point-and shoot-cameras for candid photography.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Candid Photography In Australia An Interview With Andrew Stark". Urban Photography Art. 2010. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Michael Langford (2000). Basic Photography (7th Edition.). Oxford: Focal Press. ISBN 0-240-51592-7. 

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