If there’s one type of wedding photo that gets more comments and appreciation than others it is the candid wedding photos. Sure, the arrival of the bride shots, the walking down the aisle shots, the saying the vows shots, the first kiss shots, the signing the register shots etc. etc. get comments but the candid shots seem to get many more and also sell better too.
I don’t care what anyone says, when they have a camera lens put in front of them and are asked to pose they never act naturally. Some people clam up and shy, others suddenly become extroverted and play up to the camera, others simply freeze but whatever their reaction it is never acting naturally. In my experience the only way to capture someone acting totally natural and as they normally do is to take candid shots of them, i.e. photos where they are not even aware they are being photographed.
I admit to being a fan of candid photography and, in my opinion, some of my best shots are candid shots so I like to capture some candid shots whenever I get the opportunity. Weddings are the perfect opportunity for candid photography and I spend a lot of time during a wedding shoot taking candid shots, although not at the expense of the standard posed shots the clients request of course. When I speak to clients about their wedding photography requirements I don’t specifically mention candid shots, just in case they don’t work out very well, however I do ask permission to take “other” shots during the day (i.e. candid shots) and the happy couple never say no. As long as they get the standard wedding shots the clients are happy.
There are loads of opportunities to take candid shots during a wedding shoot at every stage. For example:-
The above are just a few examples of the candid wedding photography shots I take and there are loads more besides. The best candid shots are those of people reacting and not simply sitting their deadpan. Tears of joy from not only the mother of the bride but also the bride’s boss, laughter from the a friend of the groom during the speech, bored children waiting for the dinner to end and the party to start all make interesting candid shots.
Candid photography can be hit or miss, and there are times when I can take hundreds of candid photos during a wedding and none of them capture what I want them to. On the other hand, there are other times when a large percentage of the candid shots look good and choosing which ones to show the client is a really tough choice. Candid wedding photography can be very frustrating however it can also be very rewarding, and it is the uncertainty of it that makes it so good.
The thing to remember about candid wedding photography is that it should never take precedence over the mainstream wedding photos. The client has engaged you to take specific photos and you have to make sure you capture these shots, and if you fail to do this you won’t last long in wedding photography. The Candid wedding photography should be secondary and something you do as a “bonus” service or something to improve your photography skills whilst you are waiting around for the next series of posed shots.
I have a separate camera/lens combo for my candid wedding photography so I can keep the posed (and requested) shots and the candid shots totally separate.
My candid wedding photography kit
The camera I use for candid wedding photography is a Canon 7D, and the reason for this is because of its super quick autofocus, high burst rate and quick sensor. Candid photography is a “gun and run” style of photography which means you have to be quick and have quick equipment too, otherwise you will miss the shot.
I use the 7D because I like Canon (and always have) however there are other alternative cameras from Nikon, Olympus, Sony and Pentax that will be spot on for candid wedding photography too.
I generally like to use short focal lengths for portrait photography however this is not possible for candid photography. Using lenses with short focal lengths means you have to get in nice and close to get the subject in the frame, and when you do this your cover is busted and the subject obviously knows they are being photographed, which obviously isn’t candid. The best lenses for candid wedding photography are standard tele lenses as these allow you to stand back in the shadows and use the zoom to get a frame filling shot.
Since I shoot Canon there is only one lens to use, and that is the Canon 70mm – 200mm F2.8L IS, which is the flag ship Canon 70 – 200. This is an awesome lens, and whilst it is expensive it is worth every penny. The 70 – 200 F2.8L IS lens is tough, durable and well made, it is sharp and the image quality is superb and the image stabilisation is essential to capture sharp handheld shots whilst taking photos indoors. For an honest and unbiased review of the Canon 70-200 F2.8L IS take a look at “Review of the Canon 70mm – 200mm F2.8L IS”.
Once again, the 70mm – 200mm lens is a popular focal length and there is one for all makes and brands of camera.
Quick candid wedding photography tips
Some quick and simple candid wedding photography tips you may find useful. These tips apply to all types of candid photography and not just candid wedding photography.
Use a semi-automatic mode
Whilst you may prefer to shoot in full manual mode, I do because it gives the most control, full manual mode is not the best solution for candid photography. I don’t care what anyone says or how quick a person says they are at changing the settings to get the correct exposure, a semi-automatic mode is quicker (and hence best) for candid shots. Whether you use aperture priority mode (and control the depth of field) or shutter priority mode (and control the shutter speed) is entirely up to you.
Know how to use exposure compensation
Whilst modern day cameras are very good in semi-automatic mode there are situations where they get confused and you must know how to get the exposure back on track in these situations.
When using a semi-automatic shooting mode it is crucial you know what exposure compensation is, when to apply exposure compensation, how to apply exposure compensation, know how much exposure compensation to apply and know the type of exposure compensation to apply (i.e. positive or negative).
You need to know how to access the exposure compensation in your particular camera’s menu (consult the user manual if you are unsure) and how to adjust the setting. I would also suggest learning how to adjust the exposure compensation whilst looking through the view finder, i.e. with the camera to your eye, so you never have to drop the lens and take it off the subject.
As I have previously said candid photography can be hit or miss therefore it is important to keep shooting, and as a general rule of thumb the more shots you take the higher your hit rate will be.
Another thing I have discovered is that situations you think will make an awesome candid sot often don’t work, whereas situations which you think won’t work often do. No matter how many candid shots I take this still happens, so I make sure I photograph all situations in order to get those golden shots.
Have lots of memory
Taking lots of photos obviously requires lots of memory, so you need to make sure you have plenty of memory cards. Never be tempted to delete photos during the shoot, unless they are obviously due for the bin (Parts of body cut off, people in the way, focus way out, massively under/over exposed etc.), as many photos can be saved with editing software. If you have deleted the image this opportunity is obviously lost.
Should you offer candid wedding photography?
If you offer wedding photography services candid photography is something you should also do, and whilst I would never recommend telling clients you offer the service I would suggest asking permission to take “other photos” as well as the requested wedding photos.
I find I make a lot of additional sales through my candid wedding photography and it is an extra supplementary income stream to the money generated selling the posed wedding photos to the bride and groom.
Other wedding photography articles you may find interesting
Wedding lighting tips and techniques is an article focusing on lighting tips and lighting equipment when taking wedding shots.
The best lens for wedding photography is an article focusing on the best lenses for wedding photography, and those lenses you need to capture awesome wedding shots for your clients.
Why you need to visit the venue before the wedding is an article highlighting the importance of visiting the wedding venues before the big day. It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t do this, especially given it is an essential part of the wedding photography preparation.
The responsibilities of being a wedding photographer is an article highlighting the responsibilities of all wedding photographers, some of which you may never have been aware of.
Low light wedding tips is an article focusing on lighting tips in low light situations and locations when photographing weddings.
Taking group wedding shots is an article giving tips and tricks on capturing awesome group wedding photos.
Essential wedding photography equipment is an article detailing the essential photography equipment you need to capture commercial wedding photos.
Bridal portraits you have to take is an article (or should that be aide memoir?) of all the bridal shots that are crucial to capture during a wedding shoot. These are shots no wedding photographer worth their salt should miss.
Why you should offer pre-wedding photography sessions is an article stating why you should offer pre-wedding photography sessions for the bride and groom before the big day. Offering pre-wedding photo sessions can make the actual day itself go a lot smoother.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.