Being candid while traveling is way more complex than doing it locally, because it is easy for people to spot us as foreigners. I'll talk about some important things like Social Skills, and Ethics in order to travel without any trouble and remain as candid as possible. Also remember to make a appropriate research on public laws of the countries you visit, since they may have regulations that prohibit photography in such places.
Candid Photography has been almost like a synonym for Street Photography, but for me it goes way further. Being Candid is a way of doing things, and it has a larger scope than Street Photography. This personal opinion and approach to doing things candidly will give you a better understanding of its role in photography.
The most importance value of doing things with a Candid approach, is that with it you can achieve natural and unaltered documentation from ordinary (or not) scenes that surround societies. So, if we are on the pursuit of capturing things without being noticed; developing candid skills will definitely get your photography into a much satisfying level of result.
Since photographic mediums got more capable of capturing images in fractions of a second, photographing things in the most natural way form, got a little bit more doable. Telling the true stories of people is without a question the best way of doing things, when picturing the streets, and even when the slightest crop can alter an image candid is a very objective photographic approach.
Candid photos are not just about being extremely sneaky and almost invisible in order to capture things. It is also about getting close to people and being able to be a comfortable person to have around. Being skilled in social terms will allow you to get closer to your subjects, instead of just shooting from a voyeuristic distance. When socializing with people, they'll obviously know that you are taking pictures, but you need to do things with a different rhythm. With a much slower approach. The great trick is to get people used to your presence, and then candid images start to bloom.
Use slangs if you know some of them, especially in your own city or country. This trick has saved me countless times, because people easily recon outsiders, but when you start talking in a way that they relate you their same culture, they get their guards down a little bit. It is my survival tactic on the streets of my country, and it is awesome.
Also care about people when approaching them, hear their stories, ask them things, give them a good quality time even if that happens just for about ten or fifteen minutes. Keep that care in consideration even when composing your images. When taking photos of homeless people or children, avoid doing them from a high angle point of view, because this will make them appear vulnerable than they really are. On the other hand, a low-angle shot will portray them in a stronger and more human way.
When talking with people, they might ask you why are you doing pictures, and just be honest with them, show them your passion for capturing the streets if you can.
- Don't give yourself away
If you react with obvious movements, you'll easily get spotted by the people. Try to be smooth when taking your camera to your eye. Shooting right from the viewfinder is amazing, but we tend to over excite when taking our camera from its walking place, to our eyes. This frantic and sloppy movement can cause people to notice us.
I've been on the other side of the fence in this terms, and I have been photographed as well while walking on the streets (I don't complain, it is just the price one has to pay, it is almost like karma or the third law from Newton haha), and the movement is so obvious, that we need to practice being more stealth in terms of getting our camera to our eye in order to achieve more candid frames.
When shooting candidly, try to avoid eye contact as well. Eye starring has a tremendous power, and it tend to be felt by other people. When this happens, you get eye contact. Try to not capture eye contact because it will not be 100% candid.
- Shoot from the hip
Shooting from the hip requires a lot of practice, and I personally think that when practicing this maneuver, it is also important to commit yourselves to one single lens. Getting to know the exact amount of the scene that fits through your lens takes huge practice, and if you are interchanging lenses like crazy, you will only get yourselves frustrated with this amazing technique.
- Use your LCD
I really don't like using live view modes when shooting from the eye level, but when shooting from odd angles, it is a good friend of mine. Especially if such screen has the capability of getting tilted.
Another great tactic is to act like if you are just checking pictures on your camera. People tend to know that you are taking pictures of them only when you take you camera to your eyes.
And the best acting trick, is to perform like you are shooting something way further than the people you are taking pictures to, and this one is really useful while shooting through the viewfinder. My current camera doesn't have a tiltable LCD screen, so this tactic is the one that I use the most.
It is highly known that Walker Evans painted all the chromed parts of his camera matte black, and hid it under his overcoat in order to get completely stealth and inconspicuous when shooting at public transportation. Maybe this technique was a little bit too voyeuristic, but hey, the man did a great job while photographing the ordinary people that traveled down the subway.
Gear, gear, gear. The major worry of our generation when talking about photography. Just get yourselves a trusty piece of gear (or pieces) that can be with you at every moment and every day.
A little bit about my digital gear background. I entered photography through a small point and shoot camera. I got robbed while doing some street photos, and I got myself an entry level DSLR after that gunny encounter. With the DSLR the lens frenzy began. My favorite lenses when working street photos with my DSLR are my 28mm, and 2 pancakes I got at the end of my lenses rush (a 40mm and a 24mm); occasionally I used to shoot with a 10-20mm lens as well. After a while, I got back to small gear; and got myself another Point and Shoot since I decided to get away from commercial work, and focus on street photography. After two years of that, I got myself the first "Digital Rangefinder camera.
Gear is important, because is the tool that makes you capable of capturing the images you want to. I got my gear needs driven by my passion, which is Street Photography, and I realized that small and inconspicuous gear is the best way for me to do the photographs I love.
Don’t let yourselves be driven by gear innovations and brands. Decide your companion gear by listening your passion, not the market.
Another important aspect for excelling at candid road of doing photography, is to keep high levels of patience. Everything done candidly, have small levels of control in terms of light and pose. For example in street photography, one can wander the streets for hours, and just make a couple of pictures, or even none. This happens when are in the pursuit of something specific, a special moment, a meaningful story. And capturing them, require high levels of patience and discipline. But, that doesn't mean that you need to lower your guard. You never know when the moment of your life is going to burst in front of your eyes, and you need to be prepared for it.
Being able to blend in in the crowds is crucial for doing candid photographs. It is not the same to be dressed in bright colors in winter at Paris, as well as it is not normal to be dressed with overcoat at the beaches of California. Blending in is not just about dressing, but manners and even the way of walking. Try to be smooth and not give yourselves away as tourists when travelling, because this will reduce the abilities for being candid.
Separation from Vernacular
Candid approach on photography goes beyond vernacular photography, because vernacular is more oriented for domestic purposes, and other fields of photography, like publicity in newspaper and stuff like that. The real difference between candid photography, and natural vernacular, is the aesthetics that a photographer could achieve by taking in consideration composition techniques, and exposure techniques as well.
Respect all the people that you encounter in front of your lenses. It doesn't matter if they are your friends, or complete strangers; respect all the people that get in front of your shutter eye. The voice of a picture is really important, and doing things without respect, is reflected in the images you capture.
Respect needs to be given to cultures and religions as well. It doesn't matter if you are an open minded travelling in a conservative country; or a cookie molded squared minded conservative one travelling in a completely open minded country, you always need to have respect to anybody.
If you can't show respect to anything that surrounds you; maybe social photography should not be your strong field. I tell you this because this will negatively impact in your blending in, and your social skills for getting involved with different people. Physical language speaks more than verbal language, and people notice it a lot, so the next time you are surrounded by a different context than yours, show some respect, and things will flow better, ergo, you’ll capture more candid photographs.
Niches that Glorify with Candid Approach
As I said before, Candid is more an approach, and it has a larger span that a simple photography genre. The two niches that I think get a larger benefit from it, are without a doubt Street Photography, and Photojournalism. This is because these two genres cope better with natural and ordinary happenings.
Please, don't make us Street Photographers look bad. Don't be rude to people if they ask you to delete their images just because you are in a public space and you are in your right to capture things in public spaces. Some people just don't like to be photographed by some stranger with a camera, and if they ask you to delete their picture, please do it. Also don't take pictures like if you are spying on somebody, and don't run after taking a picture of somebody, that is just not cool.
A little anecdote around my TLR
I was telling Viktor that I got myself a little present for my birthday (it was on October 19th). I bought a second-hand near-mint Yashica Mat 124G, and just recently (last November the 2nd) I had the opportunity of trying it out for the first time. November the 2nd is the Day of the Dead in my country. The tradition is simple, people go to the cemeteries to mourn their loved ones. I woke up early, loaded my Yashica with some film, and got into one public cemetery. I knew that I was entering a fragile ecosystem, filled with mourning people. And I knew I could get some insults if I didn't approached people with absolute respect. The thing is, that this camera, is so freaking obvious, that people didn't even react to it. I placed the camera over some concrete structures, made my exposures with a phone app, focused the camera, composed, and took the pictures. All of them were completely candid, and I was uber surprised that I was so obvious, that I got candid, and insult free.
Some people like to do portraits of unknown people, and getting close to strangers and convincing them to pose in front of camera, is something completely incredible. There is nothing wrong with doing portraits of people on the streets, don’t get me wrong, but we reduced this text to plain candid approaches in photography. The real magic of candid photography, is when you see an image, and you are not sure if that was posed or not.
I invite you to push yourselves to the limits in order to capture completely natural and close images of people that tell meaningful stories. It is not the same to walk around inside a crowd, with your camera near your hip shooting like crazy. Seek beautiful, amazing, compelling and meaningful moments inside such crowds, or outside them. Have your camera always with you, prepared for shooting, and those moments will have a hard time escaping from your eye.
In sum, Candid is an approach for doing photography, therefore it spans a larger scope than just a genre inside photography like Street or Photojournalism. Candid is a way of getting involved with societies and crowds in order to capture meaningful stories that otherwise will remain unseen to the public. Doing Candid Photography is about being inconspicuous, sneaky, stealthy, but above all, respectful and socially skilled in order to get close to the intimate and ordinary moments of urban and rural peoples' lives, and capture them in the most natural and purest way.