Why is the candid photography unique?   10 comments

As opposed to painting, photography requires a different set of skills, knowledge, and talent.  However, photography and painting share common concerns about composition, color and others.

There are many types of photography, but for the purpose of this discussion I’ve identified three areas that fundamentally have singular approaches:

  • Studio
  • Still Object
  • Candid

Even though these areas have numerous styles, conceptually everything depends on two things – freedom to create a desirable composition and the allotted time to accomplish it.


In studio photography there is virtually unlimited freedom to choose light, arrange objects and time frame.   With this luxury, studio photography developed sophisticated light manipulation and high resolution equipment. Artists, therefore, differentiate themselves in object arrangement and perspective.

Still Object

Still object photography does not allow the photographer to change arrangement and provides limited freedom to choose light. The use of time is up to the photographer with notable exceptions like the famous story of Ansel Adams’s “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”. The allowed time gives artists the control to choose when to take a shot for the best possible natural or city light, as well as the ability to move to the location and choose a lens to capture perspective.  Setting up high resolution equipment is also a common practice.


Candid photography restricts freedom of composition the most and makes time an extremely valuable resource. The photographer has to develop strategies and intuition in order to predict composition. Under these conditions photographers develop skills that increase the success rate of their pictures. Candid photography heavily relies on chance. While failures are to be expected, you may discover a pleasant surprise once the picture comes into fruition. The gambling of image capture makes candid photography a truly unique art and my personal preference.

10 responses to “Why is the candid photography unique?

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  1. Excellent capture of a defining moment, Greg. Makes me wish I could hear waht the guy is saying.

  2. You have very interesting pictures on your site, so far I’m loving your work. I found your site by following you link in the comment you left on my blog, I’m looking forward to your future posts.

    Keep up the good work,


    • Thank you!
      I publish much more of my photos on Flickr. Just follow the link that is provided on blog.
      On my blog I publish only one or two pictures per post that I feel the most relevant to the topic. In the future I will have some stories about my pictures but you don’t have to wait 🙂

  3. Ok I’ll be watching your blog and your flickr pics too.

  4. reminds me of a flickr guy showing his skills of shooting from the hip …lol, it was a 7yo girl holding her mother’s hand. The technique needs to fit the result but if the result lacks purpose then so does the technique. You pay a huge price for this style. Look at the picture above, what does it tell us. Jimmy wants to know what they are saying …why? “You get the eggs, I’ll get the milk ….who wants to know that?

    I’ve seen some terrific candid stuff but you can only do it well if you can do everything else and if you dont do everything else then it shows your weakness and that its not a skill but is instead a place to hide where you don’t learn anything new. Nothing unique about it either, heaps of us use it when needed but thats the distinction, we know when and why but its just one tool, and it should be used to improve the result and not for the sake of it.


  5. I have seen the power that is possible in shooting away from the eye but it comes at a huge price to photos that don’t warrant the technique. So far the best example I have seen are pictures taken in crowds, where the photographer is in close and like in a crowd we all get to stand in close and be a part of the scene. The way people interact in a crowd, the fact that everyone is in close proximity but imagine standing so close to just one person in the street, it becomes unnatural and at distance ..it goes real sour.

    I have heaps of candid pics in my gallery and some are even moments where they might appear to be looking at the camera but it was in that split of a second before your brain registers that someone is photographing them. For some I even waited for the subject to notice me and it is this that made the picture. Just as I say its a technique it also has its moment where it is of use and other times where it is useless.

    Candid or non Candid has no meaning, its the picture quality or content that attracts our eyes. We don’t examine a picture to see if it is candid or not, we examine it for some other quality. Only once we have passed the like test do we say things like, “Oh, thats a nice candid” but when looking at the picture we don’t give it any value just on the elements of candid or non candid. No one looks at a picture they like and says ..Oh but I wish it was candid.

    The measure is when the technique becomes more apparent than the subject in the photo. An extreme example but if the picture gives a feeling of stealth or being covert then the technique has overpowered the picture. If the intended expression of the picture is ‘stealth’ then it becomes a fit of technique to result.

    I deleted my flickr account just recently but amongst my favs were a series of b&w pics taken in Morocco, I’ll see if I can find them as example. Some had threats to the photographer but he would get the pic and then likely use gestures and good manners that would keep him from harm. These are the skills you learn from using the viewfinder and these skills of dealing with people are the hardest lesson but the most important in street photography. Just to add to this, he was photographing things that were happening like the crew of a fishing boat setting up to leave the wharf, or a shopkeeper bus with a customer. To avoid these lessons some don’t photograph people at all and give feeble excuses about their privacy and we all end up looking at walls because there was nothing else about that they could photograph.

    I also envy iphone photogs …have seen some really good stuff where the phone has 100% zero effect on the subject. Its not just technique but the right tool for the job, like a man in his shed, some tools are for hitting nails and some are for screws.


    • I shoot without viewfinder only when I close to the subject (with wide angle lens). Being in the crowd is irrelevant. Actually, I don’t like to be in the crowd (or it depends on definition of “crowd”).
      I looked at your images. Many are very good. One is really stand out for me is the man with glasses, hat and butterfly. It is great photography. Did you make it with viewfinder?

  6. yes, with viewfinder …about 7″ from his face. An example I suppose of why eyes are better than hips to shoot from.

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