Shoot Candids Even When Posing Your Subjects

Had a wonderful weekend camping with a large group of families at Pedernales Falls State Park near Austin.  We have the most awesome group of friends that any family could hope for.

It’s tradition on these trips that we get a group photo to cement the memory.  In one of his tweets Dave Wilson (click his name to check out his blog) recently mentioned how taking the group shot of his singing group was scarier than the performance itself.  I agree 100%!  Everyone wants it to look good and they’re counting on you.  In our case they’re also all in a hurry to get back to playing games, eating junk food, and conversing around the fire.

For this year’s traditional shot I wanted to take it from a slightly elevated vantage point so that I could get all the faces in view without having to spread the group too wide.  I set up the tripod on top of the toolbox in my friend’s dually and found a likable perspective.  My friend set his camera up on top of his enormous camper.

You might be wondering what this posed group shot has to do with candids?  While everyone was getting in place for the shot I snapped off a series of shots — some of the whole group, some zoomed in to certain people, etc.  The shot below is one of my favorites because it captures so much about the people in this picture.

Pedernales Falls Group Candid 2009

Pedernales Falls Group Shot 2009

A wife viewing this image will be laughing at her husband because his eyes were closed.  A mom is saying, “I love that picture of my daughter with her dog”.  Another mom is laughing at her little son forcing a smile so hard that it looks painful.  The parents of the little guy in the yellow shirt are saying, “He’s SO cute!” (full disclosure: he’s *my* son and we really were saying that).  The one with the tongue out will get a talking-to about not making faces in pictures (OK…he’s mine too).

When you are getting paid to shoot for a client always remember that they are often less interested in technical perfection (depends on the situation of course) than they are capturing the moment.  Don’t discard (all) the images which aren’t perfect from your technical perspective — they may be the very ones that your client would call “perfect” because they are intimately familiar with the personalities of those involved.  Shoot LOTS of candids while you’re trying to get your subjects posed into position (digital film is “free” after all).  Tease some laughter out of them and capture it.  Press the shutter while they’re fiddling with their clothes or hair.  You’ll get some great shots.

© 2009 Michael Tuuk


5 responses

  1. It is interesting how the candid shot provides a more “honest” view of the subjects. I like the dynamics that are captured in a still picture and the unknown elements that you only discover later in post (like the tongue sticking out).

    Any reason why the links don’t show as URLs?

    November 2, 2009 at 9:28 pm

  2. Scott,

    If you’re referring to the link showing up when the cursor hovers over the text or image, I just changed that. If it’s something else — let me know and I’ll try to fix that as well.


    November 2, 2009 at 9:41 pm

  3. Michael,

    Lovely shot! I just posted the back story to my scary group portrait over on my (non-photo)blog. You can find it here.

    November 3, 2009 at 10:28 pm

  4. Dave,

    I guess I was reading your post while you were checking this out! Just saw it…excellent shot. Good ideas on the lighting.


    November 3, 2009 at 11:01 pm

  5. Pingback: Shoot Candids…Part 2 « Michael Tuuk Photography

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