Candid moments in family photography
Candid moments in family photography


Tips to capture candid moments in family photography

Candid family moments make unique, powerful and meaningful photos. Since they can be tricky to photograph, a few expert tips can help you up your game. Here, contributor Gary Sindell of Snap Director shares some of his knowledge with you. (All photos in this blog post were taken by me.)

Family photography! A world where you can capture the precious moments of laughter, joy, and shared experiences. But what truly stands out in a sea of posed portraits? It’s those candid shots: raw, unfiltered, and brimming with genuine emotion.

Ever caught your toddler stealing a cookie or a grandfather sharing a whispered secret with a grandchild? These unscripted slices of life are what memories are made of. Let’s dive into the art and science behind capturing these authentic moments with loved ones.

Candid moments in family photography
Photo: Marie-Pierre Photography

The art of candid family photography

In family photography, there’s a divide between posed shots—where everyone stands with perfect posture and smiles—and candid ones that catch people off-guard, living in the moment. These unposed photos echo the essence of genuine emotions, revealing a side of our loved ones that formal portraits can’t capture. It’s the difference between a “say cheese” moment and one where laughter erupts naturally.

Posed vs. candid—what’s the difference?

Okay, let’s break it down. Posed shots are those traditional photos where everyone is aware of the camera, and the setting is pre-arranged. These are great for a formal portrait, showcasing the entire family in their best attire, often against a picturesque backdrop. Candid shots, on the other hand, are spontaneous imagery where the subject is unaware they’re being photographed. These genuine pics immortalize raw, real moments.

Have you ever observed street photographers? They have a knack for capturing people in their most authentic states, immersed in their thoughts, actions, or conversations. That’s the essence we aim to bring into family photography.

Techniques to capture candid moments

Capturing candid moments might sound like a game of luck, but trust me, there are some nifty tricks up my sleeve to up the ante. With the right camera adjustments and a bit of intuition, even the most camera-shy relative can be photographed in their natural state. Here’s how:

Camera Settings for Candid Shots

Candid moments often happen in a split second, so it’s important that our camera is prepared. Let’s set the stage:

  • ISO setting: In low light conditions, like during a cozy family dinner, increasing your ISO can help. It allows your camera to be more sensitive to light. But, remember, too high an ISO can introduce grain or noise to your photos.
  • Shutter speeds: You’ll want a fast shutter speed, especially if kids are running about or if there’s any fast action. This ensures you capture the moment without any motion blur. Think of it as freezing a splash of water in mid-air. A speed like 1/250 sec or faster is often good.
  • Aperture: If you’re keen on getting that beautiful blurry background (bokeh), opt for a shallow depth of field. This means using a wider aperture (a smaller f-number). It makes your subject stand out while the background remains dreamy and out of focus.
  • Lens: Zoom lenses can be your best friend. Why? Because you can photograph from a distance without intruding on the moment. Imagine capturing a child’s gleeful face as they unwrap a present without them even knowing you’re there.

Alright, I know this might seem a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re new to photography. But here’s a trick: if you’re not confident with manual settings, use the “action” or “sports” mode on your DSLR or mirrorless camera. It’ll handle most of the nitty-gritty for you. Remember, the most important part of candid photography is the moment itself. Technicalities come second.

Phew! That was quite a bit to unpack. And trust me, there’s so much more to share. From editing those candid shots to enhance their natural beauty, to wrapping up our candid journey with some final thoughts, there’s a wealth of knowledge yet to explore.

Editing & post-processing candid moments

So, you’ve captured a handful of candid moments, and they’re brimming with emotion and authenticity. But even the best shots can benefit from a touch of post-production magic. Let’s discuss some subtle editing techniques to enhance, not overshadow, the candid nature of your photos.

For candid shots, the key is to keep things natural. Over-editing can strip away the very authenticity we’re trying to capture.

  • Light and exposure: Sometimes, in the rush of capturing a fleeting moment, our photos might turn out a bit underexposed or overexposed. Tools like Lightroom or other photo editing software allow you to adjust the exposure, making your photos just right. Remember, it’s about enhancement, not transformation.
  • Color correction: Adjusting the color balance can help in making your photos pop. But, go easy on the saturation. We want our family members to look lively, not like they’ve had a tango with a box of crayons!
  • Cropping for impact: Sometimes, a simple crop can transform a photo. It can help eliminate distractions or draw attention to the central subject. But always keep in mind the rule of thirds and try to maintain natural framing.
  • Soft retouching: While it might be tempting to go all out and airbrush every little imperfection, candid photography is about celebrating the real and the raw. So, if you must retouch, do it gently. Perhaps just a little skin smoothing or blemish removal. The laughter lines, the freckles, the scars—they tell a story. Let them be.
  • Preserving emotions: This isn’t so much a “technique” as it is a philosophy. Always ask yourself: “Does my edit amplify the emotion in the photo, or does it detract from it?” Trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is.

Editing, when done right, can turn a good photo into a great one. Just remember the golden rule: less is often more, especially when we’re talking about candid family photos.

Final Thoughts

Family photography isn’t just about taking photos; it’s about immortalizing memories, emotions, and shared moments. Candid family photography, in particular, has the unique ability to capture the soul of a moment, be it the infectious laughter of a child, the loving glances exchanged between spouses, or the gentle, guiding hand of a parent.

Candid moments in family photography
Photo: Marie-Pierre Photography

Your camera is an extension of your heart and your eyes. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or someone just starting out with a borrowed camera, remember this: authentic moments can’t be scripted. They happen in the in-between moments, in the stolen glances, the belly laughs, and the whispered secrets.

The next time you’re with your loved ones, don’t just look for the picture-perfect poses. Seek out the genuine, the unexpected, the real. Because at the end of the day, when you look back at your family photos, it’s these candid moments, these authentic slices of life, that will tug at your heartstrings the most. Until next time, happy shooting!

More expert photography tips

Thank you Gary for sharing these tips on how to capture candid moments in family photography.

Pour les francophones et francophiles qui désirent approfindir leurs connaissances en photographie, rendez-vous dans Ma boîte à outils, une série de capsules vidéos produite en collaboration avec Radio-Canada, où je partage quelques-unes de mes astuces!

I'm Marie-Pierre, an easygoing mother of two and a documentary family photographer. I believe we can all learn and grow from other people's experiences. Real life stories help us relate to each other, open our minds and feel better about ourselves.

this blog is a collection of featured client stories, tips, and articles on various family related topics. I hope you will find some inspiration!




I'm Marie-Pierre, an easygoing mother of two and a documentary family photographer. I believe we can all learn and grow from other people's experiences. Real life stories help us relate to each other, open our minds and feel better about ourselves.

this blog is a collection of featured client stories, tips, and articles on various family related topics. I hope you will find some inspiration!

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