7 min read

How to Take Posed Candid Portraits

7 min read

Last updated:

What is candid portrait photography? There are various sub-genres in this popular genre. Sometimes, the model is unaware of your presence. This is common in street photography. Other times, they’re posing for you while trying to look natural. This technique is very common in lifestyle photography. In this article, you’ll learn about mastering the latter.

If your model is aware of your presence, they won’t be able to forget that you’re there. However, there are tricks you can use to create an authentic look. There are ways you can distract your model and help them look as natural as possible.

Have a Conversation Before the Shoot

candid shot of models talking outdoors.
Encourage your model to bring a friend with them, if possible. This will give you even more opportunities to take candid photos as they interact with each other.

Some portrait photographers have conversations with their models beforehand. If your model sees you as a friend, it will be easier for them to feel comfortable during your shoot. Consequently, you’ll find it easier to take natural candid photos of them.

Conversations like this don’t have to be long. If you don’t have a lot of time, even a 5-minute conversation can help. Let the model get to know you and your intentions as an artist.

Also, make sure to ask for their honest opinion whenever you can. This will make them feel valued.

Be Open About the Candid Portrait Look You’re Going For

candid portrait of a couple walking on beach.
Make sure that your concept matches the location and weather in some way. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same as the concept in your photographs, but it should have some similarities to it. For example, this photo was taken on a cloudy day on a beach. The tones are minimalistic and simple. If this kind of photography inspires you, use these keywords as references throughout your photoshoot.

Try not to be too abstract when it comes to concepts. Make it clear to your model that you want to improve your candid portrait photography. If possible, bring a few references to the shoot. You can send a few ideas to your model beforehand.

For example, you can use a Pinterest board with a variety of candid poses and expressions. Keep the style consistent so that your model has a clear idea of what you want. Show them examples of street photography or lifestyle photography. The more visual references you have, the better.

The more familiar the model is with your vision, the smoother your photoshoot will be. This step is very important for several reasons:

  • It will show the model that you’re serious about what you do.
  • It will also highlight your passion and determination as a photographer. These things can be a much-needed motivational boost for them.

Pick a Location With Lots of Beautiful Distractions

candid photo of couple watching sunset.
Your model(s) should be so fascinated by their surroundings that they forget you’re even there. You can find stunning locations in your area using a website like Tripadvisor. Don’t be afraid of becoming a tourist in your own country.

Candid photography is all about distractions. Your model has to be in their own bubble. To achieve this, pick a few interesting locations. Make sure there are lots of vibrant things that your model can look at. Ideally, this should be a place that you’re both unfamiliar with. (Make sure it’s safe, of course.)

This is a great opportunity for you to be imaginative and flexible. An unfamiliar location can force you to be extra creative. Experiment with different backgrounds and foregrounds to make the most of your session.

Be a Conversationalist Throughout Your Shoot

photographer taking candid photos.

If your model looks awkward, talk to them. You don’t need to be a silent photographer to take your candid photography to the next level. Treat your photoshoot like a fun meet-up.

Some of the best pictures can come as a result of discussions that you have. Ask your model questions, tell them something funny, or talk about your own journey as an artist. Keep it light and simple. As you talk, take great photos of their reactions and body language. They might get so lost in a story that they’ll forget your camera is there!

This is very important in genres like wedding or couple photography. If you talk to the couple throughout the shoot, it will be easier for them to get lost in the moment. Give them a chance to remember a beautiful time in their lives. For example, ask them when they first met.

Incorporate Motion Into Your Candid Portraits

candid portrait of a woman running.
You can ask your model to run in front of you. Running is an effective way to get great candid moments, especially if your model is wearing a dress.

Give your model something to do. This can be as simple or as complicated as you like, depending on the length of your photoshoot. The point is to encourage your model to get lost in their own world. The more movement, the better!

Movement is an important part of candid photography. Street photographers often take photos of people walking in crowds.

If you need inspiration, check out Garry Winogrand’s work. There’s usually some kind of movement going on to indicate that these models are unaware of the camera.

Keep Your Model Involved

candid image of girl looking at flower.

Take short breaks to show your model how well they’re doing. This is a very important step. It can give your subject a massive boost of confidence. Also, let them know that your first few photos aren’t going to look awesome. The first few minutes of a shoot can be awkward, and that’s completely fine.

Use these short breaks to talk to your model and get their feedback. If they have a specific posing idea, listen to them. Even if their idea is very simple, try to incorporate it into your candid shots somehow. This will strengthen your bond and give you both a fulfilling shooting experience.

Posing Examples and Ideas That Can Make Your Pictures Look More Candid

The words “candid” and “pose” don’t seem to be compatible in most cases. While that is true, that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate both of them into your work. There are specific poses that can make it seem like your model is happily lost in their own world.

Lifestyle influencers and professional models often use these poses to give their pictures a natural look. Examples of this are Negin Mirsalehi and Romee Strijd.

Fake Laughter

smiley candid moments.

This sounds like the opposite of authentic, but it’s an effective trick. The point isn’t to photograph your model while they’re laughing inauthentically. You have to be ready to capture the moment after the fake laughter. The ridiculousness of fake laughter is enough to make anyone laugh genuinely!

You can also ask your model to be silly in front of the camera. Take a few selfies with your phone as you pull faces. This will make it easier for both of you to loosen up.

Looking Away From the Camera

black man candidly posing outdoors.

Ask your model to look at an object that’s far away from the camera. They can turn their face, look over their shoulder, or look up. They shouldn’t make any eye contact with your camera. This will make it seem like they’re unaware of your camera.

You can take this to the next level by not photographing your model directly. Your model’s body shouldn’t face your camera. The more detached their body language, the more unaware they’ll seem.

Working On Something

candid shot of a model fixing hair.
“Working on something” can be as simple as fixing one’s hair. Take photos that others would consider outtakes. They might end up being the highlights of your candid photography session.

Give your model something to do. If possible, take photos of them fixing their make-up, changing their hairstyle, or walking to a different location. These in-between shots can give your pictures a refreshing touch of authenticity.

Take Photos of Multiple People

candid portrait of girls laughing in sunflower field.
Candid portrait photography is the ideal genre for photographing friends and family members. Even photographing a couple of friends can take away much of the awkwardness that is present in one-to-one photo sessions.

It’s much easier to feel comfortable in front of a camera when a friend is by your side. Encourage your models to bring their friends with them. They don’t need to be in all of your candid portraits, but it can help a lot if they’re there at the beginning of your shoot.

The first few minutes of any photoshoot can be a little uncomfortable. The model needs time to adjust to your techniques. You need to figure out his or her best angles. Having a friend there might make the process much easier. You’re likely to get more photos that are truly candid, too.

Your photos can’t be 100% candid in this sub-genre of portrait photography. That doesn’t mean they can’t look fun and authentic, though.

Make sure to shoot in locations that are vibrant and distracting. Stay true to your vision, but don’t forget to regularly ask your model for feedback. The more comfortable your model is, the easier it will be for them to loosen up. This will give you plenty of opportunities to improve your candid portraits.

See more in


Share with friends

Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Great article Taya. I like that it focusses on the subject and the interaction of the subject with the photographer rather than what type of lens to use, what settings on your camera etc. Some great ideas for creating candid shots, thank you.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, David! I’m glad you like the article. Technical information is important, but sometimes it’s even more important to focus on your relationship with your models and make sure that they’re feeling as comfortable as possible.

Connect with aspiring and professional photographers

Learn how to improve any kind of photography

Get access to exclusive discounts, courses, rewards, etc
Find daily inspiration in a diverse community
Recommended Articles
Embark on a visual journey with Sarah & Cédric, masters of travel, lifestyle, adventure, wildlife, and creative photography, featured in our 2024 Trend Report.

Last updated:


Discover the natural wonders through the lens of Daniel Kordan, a renowned nature and landscape photographer featured in our Trend Report. Unveil his camera bag essentials, insights on gear innovations, and predictions for upcoming photography trends. Dive into Daniel's world and unlock his secrets for capturing breathtaking landscapes with finesse.

Last updated:


The World Nature Photography Awards is an annual competition open to nature and wildlife photographers worldwide. Explore the winners in 14 categories for 2024.

Last updated:


We have fantastic news: from April 2024, we will launch our 'Great Big Photography World' podcast again! Stay tuned!


Photo Karma 2024 - Free Trend Report