How to Improve Your Photo Composition: Take Candid Shots

This post is the fourth in a photography series on improving photo composition. To see the rest of the series, click here: How to Improve Your Photo Composition Series. For your convenience, this post contains affiliate links.

Of all the ways to improve your photography composition, this is my favorite. While being aware of the things we’ve already talked about, like zoom, visual triangles, which angles you’re shooting from, and the rule of thirds—none of it really matters if you’re not actually capturing real life. I love having my camera with me and just noticing a great shot of my kids doing something together.

Those are the photos I treasure most.

Improve your photo composition by learning to notice great candid shots and capture them honestly. #overstuffedlife

In fact, many of the photos I’ve already shared in this series are candid.

Candid doesn’t necessarily have to mean your subjects have no idea you are taking their picture. The word candid means “open, sincere, informal, straightforward, unposed, or free from reservation.” To me this says that a candid photo is simply honest and real.

Candid photos tell an honest story.

For the rest of this post, I’m going to just share a few examples, along with the stories behind them, so you can see what I mean.

This photo of my middle daughter and my mom shows their relationship. We were in Chicago at the Ravinia festival and she asked her grandma a question. I snapped this photo while she was getting the answer. How sweet is this? Just look at how much that girl adores her Mamah!

This is a photo of my youngest daughter and her cousin in Hawaii at the end of a long day of playing at the beach together. It evokes such strong feelings of peace and sheer bliss to me. And it shows the relationship of these two little girls who love each other so much and can’t get enough of each other when they are together (which isn’t often since they live on opposite ends of the U.S.). 

Bonus: This one was taken with my phone!

This is a photo of my youngest at age 3. She overheard me tell her bored older sister that if I were her, I would go out on the deck and read a book. A little while later, I glanced outside and saw this cutie out there with her favorite book—Curious George. So sweet.

This is another photo of my youngest, taken one summer at our very last beach day on Lake Superior. She was just standing there eating her sandwich and waiting for her friends to come. Maybe it’s just because I love the beach so much, but this is another one that evokes powerful emotion for me. I can’t even put my finger on exactly what I’m feeling, but it’s wonderful.

Do you like her shorts? She made them herself: DIY Patriotic Shorts

These next four photos are from a recent road trip. We went to Minneapolis where we visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It was the only time on the whole trip that I actually thought to take out my big camera, and I got several fun candids.

This photo is of my youngest (I know, I’m realizing how much she is featured in this post, too!) and my husband playing chess in the children’s area of the museum. At that age, she was totally into chess and was quite an amazing little player. She regularly beat both me and my husband. I love her exasperation with the dumb move her dad just made in this photo!

And while we’re on my youngest and her chess obsession, here’s a photo of her during the same game from a different angle. You might notice that these two photos both have a lot of digital noise (grain) in them, due to the difficult lighting, but I don’t even care because I captured something far more important to me than a perfectly exposed photograph.

I love this one of my middle and youngest girls tying their shoes. Totally unplanned, and here they are sitting in these funny chairs wearing identical beanies from the concert we had attended the night before. What a perfect photo opportunity!

Finally, here is one of my oldest. I was behind her as she was walking down the stairs of the museum, and I caught this. It captures her essence well—romantic and beautiful.

Do you see how each of the photos tells an honest story? I just love that. It’s why I wanted to learn photography in the first place! 

Next time you have your camera out, start looking for all those real moments that you can honestly capture. Don’t worry about perfection. Many candid photos don’t turn out well, but when you find the gems that really tug at your heartstrings, you’ll be glad you took 20 bad photos to get that one great photo that you’ll keep framed forever!

Want to catch up on the rest of the series?

This post may contain affiliate links, for more information, please see my disclosure.
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