Candid Street Photography

Candid street photography is a type of street photography which shows people as they are, without intervention from the photographer; in other words, the subject has not been posed.

The little Chinese boy in the photo below was on his own in a busy street with lots of parked cars on one side. I didn't see his parents anywhere around nor any of his friends.

He seems such a cool little dude, perched on the chain, with a serious expression on his face, and he wasn't bothered at all about me with my camera.

His face was grubby and his jeans were torn in places so perhaps he lives on the streets, it’s hard to tell; I like the ambiguity in the shot. However, I don’t always like photos of the homeless or people who live on the street as they can be exploitative. It is just too easy to treat them as prey or sitting ducks, and some people take shots of the homeless because they think they look arty. My personal guideline is that if it is demeaning to the subject in any way, I won’t shoot. This kid has dignity and looks totally self-possessed and I am happy with the resulting image.

Above: Resting by Anne Darling

Another reason why I like it is because it comes under the category of candid street photography as it is not a posed shot. Posed shots, in my opinion, are not true street photography. If you meet a stranger and ask if you can take their picture they may then pose for you. But cheesy grins aimed in your direction are not interesting. It’s what we do when our friends want to take a photo and so many people assume the street photographer wants a similar shot.

Many of my favourite candid street photography shots were made while I was in China and the Chinese people usually love having their photo taken. Often they will group together in front of the camera with one or more hands waving the inevitable victory ‘V’ sign in the air – it’s so boring! But they like to do it so to avoid offending anyone I found it was best to take the shot that they wanted first and after 5 minutes or so they began to forget that there was a camera in front of them, and more candid shots become possible. Street photography is about capturing bits of life itself so always go for the candid shot in preference to the posed.

"If you wait, people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view."" Steve McCurry

I made use of the circles in my composition and adopted a suitable angle to line them up as I wanted them.  I also cropped the image slightly in Photoshop as I felt it improved the composition. Simple always seems to be sweeter when it comes to the underlying design of an image.

The focal length was 28 mm which is a good setting when you are walking around and helps you to be ready for shots like this. If your camera has a crop factor of 1.6 the result is around 45 mm which is not far off the 50 mm prime lens that many street photographers recommend. I would have liked a faster shutter speed though (it’s 1/60th second here) which would have allowed me to open up the aperture a bit more. But the photo was a grab shot in full daylight and so the camera settings were not ideal.


With candid street photography, try not to rely on cropping – it’s better to get the composition right in-camera as you will find that being decisive while shooting will lead to a greater number of good images.

Camera Data

Shutter Speed   1/60s

F-Number          f/14

ISO                      200

Focal Length      28 mm

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