Candid vs Posed Photography; is one better?

Devils Teeth, Senja, Norway
Arthur Gebuys / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

We all have a preference for a certain type of photography. Some like the black and white sultry style, some like capturing every colour Mother Nature can produce; some enjoy capturing the moment, others like to stage it. I want to see what the pros and cons are for candid vs posed photography, and hopefully get some hints and tips along the way.

Positively Posed

Although having your photo taken during the 1800s was quicker than sitting for an oil painting, photography started out as a staged medium. It was too risky to try and capture a moment, instead you had to create it. Due to the long exposure times, portraits were often very modest; plain backgrounds, simple poses, and straight faces, as any motion would cause blur (Memento Mori Photography took posed portraits a step further with the art of death photography).

Glasshouse Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Nowadays, with exposure times almost instantaneous, it isn’t necessary to pose for a portrait from a technical point of view, so why is it still such a huge part of stock photography? We are hearing again and again how much customers are wanting natural and authentic imagery. Does posed photography mean inauthenticity?

The main reason for posed photography is control. As a photographer, you are able to control all the elements during a shoot if you have models who are posing for you, or a location you can have the run off. You can direct the movements and emotions of your model, as well as controlling the technical aspects of the shot. That being said, if you aren’t a social creature, directing a model can prove difficult, and as the old adage goes, “Never work with animals or children”!

Although having models and locations can be more work, you also potentially have the chance to reach more customers. If you have released models and property, you can sell your images for commercial purposes.

Having a set-up could also give you more room to be artistic. If you have a list of images that you want to shoot, you can allow time to be more creative. You can get different angles, and experiment with different focus points, thus giving your customers more choice too.

All that being said, we should at least see what candid photography has to say on the matter!

Conveniently Candid

Looking back through previous Stock Photo Requests and Trends blogs, the words natural, authentic, and realistic are repeated many times. Our 2017 Images Trends report says that “To buy into a message, we must truly believe what we are seeing.” Candid photography can deliver just that.

Simply put, candid photography is taking a photo without anyone noticing. You are able to catch someone or something in a natural state, which adds life to your images.

Capturing a candid moment requires the photographer being constantly ‘on’; observing and noticing everything happening around them, which can sometimes be harder work than setting up a posed shoot. It also requires that the photographer blends into the background, so their subject forgets that they’re there (without being sneaky and voyeuristic!)

Candid photography is seen as the mother of photojournalism. The photographer is an impartial observer, documenting a scene as a fly on the wall. The majority of the most iconic photos ever taken have been candid shots, but does that mean that stock photography should follow suit?

With the rise of smart phones with high spec cameras, producing candid photos is easier than ever. If you are one of the almost two billion people in the world who has a smart phone, no one is going to think twice if you’re out snapping, compared to if you’re out and about with an ostentatious telephoto lens.

David Harding / Alamy Stock Photo

So, which one’s better?

In the end, neither. They both have their own positives and negatives, and ultimately it will be down to you the photographer to determine which style suits you. Personally, as someone who is all about the details, shooting candidly doesn’t fit my style, but that won’t be the same for everyone out there (but if you’re like me, Digital Photography School have some great tips for getting the best candid shots).

So, what style do you prefer to shoot? Do you have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments.

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