Capturing Candid Photos

When I first started photography, the thing that I struggled with most was how to pose my clients. Throughout my entire session with a client, it was actually almost awkward. Lots of silence. Lots of, "What now?" running through my head. I was left with lots of stiff, unnatural looking poses that kept me wondering what the heck I as doing wrong. It showed in the photos I delivered...and it created a lot of discouragement because all the other photographers I followed had these lovely, candid, photos posted all over their social media. I had to know their secret, but most times I wasn't successful in doing so.

Then one day it occurred to me. Look up the word "posing" and you will find that it is defined as artificial positioning. Pretend behavior. Fake. Phony. BINGO! That was the problem! I realized that rather than POSING my clients, I should be PROMPTING them or asking them to ACT out certain scenarios. This would allow myself to capture more natural, candid shots. And guess what? It did!

Today I'm going to share some of my secrets of what I ask my clients to do during every. single. session. I understand that every photographer does things differently, but this is what has worked best for me! And if you're struggling with the same thing, then hopefully this will help you, too.

Fist thing first - if you have once found yourself googling tips and suggestions for candid photos but then arrived for your session and all your ideas just went out the window, stop right now. Get out a piece of paper. Write down your ideas. Put the paper in your camera bag. BRING IT WITH YOU. Don't be afraid to whip out that paper if you find yourself drawing a blank! Your client has hired you because they trust you. Do you really think they're going to say, "Oh my god, she has a list of ideas! We need to leave"? If you answered yes, I'm virtually kicking your shins right now ;)

Sike! (Do people say that anymore?)

If you're photographing a couple, you have an advantage. Get them interacting! One thing I like to do is to ask them to hold hands. Instruct the girl to take 2 steps in front of her guy. Ask her to "lead" him from one spot to another. Explain to them that they don't have to look at you! She can look back at him and smile, they can look out into the wilderness together, etc. Now have them repeat the process, but this time instead of walking ask them to run! This allows you to capture lots of movement and is bound to get them laughing. 


Tip: For movement shots, put your camera on AI Servo. This setting will "track" your moving subject the entire time it moves. This works best when Back Button Focusing is activated!

Some other prompts I give my couples are to ask them to practice their first dance (if they're getting married) or if they're already married, ask them to reenact their first dance. Ask him to spin her around! Then pull her in close for a kiss at the end.


Tip: Invest in a bluetooth speaker. I currently use a Bose and it has worked wonders. Simply link it to your mobile device and stream music throughout the duration of your session. Ask your clients first what kind of music they're into! This really helps loosen up clients and is super helpful when you ask them to dance.

For laughter shots, consider asking the following questions:

  • What attracted you most to him/her?

  • Whisper your favorite breakfast food in his/her ear in a sexy voice

  • Whisper something in his/her ear in a British accent

  • Tickle fight!

  • Tell me about a super embarrassing moment you both experienced

  • What did you think about him/her the first time you met?

  • Whisper something in their ear...don't tell me what it is!


For more intimate shots, consider these prompts:

  • Tuck her hair behind her ear and look deep into her eyes (Sometimes this gets them laughing, so be ready!)

  • Wrap up in each others arms like it's really cold outside

  • Kiss everywhere! (Cheek, forehead, hand, shoulder, lips)

  • Almost kiss, but don't let your lips touch. Let them know when to go for it! (This works best for close up shots)

  • Eskimo kiss

  • Tell him/her about a time in your life they made you really proud

  • Tell me about one time he/she did something really nice/romantic/special that made you really happy

  • Dip and kiss her


Remember - change your composition for your shots up. This can create the illusion of an entire different photo! For example: Get in close for a shot. Ask them to hold it right there! Then change your position. Back up, move to the side, move the camera horizontally or vertically. Your arms and legs were made for moving, weren't they? 

For families, consider these prompts:

  • Ask the kids of the group to tell mommy how pretty she looks

  • Ask the parents to tickle the kiddos

  • Ask the group who the best dancer of the family is

  • Ask the kids to tell their parents what they want for Christmas

  • For families with only one child, ask mom or dad to dance with their son/daughter (This typically works best for younger children, lol)

  • Dog pile!!!

  • Hold hands and run together

  • Ask the kids what mom/dad does that makes them really happy

  • Ask the kids to tell you something that mom/dad says a lot

  • Ask the son/daughter to share a funny joke with mom/dad

  • Eskimo kisses


For seniors/one person by themselves:

  • Fake laugh. I need to hear it, though! None of that quiet "tee-hee-hee" stuff. They usually end up laughing at themselves because they feel ridiculous

  • Skip away from you, now spin around and smile!

  • Imagine your eyes are laser beams - now look right at the camera! (This is great for more serious face shots)

  • Inhale deep through your nose, exhale through your mouth (This captures serious shots as well)

  • Close your eyes. When I count to 3, open them! (Serious shots, again)

  • Imagine theres a balance beam in front of you. Put your arms out to your sides and walk on it!

  • Twist from side to side (Great for capturing movements of a flowy dress)

  • Brush your fingers through your hair

  • Ask them to think of a cute boy at their school (this usually gets them all giggly)

  • Tell me something really embarrassing that happened to you

  • Give me your best America's Next Top Model strut (sometimes they nail it and other times they crack up at themselves so be ready!)

  • Smell your shoulder and smile

  • Cross your wrists and place your arms on top your head. Now sniff your armpit

  • Shake your booty!

  • Gather all your hair up as if you're putting it into a pony tail

  • Put one hand in your pocket/on your waist/etc and use your other hand to scratch the back of your head

  • Take your hat off. Now put it back on!

  • Play with your necklace

  • Twirl a strand of hair with one finger


Again, every photographer does things differently! These are simply just some ideas that have worked well for me. I encourage you to try some of them! And if they work for you, let me know! I'd love to hear/see what you come up with!







Stock photo by Natalie Franke of