Pic of the Month: April ’10

Genuine smile

Genuine Smile - Canon 40D, 135mm, f/5.6, 1/80 sec, ISO 1600, Flash fired

Candid photography is taking informal portraits–photographing a subject without them knowing or having the opportunity to prepare or pose. Power and added emotional impact comes when those candid shots have the subject looking at the camera, expressing inward joy with a natural smile. Perhaps taking these kind of pictures comes naturally for you, but for me, it is definitely something I have to work at. The question for me has been “How do you get your subject to smile at the camera?”

I asked this to a professional photographer earlier this week at the ATI Regional Conference in Big Sandy, Texas. I was in charge of compiling a slideshow of various programs from the week, and asked Sara to take a few shots of the COMMIT program. That was Thursday evening. The next day, at noon, she had the pictures ready. And what incredible shots they were! How did she do it? Her answer was very simple: your subject will give you the same smile you give them.

So I decided to try it. I was back stage when I noticed this little girl with her father waiting for their part in the next event. I think the active little one was slightly little upset and squirming around a little because she wanted down. But when she turned to look at me, I immediately gave her a great big smile. She brightened up and smiled back at me momentarily, just enough for me to raise the camera and take the picture. Without a word, I had communicated what kind of expression I wanted her to have in the candid portrait. Of course, this works differently with people of different ages and personalities, but the universal language of a genuine smile can work wonders in candid photography.


  1. Robert Staddon May 1, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    That’s Addallee Bates!! Nice shot, James! I love the smile. 🙂

  2. Eden May 2, 2010 at 5:28 am #

    Oh the smile is adorable! Great shot!

  3. Photography student NC May 2, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    How PRECIOUS!!
    “What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. They are but trifles, to be sure, but, scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.” You never know what a genuine smile, resulting from a heart full of joy, can do in the lives of those who see it.
    Thanks for the great ‘candid shot’ technique. I usually take a lot of those, so this was VERY helpful!

  4. Michael May 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    James, that’s a great picture

  5. Crystal May 3, 2010 at 8:31 am #

    That is such a sweet picture.
    My mom would sometimes use the phrase “stinky feet” to people to smile for pictures.

  6. Jonathan May 5, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    What a great caption! That is so true; others will reflect what you feel. Thanks for sharing that.

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