Candid or Posed?

When shooting in the field, I’m always on the look out to photograph interesting locals dressed in distinctive and traditional clothing.  Here in India, at the Amber Palace just outside of Jaipur, it was no different.

Rajasthan, an area of India renown for its wide range of  colors, even has nicknames for a number of cities based on the colors to be found there.  For example, there’s the Pink City (Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan) and the Blue City (Jodhpur).  This region is also known for having beautiful women dressed in vibrant and bangled “sharees.”

Jaipur, India - Girl in Blue at Amber Palace by Ralph Velasco 1

In this image she's an anonymous but striking figure.




Having taken an elephant ride up the long hill that leads to the Amber Palace, in the city of Amber (this is not a reference to color), there were a number of women dressed in blue who were sweeping the vast palace grounds.  This particular woman was diligently doing her job up against the backdrop of the public audience space known as Diwan-I-Aam, so I immediately took notice and went to work trying to capture the scene.






Jaipur, India - Girl in Blue Peeking Out Behind Veil by Ralph Velasco 2

Busted, she's on to me.



The idea was to photograph her as an otherwise faceless and anonymous figure, hidden behind the veil of her sharee.  As you can imagine, she was constantly moving as she brushed the ground around her with a “zarhu” (a type of broom that’s locally hand-constructed of thin strips of bamboo) so catching her in an interesting position was going to require a number of shots.  Eventually I caught her peeking out of one side of her veil, and this made for a rather unique expression.




Jaipur, India - Girl in Blue Posing at Amber Palace by Ralph Velasco 3

She's more than happy to give me a quick pose.



Even though I always turn off all the sounds on my camera in order to be as discreet as possible, she eventually caught on to the fact that I was interested in her as a subject, and so just for a moment – as if her boss might have been looking – she stood up, gave me a brief smile, and kindly let me make a few more images before she continued with her tasks.







The point of all of this is to be sure you take advantage of the candid moments that present themselves, then go for the more posed shots.  It’s difficult to go the other way, from having a subject pose for you to then getting the candid shots.  Although there are a number of opinions on this, my feeling is that a good way to do this is to be sure you make use of a telephoto lens to get in on the subject without being noticed, which would in all likelihood completely change the photo opportunity.  You can certainly use the zoom feature of your point-and-shoot camera, as well, but always remember to stay within the optical, not digital, range of the camera’s capability.

What’s your preference, a candid shot of a person involved in EDL (Everyday Life), or a more posed and planned portrait?  This doesn’t have to be an “either/or” situation, and it’s my recommendation that you be on the lookout for both opportunities.

(Please Share this post with your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, on LinkedIn and any other social media sites.  Simply use the social media sharing buttons below.)



  1. I agree with your premise. I prefer to get both candid and posed shots when possible. I was able to turn off the sound on my Dimage camera, but I can’t find the menu to do so on my Canon Rebel T1i. I wish I could!

  2. Kathleen says:

    I try for both and even if they’re candid images I let the subject know I’ve made the photo. It was hard at first as I thought people would be annoyed if I photographed them but most are delighted, especially the people of Asia.

  3. Tony Pond says:

    A provocative dichotomy — candid or posed. Preference? Depends on your style of shooting. And your style of travel. But perhaps there’s a third choice.

    And that’s the closeup candid. It’s the more intimate style — up close, engaging, interacting with the person both before and after the shot, which happens to fulfill the goal of many travelers. I also find it more respectful to the person. Once at ease, the person will usually relax from the rigid pose and offer a glimpse of themselves. Think Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl and see her soul in those intense eyes. The distant shot, sniper style, always feels a bit sneaky, almost voyeuristic. Of course, these candid moments help capture the place. But in many countries, India for example, you can get the candids while still presenting yourself openly. The locals seems to have a passive acceptance to the lens.

    I find I’m shooting more often at the wider range of my lens, working in close, or perhaps using the longer end for those real tight portraits that suit my photographic and travel goals. Both shooter and subject enjoy the moment.

  4. Interesting story.. I love trying to capture candids but like you did here I try to work the shot. I love the second image you captured the depth of the building and her wonderful blue clothes just pop out. If you have a moment and wouldn’t mind checking out a fellow photographer here is a blog I did on shooting candids


  1. […] In this image Rina chose to photograph her subject as he was sleeping, or at least resting and unaware of her presence.  This is a technique that works well, especially if the photographer is not completely comfortable making these types of images.  I often suggest going for the candid images of people first, as she did in this case, then go for the posed shots, if necessary (see blog post on this topic). […]

Speak Your Mind


International Cultural Tours, Photo Events, Photo Walks, Photo Tours, Public Speaking, Seminars & Training, Cultural Events, Photography App, Walking Tours, Photography Course, Photo Tips, Photography Classes, Corporate Events, Photo Classes, Photo Boot Camp, Corona del Mar, Orange County CA

Ralph Velasco is a professional photographer and instructor who has traveled extensively and taken photographs in over 40 countries. Ralph Velasco Cultural Tours offers unique cultural touring opportunities that combine compelling locations with breathtaking views, relevant local history, scheduled activities and time to explore on your own. His events are available in dazzling international locations around the globe and his services include public speaking, corporate cultural tours and events, corporate photo walks, photo walking tours, photography eBooks, photography classes and group training seminars. His photo walking tours provide the opportunity for hands-on photography experience with a professional instructor to develop the skills necessary to capture a variety of photo subjects, settings and lighting. Ralph gives private photography lessons and his photography boot camp includes a seminar and training on camera basics, elements of composition, and a personal review of your own photography. United States and international locations; Corona del Mar & Orange County CA.

Ralph Velasco Cultural Tours | Corporate Photo Tours, International Cultural Tours, Photo Events, Public Speaking, Corporate Events, Photo Walks, Seminars & Training, Photography Boot Camp, Cultural Events, Photography Apps, Walking Tours, Photo E-books, Photography Courses, Photo Tips, Photography Classes, Photo Boot Camp, Photo Classes, United States and International Locations, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Aliso Viejo, Huntington Beach, Laguna Woods, Fountain Valley, Laguna Hills, Dana Point, Coto de Caza, Santa Ana, Tustin, Laguna Niguel, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Tustin Foothills, Orange County CA, California | 422½ Carnation Avenue, Corona del Mar CA 92625 | (949) 698-2859 or Toll-Free (888) 974-6869