5 Candid Photography Tips For Shooting From The Hip

April 1, 2010 · 58 comments

in Inspiration,Tips & Tricks

Before you decide to raise your camera to take a candid shot, try something a bit different. Hold your camera just above your hips, tilt your lens at your subject and then shoot.

This is a much subtle way to capture candid shots, without people spotting your chunky lens.

This technique can be a bit of a hit and miss (out of focus photos or subject’s not in the frame). However, with some practice, you’d get pretty good at it and produce some great looking shots.

Tips on getting a good shot:

1) Use a fast lens.

A prime lens is ideal as it’s less noticeable and more lightweight to carry. I like using a 50mm prime lens.

2) Get close to your subject.

The more expression or detail you see, the more your subject will be able to tell a story.

3) Set to an AutoFocus

AF can track your moving subject and focus accordingly (eg. the Al Servo setting on a Canon). That way your camera can ‘lock’ onto the subject and adjust the focus accordingly, producing a clearer image.

4) Set smaller aperture

A smaller aperture means more chance that your subject will be focused. Set it between f4.8 – 8. Again, the smaller the aperture, the more your subject will be in focus. Remember, smaller aperture = larger f-stop number.

5) Start walking and shooting.

If you feel like a challenge,  keep walking and don’t stop when you’re shooting your subject. You might take 50 shots and only end up with one photo that shows up in focus and in frame, but trust me, that photo will be brilliant.

Shooting from the hip also provides an unconventional angle where it gives the photo an interesting perspective. You don’t just have to shoot people – it can be landmarks, vehicles, scenery… Well, pretty much anything!

Photo by Bruce Gilden (noted street photographer to shoot from the hip)


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Article by

1 part ad agency. 2 parts freelancer. An avid urban photographer, traveler, and streetwear lover. Geeky curator of all things awesome. Sustains on Vegemite, meat pies and lamingtons. Follow me on Twitter or Flickr.

Yi has written 69 awesome articles for us at Photoble

  • priti

    nice ones 🙂

  • priti

    nice ones 🙂

  • http://yserver.blogspot.com/ Rapideo

    Very easy tips for Shooting a Photograph, Thanks 4 Sharing

  • http://yserver.blogspot.com Rapideo

    Very easy tips for Shooting a Photograph, Thanks 4 Sharing

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiiee

    Thanks for your comments, we would love to see what you come up with so post up a link when you get the chance.

    Rapideo, great post on the different types of memory cards. We’re actually doing a review on the Eye-Fi WiFi SD card next week and would be keen to get your feedback too.

    – Yi

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiiee

    Thanks for your comments, we would love to see what you come up with so post up a link when you get the chance.

    Rapideo, great post on the different types of memory cards. We’re actually doing a review on the Eye-Fi WiFi SD card next week and would be keen to get your feedback too.

    – Yi

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  • http://chusnulkhairuddin.blogspot.com/ cho

    When do a candid, is it okay to use built in flash just for fill in? Or would it be better to keep it off? thanks in advance. 🙂

  • http://chusnulkhairuddin.blogspot.com/ cho

    When do a candid, is it okay to use built in flash just for fill in? Or would it be better to keep it off? thanks in advance. 🙂

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiiee

    Hi Cho,

    Excellent question. When you’re shooting sneaky candid shots, it’s probably best to have the flash off just so you don’t attract attention to yourself or throw your subject off. Nevertheless, Bruce Gilden tends to have the flash on and gets very close to the subject. HE produces some great shots of startled expressions.

    Hope that helps and keep up the work on the great photos!

    – Yi

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiiee

    Hi Cho,

    Excellent question. When you’re shooting sneaky candid shots, it’s probably best to have the flash off just so you don’t attract attention to yourself or throw your subject off. Nevertheless, Bruce Gilden tends to have the flash on and gets very close to the subject. HE produces some great shots of startled expressions.

    Hope that helps and keep up the work on the great photos!

    – Yi

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  • Photojournalist

    Good tips, but I don’t agree with #4.

    A smaller aperture may force you to use a slower shutter speed, and if your subject is moving around, you may get motion blur by your subject. Also, you lose a lot of Depth of Field with lower shutter speeds. DoF is important when trying to layer photos, or separate your subject from the background or from other details in your composition. Most good lenses will still be sharp at a wide open aperture.

  • Photojournalist

    Good tips, but I don’t agree with #4.

    A smaller aperture may force you to use a slower shutter speed, and if your subject is moving around, you may get motion blur by your subject. Also, you lose a lot of Depth of Field with lower shutter speeds. DoF is important when trying to layer photos, or separate your subject from the background or from other details in your composition. Most good lenses will still be sharp at a wide open aperture.

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiiee

    Hi Photojournalist,

    Thanks for your comment there. I agree with you that a larger aperture produces better portrait photos. Using f1.8 is great, but there are more chances of it being a miss, especially if you’re not use to shooting from the hip. I know when I first started, I kept focusing on the wrong thing.

    I tend to get up close to my subject and crop it tightly, so DoF isn’t a big concern for me. Sometimes I find the background to be quite interesting too.

    I’m usually shooting candid shots during the day and have it set f4.5-5.6. To ensure a faster shutter speed, I’d adjust the ISO, usually set between 200-400.

    Would love to see some examples of your work too.

    -Yi

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiiee

    Hi Photojournalist,

    Thanks for your comment there. I agree with you that a larger aperture produces better portrait photos. Using f1.8 is great, but there are more chances of it being a miss, especially if you’re not use to shooting from the hip. I know when I first started, I kept focusing on the wrong thing.

    I tend to get up close to my subject and crop it tightly, so DoF isn’t a big concern for me. Sometimes I find the background to be quite interesting too.

    I’m usually shooting candid shots during the day and have it set f4.5-5.6. To ensure a faster shutter speed, I’d adjust the ISO, usually set between 200-400.

    Would love to see some examples of your work too.

    -Yi

  • Anonymous

    @Yiiee Good quick tips for Candid shooters

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Thanks Dilip! Hope to see some more candid shots from you!

  • dilipbhoye

    @Yiiee Good quick tips for Candid shooters

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiie

    Thanks Dilip! Hope to see some more candid shots from you!

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  • http://www.rookiephoto.com Rookie Photo

    Great article. I’m glad I read the whole thing. I’d like to start shooting street so now I have an excuse to pick up a prime specifically to experiment using your tips. Results will be posted on http://www.RookiePhoto.com along with the learning experience as I go from Rookie to Pro. My sets can also be found on Flickr http://bit.ly/DPSSets

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  • RookiePhoto

    Great article. I'm glad I read the whole thing. I'd like to start shooting street so now I have an excuse to pick up a prime specifically to experiment using your tips. Results will be posted on http://www.RookiePhoto.com along with the learning experience as I go from Rookie to Pro. My sets can also be found on Flickr http://bit.ly/DPSSets

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Great stuff Kyle, I’ve been browsing through your Flickr account and you have some great photos. Really liked the Mental Hospital set.

    I think a 50mm f1.8 prime lens is probably the best thing you could get, and it’s cheap too! A new one only costs below $150. Out of all the lenses I have, I probably use the 50mm one 80% of the time.

    Look forward to your photos!

    Cheers
    Yi

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiie

    Great stuff Kyle, I've been browsing through your Flickr account and you have some great photos. Really liked the Mental Hospital set.

    I think a 50mm f1.8 prime lens is probably the best thing you could get, and it's cheap too! A new one only costs below $150. Out of all the lenses I have, I probably use the 50mm one 80% of the time.

    Look forward to your photos!

    Cheers
    Yi

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  • Anonymous

    Never thought of shooting from the hip before. I love candid photography, but it does lead to some awkward situations, especially for those close up shots. I’m always reluctant to set auto focus, but next time I set out for some candids I’ll give this a shot!

  • mikem91

    Never thought of shooting from the hip before. I love candid photography, but it does lead to some awkward situations, especially for those close up shots. I'm always reluctant to set auto focus, but next time I set out for some candids I'll give this a shot!

  • Groandap

    I think they mean tips from the hip (people)…not from your actual hip

  • Groandap

    I think they mean tips from the hip (people)…not from your actual hip

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Just to clear this up, shooting from the hip means placing your camera around your hip area, or anywhere below your chest area where it’s more discrete and doesn’t look like you’re taking a photo (unlike holding the camera up to eye-level).

    Hope this makes sense!

    Cheers

    Yi

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiie

    Just to clear this up, shooting from the hip means placing your camera around your hip area, or anywhere below your chest area where it's more discrete and doesn't look like you're taking a photo (unlike holding the camera up to eye-level).

    Hope this makes sense!

    Cheers

    Yi

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  • Guest

    Well, you’d be wrong about that. The article clearly specifies that he means shooting a photograph at hip (literally) level.

  • Guest

    Well, you’d be wrong about that. The article clearly specifies that he means shooting a photograph at hip (literally) level.

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  • http://www.brettwidmann.com Brett Widmann

    These are beautiful photographs. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.brettwidmann.com Brett Widmann

    These are beautiful photographs. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.brettwidmann.com Brett Widmann

    This is a cool technique! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.brettwidmann.com Brett Widmann

    This is a cool technique! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.davebrownphotography.com Denver Photographers

    I think it’s really important to focus on a subject here… You can do that by having a much smaller aperture.

  • http://www.davebrownphotography.com Denver Photographers

    I think it’s really important to focus on a subject here… You can do that by having a much smaller aperture.

  • Scott

    If you have to be a sneak about it, you’re doing something improper.

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    It’s not about being sneaky, but more about having a fresh perspective to shooting people and catching candid moments. Sometimes you can do this by pointing your camera lens directly at the person. But usually that would create a more posed , or the deer in the headlights look.

    Please don’t get this technique confused with being a peeping Tom.

  • anon

    If the people do not want to photographed which in most situations that is the case. I live in Maine where people do not like being photograph. It gets to the point where people yell and get in your face. So to me hip shooting is discrete yes, but invading peoples privacy. I would not want someone to become famous over a shot that I am in and not even know about it. Because then the picture would be destroyed for invading privacy. I don’t want to be a picture all over the world with out me knowing. Hip shooting looks unprofessional unless it is done right, with the people knowing.

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    I agree with you to a point that not all photos shot from the hip will look great. However, I think too many people are concerned over this privacy issue. Yes, there are a lot of gray areas when it comes to photographing in the public. However, in a lot of cases, there is nothing illegal about shooting a picture with an anonymous person in it. A photographer can take a photo of you without you knowing and have your face pasted on the front page of a national newspaper and that’s legal.

    Nevertheless, this is where personal ethics come in. Personally, if I wanted to point my lens at someone and have a tight cropped shot of them, I would either let them know either before or after I’ve taken the photo. I still feel candid shots are more powerful than staged ones. In my years as a photographer, I haven’t had any problems with taking candid photos of strangers — and this extends to Australia, Asia, America and Europe. I think photographers should be able to make a judgement about when to photograph. Of course, I will never intrude a private or intimate moment with my lens. Sometimes, all it takes is just a simple smile and going up to the person afterwards to show him/her the photo.

    Again, there are lots of gray areas about this subject and I think it’s unfair to say that shooting from the hip is ‘invading people’s privacy’. DPS compiled a few good links to various photographer rights, think it might be worthwhile for every photographer to check out:
    http://digital-photography-school.com/forum/general-chit-chat/803-list-photographers-rights.html

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  • http://www.goradde.com Goradde

    i just don’t look when i click wherever i point the camera at.

  • Chenlinsar@yahoo.com

    thanks for your sharing…this articel is very helpful for me

  • Sammcox

    When shooting from the hip, try using a cable release so that you can aim with one hand and fire with the other. And, try shooting in burst mode to increase your chances of getting a good shot.

  • http://pinkfogphotography.com/ Denver Photographer

    Great pics. Love the back and whites. Vintage feel.

  • Sendil Kumar J

    Can anyone tell me is Canon 80D will be good for candid and street photography ?

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