Candid Portraits
NORMALLY You should ask before you take a photo of someone on the street – normally. Because what you are actually doing by asking is that you take away the authenticity that might have fascinated you in the first place. Your subject is posing and that is often rather boring. The fascinating thing about candid portraits is the moment that you get if the person is not aware that you are making a photo, especially if you can create eye contact.

Not that easy and in many countries not even legal, nevertheless these photos are popular. Much has been written about the legal aspects of street photography so I will not bore you with that – you need to decide for yourself if it’s worth the risk. As a matter of fact, lots of photographers (including me) like candid portraits more than studio shots and today I will show you some of my photos from this genre.


Lots of photographers will say that you should use short focal lengths to be “part of the scene” so you should use 35mm oder 50mm lenses. Longer focal lengths create some kind of “Paparazzi look” While I tend to agree to that I think it’s also okay to keep some respectful distance to your subject and avoid the “in your face” shots, it’s just not everybodys cup of tea. The lenses I primarily use are the Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4, the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 or even the M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8. These lenses are rather small considering these are fast lenses (especially the 45mm lens) so they are not recognized easily. Especially in combination with the Olympus PEN E-P5 people don’t think you are a “serious photographer” so it’s not as intimidating as a big DSLR with some even bigger zoom lens. The 75mm lens on my Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a little bigger but still small compared to DSLRs.


In most cases I have the camera at waist level, due to the articulated screen it’s still possible to compose the shot that way. A camera in front of your face catches more attention then a camera in front of your stomach. I often pre-focus on a person and might take a few shots while hoping for eye contact to catch the right moment. Quite often that doesn’t happen and I dump the photos because without the eye contact the photo is boring.

Due to the fast autofocus of my cameras and the fast shutter speeds you get using lenses with a large maximum aperture, I sometimes also make photos while walking but that is not best practice for sure. The photo composition is often bad and I might miss the focus. Nevertheless, sometimes it works out and I get a nice photo.


Here are some examples of candid portraits from all over the world in reverse chronological order – enjoy!


 Stockholm Frankfurt


Chiang Mai






Somewhere in Northern Germany 🙂



… and in the Frankfurt Zoo ;):

These are my candid portraits of the last two years. Maybe you liked the photos and now you are motivated to try it yourself if not already done. Feel free to share your shots in the comment section below!


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Pierre Aden

I'm a photographer located in Frankfurt, Germany. When I am not travelling / taking pictures I like to play Table Tennis / Squash or watch TV Series. I work in a German bank in the Anti-Money-Laundering department.

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