‘Ask the Photographer’ is a regular series that I host on my blog.  If you have a question you’d like answered, feel free to send me an email at sara.mcconnell {at} rogers.com.  I look forward to hearing from you!


This is a question I’m asked all the time: “which is better, a posed or a candid photograph?”

Most clients that contact me are looking for a combination of portrait and candid photographs.  Portrait photographs are planned and take some set-up before the photograph is actually taken.  In contrast candid photographs are un-posed and unplanned; they’re spontaneous and capture a fleeting moment.

There is even some argument about what constitutes a portrait photograph and what constitutes a candid photograph and the focus for much of the industry right now is on the virtues of the natural, candid shot in contrast to traditional portraits.  I feel that it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges as the skill sets involved in each ‘style’ of photograph are very different; it takes a great deal of talent and artistry for candid photography as it does skill to capture a group of people, all at their best, in the same photograph.

What matters most to me is what you want to take away from your session.  I feel that your family and their true personalities can be captured in both portrait (posed) and candid photographs and that’s why I think it’s important to experiment with both.  Clients are often surprised that their favourite photograph from a session is a posed photo (and vice versa).

During my sessions the candid moments often come in between the posed photographs (which would lead some to argue they aren’t really candid photos but for the sake of explanation let’s say they are!).  For example, I recently photographed a family on the dirt road behind their farm:

After taking photos of mom and dad together I asked the kids to run towards me.  Some would argue the shot was ‘posed’ in that I directed the siblings but there’s no way I could choreograph the joy in their faces or the look that the little girl is giving her big brother!

Here’s another posed shot from a session I had this summer

After I finished taking her photos I stepped away while mom helped her down from the branch but this little monkey had other ideas!  While mom was trying to convince her to come down I was able to take several photos of mom looking down at her daughter and in amongst those shots was this one:

Earlier this summer I posed this family of three on a bench outside the barn on their property:

Their lovely dog, who was so eager to be a part of the session, hopped up on the bench and this sweet picture of a little boy and his dog was the result:

On a rainy afternoon this summer I photographed this beautiful family of three on a bridge near their favourite inn:

It’s hard to be 15 months old and stay still for so long and in between shots the youngest family member took off and I took this candid snap of him making a getaway!

Another day, another dirt road…but this time with a beautiful pregnant belly!  While I was setting up (climbing down off my stool) for shots of this couple facing each other:

I looked up and saw this!

I enjoy both types of photography, candid and posed, and I find that my clients appreciate the feelings that are evoked by the different types of images.  At the end of the day what’s most important to me is not how the photo is composed or how it happens but that it’s loved and cherished by the people that are in it!

What do you prefer: portrait or candid photographs?