Travel portraits – candid or posed?

Different school of thoughts on travel photography and portraits exists. Some feel that a portrait or street scene must be captured candidly and offer natural expressions. Others prefer a more arty approach posing people in the scene, perhaps with controlled lighting, thereby directing and sculpturing the scene. Personally I will happily capture both styles. A good candid portrait or scene can offer a glimpse into the world with a genuineness that a posed image can lack. A posed image with controlled lighting can result in stunning dramatic emotional portraits with a strong artistic expression. It can also be the only way to get a certain style image. Most of my images from Cambodia featuring monks at Angkor are posed and the image could never have been shot candidly. In this example, we placed our friend Purt in a beautiful doorway right in a beam of light. The pose was his own invention. This particular image could never be captured in a candid way. While it is perhaps not a candid glimpse into the everyday life of a monk at Angkor, it is a great expression of the stunning look of a monk at Angkor.


Captured with my guide Nathan Horton and our monk friend and model Purt at Angkor in Cambodia. Purt was a good model, but his fun and cheeky nature meant he loved hamming it up for the camera. He is almost overdoing it here, so I darkened and desaturated the image greatly to change the mood of his beautiful but slightly contrived pose. It is a very posed shot, one that I quite like. What is your opinion on posing a model and this image?

23 Comments on “Travel portraits – candid or posed?”

  1. I think both candid and posed shots have their place in any photography, not just travel. It’s all about the story you want to tell, and what you need to tell it with.

    After having (just!) seen prints of those other photos, this one just looks lacking on screen. I get the feeling you’re probably thinking along the lines of doing more printing, right?

    Man, wouldn’t this series of prints look bloody good galleried Joey L style?

    (That swap offer still open btw. Just say the word. Once in a lifetime!)

    1. A series of prints mounted and galleried Joey L style….they would look so stunning, I so wish to do that!

      This is processed for print, all my images are usually and I made this very dark. Like the others, I am positive the print of this is awesome 🙂 And hey, that screen of yours, must be from another universe if you’re seeing that much of a difference 🙂

      …and swap, hmmmm, not so much 🙂

      1. It might just happen one day. Your name, and importantly, pictures, up in swanky lights. How rad would that be!

        Nothing wrong with my screen (freshly calibrated after yesterday, if you must know), it’s just too damn small man 😉

        1. Totally rad it would be! Prints are always so much better, the proper way to view and judge an image, not a tiny screen image I agree. No screen can show just how awesome my work is hehe 😉

  2. Hi Flemming
    Beautiful image and a great article. I believe there is a place for both posed and candid and each needs to be assessed on its own merits and pro/cons for the situation.

    Love the subtle detail including soft lighting on the feet.


  3. Gorgeous image Flemming.

    Interesting thread. I agree with the consensus. Both styles result in great images. Both have their place.

    Btw I’m all booked for Namibia later this year.


    1. Thank you Brent. Glad to hear you have Namibia all booked and planned, you will have an amazing trip and capture outstanding images I am sure. I’ll be happy to email you some tips for photographing at Namib Naukluft, wish I could go.

  4. Hi Flemming

    Discovered your blog through Christian Flecther’s Blog and I know Charlene…… hi Charlene.
    Candid and posed for me….. depending on the story.
    Beautiful work here….. you are a definitely story teller.

    I’ll be back lol

    1. Hi Hazel, welcome 🙂 Glad you like my work, I still feel I have so much to learn as a visual story teller as I am still too much in single shot mode and need to shoot in sequence, capture the whole story. I shall look forward to see you back here.

  5. Hey Flemming, just love this shot!!
    I also think both shooting formats work, if the shot presents itself, then take it.
    I probably take more candid myself, but only because I’m uncomfortable sticking my camera in someones face 😀 (another challenge to tackle)

    Love your new work and change in direction…must be in the water, I’m over landscapes as well, bring on the African wildlife I say…thats my new calling in life!!


    PS We never did catch up, take care buddy!

    1. Hi Sam, thanks very much. It is quite a threshold to cross to ask people if they will pose for me and then stick a big DSLR right in their face.

      Must be the water 🙂 We’ll catch up next time hopefully. All the best.

  6. yeah I think both work very well too. you are great for your candid images, but then your monk series is top stuff! this image is great too, really like the processing too- nearly star wars’esq 🙂

  7. I’m a little surprised that you would try to place one style over the value of the other. The story can be told in many ways and I believe that you have shown that you only trigger the shutter and post-process if you think it has merit, so whichever tells the story the way you want it to is the best one, whatever that happens to be at the time. This image is nicely PP’d and I think illustrates the story you have told us well.

    1. Thanks Muzz. I would not choose one, I happily use both styles but I have heard strong arguments for either style so I thought I would throw the question out there along with a very posed image of mine.

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