We have some empty picture frames lying around, and we’d like to put some photos of our friends and family in them. This poses a slight problem though as we don’t have any photos that we like.

I did a little research last night, and as we are getting together with our friends at the weekend it’s a great opportunity to practise taking “informal or candid portraits” or, as I prefer to call them, “taking 300 pictures of people when they aren’t looking”. The trouble is the minute you take your camera out everyone spots it and they all become very self-aware, rendering candidity a nonsense.

About 15 years ago (oh my god, is it really…), when we (my family) were on holiday in France we met up with some friends of my parents. Ohh and before I go any further I’ll state that this post is up for correction if my Mum or Dad drop by, slightly hazy on some of the facts.

Anyway, my parents had known Pascal and Maryline (sp?) for many years, and I’d met them some years before (including a hairy car journey with Pascal in a VW camper van doing 90mph down a B road… or at least that’s what it seemed like. What IS IT with continental drivers?). Pascal is a teacher and photographer who has had some work published – postcards and the like. One hot summer evening in Brittany, sitting in the campsite as the sun began to set, we scoffed down barbequed food and sat talking and laughing – I was at the age where talking with the “adults” was turning out to be fun, who knew!.

Pascal had his camera bag with him, and as we were all talking, he took out his very large and foreboding looking SLR and started changing settings, clicking quick test photos of nothing in particular (I presumed). Next thing I know I hear a click and he looks up from behind his camera, grinning at me. He’d completely fooled me into thinking that he was just checking his equipment* and I hadn’t even noticed him point the camera in my direction.

If I can find the photo he took I’ll scan it in, suffice to say it’s very natural looking (and proves that I did once have hair… when I was 15…). Looking back to that day, it’s that kind of anonymity that I’ll need if I want to take the kind of photos we’d like. The trouble is, and this is particularly so with my friends, I’m not really the type to sit in the background and try to be invisible. I’ve still to figure out a way around that particular, and very personal, issue but I have a few thoughts – I could pretend I’m in the huff maybe??

I’ll probably resort to the old “place the camera on the table, tilt it slightly and start clicking” method. Much more luck than judgement that one but might be worth a shot (pun intended). That’ll be fine in the pub, but I’ll need another tactic for when we go to the cinema… ohh slight flaw there, dammit. Mind you there will be dinner after that, and possibly more drinks in a rather grand old building for which it’d be good to take my camera anyway.

So, any tips or suggestions? Should I wait until after dinner when everyone is happy and relaxed (tipsy)? Or should I pretend to take some photos all day but only take a few now and then, thereby diminishing the “ohh crap, he’s got the camera out again” factor.

My mate Keith is a pretty good photographer too, well when I say good I mean he knows what all those technical terms mean and understands the basics better than I do, so I’ll be asking him on Friday night for some pointers. I also know several very good photographers read this nonsense so now is your time to shine, let us mere point-and-click minions feel the warmth of your knowledge. G’wan, gie’s a tip or two.

Candid photos – how best to achieve them. Suggestions in the comment box please.

* One problem when discussing cameras is the innuendo-laden prose I find myself reverting to, it’s purely coincidental. Honest.