Natural Portrait Photography On the Go

BlogHer Original Post

Props

Remember how you felt back in high school when you walked past the boy or girl you were crushing on, and suddenly you forgot how to walk? What should you do with your hands? Were you swinging your arms too much? Was this your normal pace?

This is how it can feel to be in front of a camera. Standing still and looking straight into a lens can feel like the most clumsy, unnatural thing possible. Solution? A prop. Hand your subject a coffee cup, and watch as her body language changes. (You know how it's easier to mingle at a party when you're holding a cocktail? Same idea.)

woman with sailboat mug

The sugared rim and layered colors of this raspberry concoction gave our bartender Jen something to hold and focus on, even though, as crew, she wasn't allowed to drink it.

Bartender holding drink

In the following photos, the boys got so involved with their props that the tone of the portrait switched from natural to something more staged and humorous, and everybody loved these shots. Don't be afraid if the tone changes from what you envisioned. These two were season favorites.

Man posing on boat

Man on boat with telescope

The Honest Environment

Not every picture has to be shot in a pretty setting with soft lighting. Think what a monotonous photo album that would be!

On board the Endeavour, I was always searching for unique atmospheres to explore. I was quickly enamored with the chaotic state of the chief engineer's room. The plumbing on the ship was broken, and Patrick had been up for three days straight. The piles of books and drawers thrown open were indicative of his frantic search for a solution. This environment was exactly the place I wanted to shoot his portrait. This was his world, after all, not the fresh, blue skied world above decks where the rest of us lived.

The light was low, which could be a turnoff for some people. Since I don't love flash, I cranked up the ISO to 800. The final product is grainy and a bit sepia-toned, but the image is raw and honest. As a bonus for me, Patrick was so tired, he didn't have the energy to be self-conscious in front of the camera.

Engineer on boat

Of course, some of us had the luxury of being outside most of the day. A bright blue sky was the perfect backdrop for cheerful, holistic Noel.

Woman on ship

Whereas the mischievous nature of Aaron, whose job it was to keep an eye on the sea at all time, was better reflected in a dramatic sky and mist.

Man on ship

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