by Flo Deems

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We've all seen studio portraits, where the photographer has very carefully arranged the lights and reflectors. The person being photographed is carefully made up with not a hair out of place. And we've all seen group portraits where everyone is lined up and has said "Cheese!" when the photographer said to do it. But this article is about shooting under natural light, out of doors or inside, where there is no formal set-up - casual portraits.

Have you ever wanted to photograph strangers, but either didn't know how to approach them, or your approach seemed awkward? Well, I discovered recently that many times, if I offer them a prop and ask if they'll do me a favor and interact with the prop, they'll actually light up with pleasure and go along with the gag. I told them they could do anything they wanted with whatever object I had that day. Following are some images made with a roll of bright yellow duct tape (it comes in various colors now, so pick a fav) as the prop. (Click on each image for a larger version.)

The following image is a triptych. I started talking with a group of four women. We were joking and one of them said, "We'd be doing just fine if we could get her (pointing to another woman) to keep her mouth shut!" As we all laughed, I hauled out my roll of bright yellow tape and said, "Well, I think I can help out here," and offered the tape to the gal who'd just said that. She grabbed the tape, peeled out a length and then held it in front of the talkative gal's mouth. Well, they enjoyed that so much, that the next two stagings of the 'See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' proverb happened spontaneously, as I shot their pictures. All of us had a lot of fun with this. So that's how this triptych ended up with humans instead of monkeys.

A few times when out with this roll of tape, I'd place it on some inanimate object or the ground and use it to introduce an incongruous element into the image.

One day I offered people a choice of a pen or a green bottle or a book. The pen gals tried to balance it under their noses. The bottle people loved to twirl it around. And the book people assumed awfully serious poses. Whichever prop they chose, they all had fun.

So choose a prop or two and go out and have some fun. You'll also lighten up other people's days, too.

To see how well these suggestions have worked for me, please click on my Savannah Portraits Slide Show.

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A Perfect World Image

Light: Quality & Direction

How We "Read" Images

How I Broke Out of the Box

A Few Examples of Breaking the Rules.

Using Props To Break the Ice

Great Photography Magazines

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