8 Tips For Taking Better Portraits: The Secrets of Cruise Ship Photographers


When I went on my first cruise I wondered what was up with the many photographers and ornate backdrops set up as you traveled to and from dinner. Families, couples and even the single ladies were dressed to the nines, waiting for their chance to pose. It took me a few days to try it out, but then I couldn’t stop. Masters of lighting and art direction, the Carnival cruise ship photographers know exactly how to get a flawless portrait that you will love. It’s a thrill to run to the walls of the photography area, where they display all of the prints, the next morning to see yourself glowing back as never before. How are they able to get such amazing, flattering shots with a small set-up and literally minutes?  Of course we asked, and managed to get 8 of their secrets to try at home!

From lighting, to composition and relaxation advice, read on for a list-o-tips that will give you aspiring shutter bugs some greats ideas for how to improve your own portraits with beautiful results.

1. Be relaxed.

If you are a relaxed photographer, your subject will sense that you feel confident and comfortable and they’ll let down their guard, resulting in a more natural capture.


2. Think about body position.

Direct your subject to lean their upper body towards the camera at a 45 degree angle, and keep their chin up for a ultra flattering, slimming pose.


3. Create a circle in the composition.

Encourage your subjects to lean their heads together and touch hands, to form a circle, creating a beautiful, warm, composition like in this stunner of Jaime and her sister.


4. Envision the final photograph.

Have an image in your mind of what you would like the final portrait to look like; the subject, your lighting and background, so that you can work towards that end result. Set up your composition, guide your subjects pose, and adjust your lighting and camera equipment to see your vision come to life.

5. Practice, practice. practice.

Not too complicated, the more you practice and find what works for you the better your work will be.

6. Bright frontal lighting.

A bright direct light shining on the subject fills shadows, dark circles, and wrinkles with pretty glowing light.


7. Keep learning.

Take some time to look at the photos you have taken and think about what you would like to change and how you can accomplish the changes next time.

8. Have fun and enjoy it.

If you enjoy photographing people, your positivity will be contagious and your subjects will enjoy being photographed. It will show in your work! I mean who in the history of the world has ever looked happier than these two goofballs? No one, that’s who.




This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over





I suspect you are not comfortable in front of the camera. Usually I am not either. I don;t consider myself to be photogenic in the least.

I find the photos I like of myself are either totally candid when I least expect it or the few times that the professional photographer had me totally at ease without any self awareness.


It appears that the also put all photos through software such as portrait professional to soften skin.


And of course, taking pictures of beautiful young women makes it easier too.

The main demographic for cruise ships is older women but yeah, you do see children and occasionally, unless you are VERY careful, men.


Maybe this was a sales pitch by Carnival, but the suggestions do indeed work. I’m an amateur photographer mostly photos of family and friends at various gatherings a few engagement shoots, some baby and family photos and as an unpaid extra photogropher at a couple of friends weddings, and at the last minute I was asked to be the main photographer at my cousins wedding and reception. .

To get the quality of lighting for the mostly indoor photos that they take on the cruise ships you would have to take along equipment (Soft boxes Beatty dishes the strobes and battery packs) that face it you’re not going to take with you..

We are planning to take our 4th cruise in 8 years and of course I will take my DSLR and at least one flash and maybe a reflector. On 2 of the previous trips I packed my folding 5 sided 40″ reflector for the trip to use for photos (sunset and sunrise etc) but never took it out of our cabin.

We have posed for many photos on the 3 previous cruises but have only bought a couple of the photos. I appreciate the fact that there is no pressure to purchase. Most all of the photos are of good quality and very nice lighting (getting the lighting right is probably easy for them to do when they are shooting repeatedly in the same surroundings with the same lighting setups and backdrops. I have never really thought about it before now but I bet they have tape or some sort of markings for the positions of the back drops and the light stands that they use each time possibly along wtih a book of the exposure settings to use for the various skin tones and attire that is worn.

I would’t avoid their photographers be a ham relax to look your best and let them snap away you might just be impressed!!!


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