Use a Prop!
One of the best ways to get a good portrait is to make sure that the person who you are shooting feels comfortable. Many amateurs and people new to photography try to make their subjects comfortable, but find it difficult. This article seeks to assist them in this process.
For several months, I shot almost exclusively indoors with a white backdrop before transitioning back to the outdoors. During those months, I finally understood that people tend not to know what to do with their hands, and that props were necessary to give them more confidence.
When I shoot senior portraits, I ask the seniors to bring some props that reflect their personalities. One girl brought her art accessories which enhanced the photos by incorporating her personality into the photos. Not only did the props enhance the photos, but they also made her more comfortable, and she knew where to position her hands. I don't think her session would have been anywhere as fun nor as productive if she had not brought those props.
Combining excellent lighting with great props, the results were likewise excellent. It is equally important to justify the elements within the composition. A prop should not look out of place - it should work to compliment the rest of the photo.
Not only are the notepad and pencil props, but the background is a prop that enhances the photo by giving it visual interest. The rustic look of the train interior with the side lighting all lend to an even, balanced composition. Again, this is art and it is subjective, but there should be a justification for the elements within the composition.
When we did our trip to Kellys Island near Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, we stopped at an ice cream store before leaving back to the mainland. There was a restaurant with a beautiful brick wall which I thought went well with her outfit and the ice cream topped it off. Sure I could have just had her pose strictly with her arms, but I felt the ice cream would add something different.