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With WPPI 2015 on the brink of starting up very soon, we’ve been busy scouring the web for the best in the business when it comes to wedding and portrait photography. We’ve also worked on curating and creating lots of tips and tutorials to help you get your start or help you get even further along in the photo world.

But we’re not only talking about gear: part of being a photographer is also having people skills. And as many of the photographers that we’ve interviewed will tell you, it’s pretty much everything. Here’s our giant roundup of Portrait and Wedding Tips.

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Chris Gampat Lauren Englebert portraits Early winter 2015 first batch (3 of 8)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 2.8

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“Come on, smile.”

The problem with this is that your portrait subject can end up giving you some sort of really awkward expression that isn’t genuine and that clearly translates into that when you take their photo.

Meet Lauren: a fantastic woman I know here in NYC that wanted her portrait taken and that gave me the very same situation. So with this, I, as a photographer, faced the problem of not only making her deliver a genuine smile but also delivering an image that looked great in the end. So here’s how I did it and how you can, too:

– Pre-focus on an area of their face (in this case I chose her right eye that is camera left, closest to the light source and also closest to the camera.

– Politely ask for a slight sliver of a smile

– When the subject states that they hate their smile, try to figure out a way to make them genuinely elicit a feeling that will render a facial expression in the direction of what you’re going for.

– When Lauren gave me an awkward smile, I very seriously yet jokingly said, “A little less awkward and terrible please.” Because she knows me, it got a genuine giggle out of her. Because I had been pre-focused, I snapped the photo at that exact same time.

Yes, Lauren knows me, but even with other people that I’ve done this method with I’ve gotten it to work. The way that you get to this to work has to do with sitting down with the person first, getting comfortable with them, understanding where they’re coming from, having an actual conversation, and most importantly getting them comfortable with you.

So what’s the overall secret? Do something on the spot that makes them elicit a facial expression or body language that you want to capture. But first, have a personable conversation and relaxation time. Have a cup of coffee with the person first and chat a bit, it makes them realize that you’re a human and not just someone with a camera.

Model: Erica Lourde

Model: Erica Lourde

Almost every portrait photographer will tell you to always focus on the eyes no matter what. Though we situationally disagree, they generally have a point about focusing on a portrait subject’s eyes and that they can be the most gripping and personable part of the image. With a couple of tweaks that you can do even before you start the editing stage, you can make the eyes even more enthralling.

So how do you do this? It’s all about your light modifier, light positioning, composition, and aperture choice.

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If you’re of the philosophy of using one monolight or flash to illuminate your photos, then you’ll be delighted to know that a single light source can be used in many, many different ways. Softboxes are some of the most versatile and popular light modifier because of the way that they enlarge a light source, don’t waste its power, and essentially create a giant panel of light on a subject.

You can choose to DIY your own, but many more conventional softboxes are much better in so many ways.

The folks over at Sekonic recently released a video with photographer Tony Corbell about how to use a single softbox in 10 different ways. By doing this, he also explains how you can get the most bang for your buck from a single light source, and therefore save more money.

The video on 10 Different Ways to Use the Same Softbox is after the jump.

PS: looking for a cheap one to start out with? Check out our review of the Impact Quikbox.

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All images by Gene Smirnov. Used with permission.

Photographer Gene Smirnov was born in Russia, lived in Siberia and on a Japanese sea. He studied economics and law near Moscow, but later found the arts and jumped through many hoops before discovering photography. When he messaged us about his portraits, we were quickly taken back by some of his music portraiture work.

Gene is constantly working on various projects and collaborating with creative people–as most creatives should. To balance his creative life he enjoys going to shows–and now he calls Philadelphia home.

What we’re most impressed by with Gene though is his creative style, lighting and the way that he tries to tell a story in a single image.

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Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 7D Mk II review images portraits Bec (1 of 1)ISO 2501-250 sec at f - 4.0

With WPPI just on the horizon, we’re releasing our Portrait Gear Guide for the early portion of 2015. We’re breaking this down into lighting, lenses, and light modifiers that we strongly recommend from our own uses.

With that said though, we’d like to remind you that gear isn’t the end all be all, it’s the photographer that still creates the images.

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