Critique the Community


With Peter Hurley
Join Fstoppers' Portrait Photography Competition
  • Submission Deadline: Wed, 29 Nov 23 17:00:00 +0000

    This contest has ended.

  • Voting is closed.

  • Congratulations to the winners!

    View Results

Fstoppers' photography contests/critiques are back, and now the prizes are bigger than ever. 

For our November contest, the theme is portrait photography and we are particularly interested in faces and expressions. 


3rd place wins any tutorial from the Fstoppers Store

2nd place wins the iVanky 20-in-1 thunderbolt dock for MacBook pro computers. You can see my full review of this dock here.

1st place wins the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 lens with a Sony, Nikon, or Canon mount. 

Contest Rules:

1. Each contestant may submit up to three images

2. Images this month must be related to portrait photography

3. Each image submitted must include a description of the photograph. We want to know how it was taken, the gear used, and any post-processing you did to it. Images without a description will be disqualified.

4. Each photographer is only allowed to win one grand prize/year and one tutorial/year but they may still submit images to, and be featured in all 12 contests. 

5. Everyone is encouraged to rate and comment on everyone's submitted photos but the highest-rated image will not necessarily win the grand prize.  

The deadline for this contest is November 29th.  Around December 1st we will review our favorite 10 images and announce the winner of the grand prize on the Fstoppers Youtube Channel.

Featured Image by Peter Hurley

  • Submission Deadline: Wed, 29 Nov 23 17:00:00 +0000

    This contest has ended.

  • Voting is closed.

  • 664 people have cast a total of 65,442 votes on 1,541 submissions from 693 contestants.
  • Congratulations to the winners!

    View Results


Lets see if a beautiful person portrait wins. :)

I can pretty much guarantee it.

Is that a good thing?

It should be expressions only...

hhhmmm You and I both know that some of the greatest portraits ever made have not been of "The Pretty People".

I think the scores need to be hidden (from everyone, including whoever picks the 'top 20') until after the contest is over.

By mostly viewing the top 100 scoring photos and deciding you've seen enough to pick 20 that gives people incentive to downvote other submissions.

If the scores were hidden until the contest was over then maybe the votes would be more realistic, with less attempts to 'game' the system.

I also think it's more interesting if a third party picks the top 20. Lee and Patrick give some interesting commentary, but since Lee picked them that skews his scores.

It didn't skew my picks and I looked well beyond the top 100. I just didn't find anything out of the top 100 that blew me away in the last contest.

Skewed your scores, since you picked ones you liked. /shrug

I still think *all* photos should be viewed, and in a random order. If that's too many to judge then maybe submissions should be limited to fewer than 3 per person.

I agree with the value of hiding the scores.

So far the submissions are really impressive. Almost 0 snapshots.

But some peoples clearly didn't watch or do not watch & listen what Lee speaks about contest :D And just drop anything they have.

As usual :D Nothing new :D

To encourage people to honestly give their opinion, it might be a good idea to show how someone rates a photo on average, with the appropriate definitions for each number of stars.

There are too many 1.x-star photos that can't possibly meet the criteria for a 1-star photo under your rating system. I think most people are just disregarding the guidelines and rating 1 to 5 stars based on how much they like it.

I follow your system, but it feels a unfair to lump in almost-solid 2-star photos with the ones that I find hideous but technically can't fall into the 1-star category because they use post-processing or lighting.

Maybe a tweak in the system could help give a fairer picture of what's what. Next time I'm inclined to just join the herd and assign stars based on how much I like the image.

This is the first contest I've entered and I definitely feel the star system isn't 100% working as it is. I say that because I've seen quite a few photos scored between 2–3 stars that should be scored higher. How is it possible that almost none of the images I'm seeing are breaking above 3 stars in their average rating?

Is it because other people are intentionally giving low votes to try and better their own chances?

To combat the "I posted to facebook asking my 500 followers to 5-star my shots", there needs to be a way to weight the votes. This could be a combination of the voter's metrics on the site such as account age, interaction rate, average rating of their photos, etc. This way, a brand new account for grandma (extremely biased, subjective) voting 5-stars on her grandson's shot barely moves the needle whereas Peter Hurley's (way more experienced, way more objective) 4-star vote moves the shot up to 3.9 from a 2.0. And, the voting should be a second phase after submission is closed so that the concentration of eyes aren't skewed by the linear upload submission date and, instead, randomized.

I have been thinking the same! I have seen quite a few images that not only meet the criteria for the contest specifically, but are eye catching for many different reasons. Then I vote (based on the criteria given for stars here) and see it's got a rating of 2.2 or whatever. All I can think of is what you said, people hoping to give their photo a better chance?

Regardless it's not surprising. I was expecting something like this from a portrait contest. I've seen contests like this elsewhere and they usually end up the same way.

These contests need distinct submission and ranking phases. The ranking phase needs to be randomized. The overall score needs to be weighted based on the voter's metrics such as • age of account • awards for photos of voter • previous contests rankings • etc. Outlier votes need to be disregarded (beyond a few standard deviations from mean). Contestants going in and 1-staring all shots other than their own would be disregarded. People with brand new accounts 5-starring their grandson's/friend's/spouce's shots would not move the needle. Hurley voting on your shot would significantly move the needle.

I have no clue but even my photos are below the 2-star mark and other photos that are really good are also in the same position and I'm like people are just being ruthless in this contest lol.

I would think that especially portrait contest are so harsh because everybody knows how a world class portrait from magazines should look like and maybe they just compare yours to that. That's how it is, you need to have everything matching, lightning, eye catching expression, meaningful context/relationship with the subject and the background, the subject needs to stand out, technical quality must be there, also the work you've put into setting up the stage needs to match portfolio status, the background must be clean and have no distractions, and then the post processing needs to be flawless. Yes, and then there is the human factor, someone may not like the type of subject or the context where your image was taken or the story you tell and they will "punish" you for that. If even one of those things are slightly off, it probably ruins everything and you get a "2" - Needs Work. I think you just need to figure out what it is that you would need to improve if you feel 2 is not enough. Asking feedback is one thing, because, yes, actually very few people will truly give you honest, thus valuable critique if you don't specifically ask for it. I also usually refrain from giving that honest critique without a specific ask, I prefer to give the aforementioned kind of "indirect" critique instead, other ways people could take it too personally.

I get what you're saying and agree with it in theory but its hard to find any photos rated over 3 in this entire contest. Images I would consider between 4 and 5 are just barely cracking over 3. I know these contests are historically rated harshly cause people want to win but this one seems over the top.

I think It's a slippery slope to start to think that everybody is just manipulating each other ant that because of that, they don't rate you where you think you would deserve to be, I truly believe and hope that isn't the case at least for most of us. I'm not participating in this contest now and I still must say that still I had hard time finding too many shots that I would rate at 3 or more because of one or more of the reasons I just laid out in my previous reply, yes, there are also many clean and well executed images there but unfortunately I think so many of them still have an averagely or almost non composited/snapshotted subject with an average pointless dull or normal everyday look at their face which is so non-speaking just like any other average shot out there (around 70 to 90 % or so of the "better images" had that exact problem), it just can't be a portfolio level shot for people that are able to produce those day in day out, or then there just was something like a "spooky hand" or something sticking out of the background that could easily have been removed in post with little effort, which just made it somehow unattractive or off putting and distractive. I think the reality is that we all are able to rate people because we know how they should look like and we have seen so so many of good world class portfolio level pictures of people already. And then, to actually reach a 4 or 5, you would perhaps need to get all that perfectly matching and then additionally also tell a hart breaking or a truly joyful story. There was one image that I specifically remember that had a small poor looking small girl standing somewhere in a back yard of a slum, with a dirty shirt, but she was smiling so brightly and the sun was warmly shining behind her, the composition was well put together, for some it may perhaps have looked like a lucky snapshot, but I gave it a 4 because I felt that it told a story and it really made me smile, that's something I look for to give it more than a 3, I dropped one point out only because I felt it wasn't perfectly post processed or staged like a world class image.

Human nature is a funny thing. I didn't pay much attention to how images were rated until one of mine that is in my gallery with fairly high rating came in with a very low rating in the contest. So I started looking more closely at images that I thought rated at least a 4 and found that in contest trim, there were none.

So I did a little more digging and went to the galleries of some of the entrants that I thought should have been rated higher. Sure enough, just like mine, the ratings on their gallery were nearly always higher.

So now I take ratings in contests as poor sportsmanship from some of the members. Like I said, human nature is a funny thing.

And, looking through some of the portrait entries, we have some pretty good portrait shooters here!! So if your shot doesn't seem fairly judged, DO NOT get upset. It's sour grapes from some of the other members.

I agree on your view that there are some images that deserve a bit higher ratings, yes.

But I just think that we need to realize that when doing the normal user portfolio reviews here on F-Stoppers, it's ok to be generous, encouraging, kind and supportive towards all the fellow photographers, give nice reviews with positive vibe and then just refer to some things that could be "improved" or "changed", yes.

But, now, we are doing a contest review here, where you would need to be analytic and pay attention, compare and rate based on true achievements and skills. So yes, naturally you would (and should) give and get less points I think. Also, if everybody would manipulate each others rating, then the effect would actually cancel itself out and we would anyways end up with a situation where good pictures get best ratings, altough a bit lower, but still better.

Does it also mean that a 3-star photo with 100 votes is worse than a 5-star with 10 votes?

For me it's easy to rate 1-3 stars as I find the criteria to be objective, it's 4-5 stars that I find difficult to score.

I choose to only rate the 5* photos I see and the 1* images. Twos and threes are equivalent to a non-answer, not helpful to changing ratings, and a waste of a vote. After I scroll all of the 1's and 5's (faster than rating all of them), then I might move to 4's.

some great work posted here. It's good to see so much talent!

Why I couldn't find my submission in all categories?

I have the same problem. My pictures are no longer visible either. I only see them if I click the “Yours” button.

Same here..

They should be there. I can see mine.

1. Click on your profile pic at the upper right.
2. Click My Account
3. Scroll towards the bottom, "My Contest Entries".
4. If you want to see the category, click on the photo. Then the 3 dots at the upper right, then, View.

yeah it is there, I just couldn't find my photo in the 'ALL' category

The instructions I gave you would show "ALL" by default. So, if you are seeing it, you are seeing it under All category.

Unless you've deleted it, it should be there.

What image and in what category are you referring to?

now i can see in the 'ALL' category. This is the one

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone enters!

Wow! This was… humbling…! 😁😁😁 Nothing like a contest to slap you back to reality! 😁😁😁

I think we should be limited to only 1 entry.

I wish more people would add comments justifying their rating. It’s nice to get numerical feedback on how other photographers view your work, but tough to improve when you don’t know what’s driving a sub-par rating.

good idea

Not really realistic. As an example, there are currently 699 entries. No one is going to write 699 comments.

Also, in the past, there have been retaliations via carpet-bombing a commenter's profile with 1-stars. Some ended up deleting their accounts because of it.

I just left a comment on John Liquori contest entry. I know some people want the feedback, but then take it too personal.

I am gonna give it a try - mostly shoot landscapes but getting more and more request to do branded shoots for business owners.

I wish we could sort by highest rated


Also, you can sort once the results are posted.

By highest rated AND by most voted.

Some really great photos eveyone.
I thinks Peter H should judge the photos without seeing the community ratings.

They usually don't tell the community ratings until after he gives his feedback. At least that's what they did the last time they had him judge.

I'm new to this so not clear on the rules. Sorry if my question is dumb, but do portraits have to be of people, or can they be on animals?

That's a reasonable question seeing as how some people have already posted pet pictures... and despite feeling like they are people, the nature of the word portrait comes from "person", so no, just humans.

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Contest Submissions

Click on the thumbnails below to comment and vote on each image.

Click here to learn about the Fstoppers rating system and what each star value means.