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

November's portrait photography contest results are in!

Yesterday I filmed this critique with the master of portraits, Peter Hurley. We went through my favorite 10 images from the contest and Peter chose the winners. 

Stephane Rouxel won 3rd place, a free tutorial from the Fstoppers Store.

Andrés Sandoval Vidal won 2nd place and iVanky's 20-in-1 Thunderbolt Dock

Paul Papanek won first place, and Tamron's 70-180mm 2.8 lens

Send Lee Morris a PM on Fstoppers to claim your prizes. (All prizes must be claimed within 30 days or they will be forfeited).

Join December's Wildlife critique now

Save 97% on Peter Hurley's first-ever tutorial here. Buy multiple tutorials at the same time and save even more. 

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

    This contest has ended.

  • 666 people have cast a total of 66,151 votes on 1,557 submissions from 700 contestants.
  • Congratulations to the winners!

    View Results

Log in or register to post comments

The ratings on some of these images are shockingly low. I hope people understand that rating other people's images low does not make theirs better. This is a community, not a competition. The judges will rate the images as they see fit. Show some love.

Congrats to the winners! Just curious how at least half of the selected shots were lacking in expression and we got to see ONLY 10 out of 1500 shots.

Peter Hurley's critique of each image is informative and well worth the time watching the hour-long video. I wish he had been given the top hundred public rated images from which to choose ten for discussion. As it was, the ten photos selected felt like they all had a lot more in common than they had differences. Lots of freckles and dead expressions. Half were black and white, cropped pretty tight to the face with a solid background. No environmental portraits. No whole body portraits. No props or lively colorful costumes. I understand so much is subjective... Mr. Hurley said as much about his own work, but really, the photo contest entry with the overall top public score didn't get a place at the top-ten table? C'mon man! I would have appreciated, and probably learned more, from greater diversity in the ten images chosen for critique.

One of more interesting elements of the video was their discussion regarding expression. Mr. Hurley made a point of describing how that component of the portrait evolved from his first days working in the business, and how expression, or lack of, was steeped in headshot photo history as well as fashion photography. A critique that he made a few times was what he described as "non-existent facial activity." A "dead" expression. Although a flat expression is still arguably an expression, more often than not he wanted more "juice" or greater impact from the expression. Which raises the question...

Expression establishes a point at which the client likes the image or not. A slight twitch in facial muscles here or there can change everything. I would like to have asked whether in the real world if it's more important to capture a lively exaggerated expression, or a natural expression which captures the essence of the person? Even if a person is not naturally very expressive. After all, expression identifies how we judge seeing ourselves in a photograph, and if it's not sincere, it's probably not gonna fly.

The irony of it all is that they'd describe exactly how each image needed work, but then score it a 3 (solid) or 4 (excellent). Or I think even considered a couple images as 5 for world class. Sorry, but there was nothing world-class in any of the ten photos discussed in this video. Not that it matters, but I thought if you could articulate what you think should be improved with an image, that that would justify a score of 2 "needs work." The label "portfolio worthy" breaks down too because, as Mr. Hurley said, that depends on who you're marketing your portfolio toward. If you're starting out and only have one image, it might be the worst picture ever but it'll still be in your portfolio.

So if the judge(s) can't seem to follow their own criteria, maybe it would be best to eliminate the labels and just stick to a numerical score from 1-5 based on bad to best and leave it at that.... the same way I'm pretty sure most of the public votes.

hahaha So funny You did not mention to Peter what the community scores were on those images. I am a Peter Hurley fan and I knew he was going to have a nervous break down over nearly any image I had seen before the video was made. Sure he did not act too negatively but he certainly was not expecting what he saw. I did not see them all but there were only two or three in the 10 that I had not seen. In all that I saw the community had not scored a single one a solid 4. Several 3+ but no 4s. Oh well gotta work with what you got. Any way I will be buying the Head shot tutorial. I absolutely love that Peter is not all about Photoshop !

Ok so out of 1500 + images there were only 67 that got community scores of 3 or more with zero 4s. That friends, is shocking. Is the low ratings reality here, actual reality? Is it just people low scoring while believing themselves better than the rest? Or perhaps is portrait photography dying due to the iPhone selfie craze? Before anyone checks , I have no photos in this contest. I actually rated several images as 4s. No doubt this month's contest , Wild Animals , will have many truly 4 rated or higher images for us to enjoy.

I think it's hard to score. I thought expression would be the main criterium and execution second. But I even caught myself giving photos a 4, that based on expression, I really shouldn't have.

I just scrolled down to the images rated around 2.5 to see what my take was. Anything 2.5 - 2.9 could be rounded up to a 3 and IMO would meet the criteria of being strong enough to stay in your portfolio. Any images below an average 2.5 would be suspect but that's not to say the community didn't give that image an unfair shake because generally the community rating is fairly critical.

That being said, I personally did find very few images below 2.5 that I too would rate a 3 and say were strong enough to be in your portfolio.

As mentioned many times on here, most images are going to be 2s and 3s and some embarrassingly bad images could be 1s but very very few images are 4s and 5s. It's not graded on some scale where 5% need to be 5s or anything like that. I bet Peter Hurley has only taken a handful of 5s in his entire career. I don't think I've ever taken a 5 myself personally. So don't feel bad getting a 2.5 - 3.5 rating because by our scale those are still really good images.

Well , the Idea of what a 5 might be certainly is subjective to be sure. I watched a video about IQ in which it said that as the overall population has gotten smarter the median line or the 100 level IQ has risen. Meaning that people who score a 100 IQ today would have actually been a !!0 or 115 many years ago. I believe the quality of photography has generally done the same. In other words an image that today might be 3 would have been a 4 several years ago. By the way I am super pumped the Contests are back. I thoroughly enjoy watching the results videos. I also really like your in house competitions too. Peace

Please join the guys for critique next time. If possible, have everyone judging go through as many submissions as they can... I'm sure you can tell the dissatisfaction from all the entrants.
Thanks again though for you guys!

Congrats to the winners.
Learned a lot from Peter once again. Even went to watch the first video y'all made with him after y'all were reminiscing!
I just wish Peter had the time to go through the submissions and pick out his own favorites, and you guys could compare, and then choose winners.
I also believe leaving Patrick out of the selection process with his own favorite 10 pictures was a mistake. I'm a big fan of you guys.
Thanks for all you guys do.

Congratulations to the winners. I don't mean this disrespectfully but how were these 10 images selected. They are great shots but in terms of the criteria portrait 'expressions' I was highly disappointed with the selection.
There were so many stunning shots with genuine expressions that didn't even get a mention. Hat's off to those who did actually submit pictures with such wonderful expressions.

i wasnt impressed with the results/picks of the final images. I think you need more than just Lee pick the images as clearly it was a 'freckled' contest. Kind of 'one-sided'...

I'm confused on why the top ten rated in the community didn't make it in the final top ten. I thought that's what the voting was for?!? Maybe that's why people aren't voting. Ultimately their vote doesn't matter. Two of mine placed higher in community voting then half that were selected for top 10. That's confusing.

--- "Maybe that's why people aren't voting."

No, tons of people voted. Look at the stats on the left side. This contest and the one before it is one of the larger votes casted than other recent contests.

--- "Ultimately their vote doesn't matter."

It still matters because it pushes the entries towards the top for a chance to be selected.

But, yeah, I think the 10 ten should be comprised of community (top 5) and FS staff favorites (top 5). Then have a guest judge that has the final say.

No, you don't want to reward people that have the most Facebook friends.

No, it doesn't work that way. A lot of members new to this site's contests that are dumbfounded of their ratings want to believe that conjecture. Even if that conspiracy theory were true, my suggestion would negate the Facebook friends and maintain value in spending time voting.

Wow! No wonder I had to go looking for this post, instead of being notified the judging was complete. All three winners are great photos.

Best of show was community rated at 3.2. Nice to know we all suck at judging, maybe headshots too!


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.