Shooting Challenge: Portrait

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: Portrait

Taking casual photos of your family or friends is fun. But capturing a true portrait can explore character and reveal a person's essence in a manner that no other format can. This week, you will master the portrait.

The Challenge

Take a portrait of someone. This should not be a spontaneous candid, but a planned model shoot. It cannot be a self-portrait either. The challenge is to work with someone else and capture a portrait of them.


The Technique

Now, I'm biased. I should say that, while glamour portrait photography has its place in the commercial sphere, I find it utterly boring in terms of studying a subject.

So ditch the traditional soft lights that smooth a person's skin to pearlesque textures. Everything you do should accentuate detail and intricacy, the flaws that make them unique.

Don't be afraid to use a tripod and turn off your image stabilization system (some IS systems can actually blur photos when on a tripod).


You may also want to minimize depth of field to help your subject pop from a blurry background. That means open up your aperture to put less of the image in focus...but keep in mind that most lenses aren't at their sharpest when most open. It's worth googling a bit to check with your exact setup.

If you'd like to read more, and there's a ton on the subject, here's an uber roundup of tips.


The Example

So our lead shot is technically a crop while I'm hoping to see a lot of full faces in the submissions. But ericmcgregor's flickr set The Shave doesn't back away from its subject, accentuating details (appropriately) down the the hair.


The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, May 9th at 8AM Eastern to with "Portrait" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnamePortraitjpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnamePortraitWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of photography blog Life, Panoramic and Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.


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Zelda did it!

The microsoft ad on the side of this article has already won this challenge.

Having a party at my Grandma in law this weekend, so will try to take some nice portraits there :D

Edit: See picture in reply.