Paul Hayward was our Judge for the May Challenge - 'A Portrait'.

There were some great pictures entered in this competition, all of them with some points of merit so well done everyone. As usual  it was very difficult to judge. I viewed the images on a screen set up to Adobe RGB and any comments regarding contrast or colour are based on that. The members had gone to a lot of trouble to enter their images and I’d have liked to have been able to comment on each of them. Unfortunately that wasn’t really possible, so I have restricted my comments to the 12 images I finally selected to chose my winners from. I have made some comments about the way the images may be presented differently. I use this term rather than, improved, because it is often just a matter of opinion.   

So here we go – the final 12:

Title Author

Alan 1

A striking portrait/head shot. I like the slightly angled head twisted slightly at the shoulders.   A very strong assertive look. The eyes are more or less on the thirds which usually works. The hat is cut off but that doesn’t matter and the background is black which again is no problem.

It might be nice to extract a bit more detail from the face by increasing the contrast so that the lines and furrows are a bit more pronounced giving Alan a more rugged and lived in appearance.  Clarity, structure and contrast are all worth playing around with.

Penny Cartwright

A Tribute to Astrid Kircherr

I have a problem here! I was in love with Astrid Kircherr for years, or at least her self portrait in a mirror.   Astrid Kircherr photographed the Beatles in there Hamburg days very much in the chiaroscuro style of this image. Robert Freeman adopted the style for his Iconic cover of With the Beatles.  Astrid died a few weeks ago.    Astrid’s images were cropped tighter but the empty space in this image could be in allusion to her passing.  The face is strong and rugged and the whole image is dramatic. I really like it.  The black background causes me no problem.

It might be worthwhile feathering the black layer a bit more so it’s edge is not quite so abrupt.  Although I’ve said the background is O.K. it would have been nice just to see a hint of a jacket or shirt collar. It would overcome the impression that the head is floating in space.  I looked back at the early Beatle pics. And you could just see enough detail in the clothes to sort of anchor the head.

Martyn Daniel

Anti Virus

Anti Virus 1 3Z1A0464Anti Virus 1 3Z1A0464

Very Dramatic and portrays the times we are living in very well. Love the light on the eyes.  Could almost be a dark super hero called Anti Virus come to do battle with Virus itself. Certainly got that determined look in his eye. 

The crop is interesting. It looks as if it’s been cropped so the edge of his coat coincides with the corner of the image which is good.  However, there have been a lot of very successful images around over the past few years, not dissimilar in style, where the subject is positioned towards the edge of the pic. Cropping the right hand edge of the image until the 3rd fell over the subjects left eye then cropping a small amount off the bottom and maybe a little bit off the top seems to work well and possibly even more dramatic.    A great picture whatever.

Brian Holland

Isla being groomed

I’m not sure I know where to begin with this image as it’s totally different from the styles of photography with which I’m familiar with. Or at least it was until Geraldine, my photographic partner started producing abstracts.     I’ve selected this one on the simple basis that I like it.  I like the mono presentation and the multi layered effect and I can see it on somebody’s wall. I think as well that work like this needs to be encouraged.  I think this image has been very well executed. Very nice.

Lynda Holland



I like the colours in this. The shirt,leaves,flowers and the gentleman’s skin tones complement each other very well. I like his expression and the way his head is slightly tilted. It may have worked well with the background blurred slightly but on this occasion I don’t think it matters. It’s a different sort of visual experience. The composition is fine and the flowers and leaves aren’t intrusive. A very nice image of a gentleman with a very expressive face.

It would be nice if the detail in the  face, the lines and bumps were emphasized more.  A few adjustments with contrast and clarity could make the face pop a bit more and emphasize the cragginess of his features. The image would probably be more dynamic then rather than being a little bit flat.  It depends at the end of the day what the photographer wants.

Paul Nash

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

A very well executed image although the subject isn’t Astrid Kircherr Haha.   These are never quite as easy to take as they look. Generally I like the lighting but unfortunately it also helps emphasise the subjects left arm which is a bit obtrusive. It may have been better if the subject was wearing a long sleeved shirt. I’m not sure either what he was looking at out of his left eye. It’s not looking in the same direction as the camera.  Maybe he’s sorting out his next shot????

The crop makes it clear the shot is being taken through a mirror. The white area at the bottom though is a slight distraction.  It may be worth looking at cropping the bottom of the image so about the same width of frame appears at the bottom as at the side.  This would also drop the 3rd right over the eyes. I know I keep going on about 3rds and certainly not the only compositional aid. When all else fails though it does usually work and it’s usefull to use it as your default comp. aid.    Cropping the image this way leaves a little triangle of white at the bottom left which could be darkened a bit.  Cropping a bit off the right edge would restore the aspect ratio which is quite important.   I think this all works and the image I feel would be more dynamic. However I can see the reasons  why the author would prefer to his original composition. 

 Marc Brimble 

No Pictures Please

I was struck with this image as soon as I saw it and keep coming back to it. I like the concept. The execution is pretty good as well. Again very dramatic with lots of emotion.  

It would be worthwhile considering darkening the hand. It’s supposed to be obtrusive but we don’t want it to dominate the image so.  When the hand is darkened the nose, where it is visible will be too bright and benefit from being darkened ever so slightly. The area around the right eye can be brightened ever so slightly and then the eye can be sharpened slightly with the, sharpen tool.  It may be worthwhile sharpening the other eye but not by as much. If you crop the top of the image down to her head you will get rid of that awkward transition between the light and dark back wall. Cropping a bit off the left and right edges and cropping the bottom slightly so that her hand forms a diagonal across the corner of the image will result in an image with more drama. Finally  Increasing the contrast  ( just using a contrast adjustment layer would work.)    These adjustments can be made in minutes and a bit of experimentation should be fun. If you wanted to go the extra mile you could isolate her hand and bring out the details in the lines. Contrast, Clarity any sort of detail extractor you might have. I’ve gone to a bit of trouble on this image. As it stands the author has done a great job but I can imagine it being even better. 

Ruth Elner

Old Green Eyes

Old Green EyesOld Green Eyes

Well -   I think everybody has tried something like this.  Mono with a bit of colour introduced.  It just works particularly well with the cats green eyes. Simple yet effective and it grabs your attention as it flashes across the screen. Perhaps a bit bright at the bottom. Even its whiskers are sharp. Very Nice.

Ruth Elner

Self Portrait – Send in the Clowns

Looks like somebody had a bad make up day. Love the expression and the angle of the head. Love the humour. It has a very happy feel to it which is very welcome in our present circumstances. Perhaps the pom pom on her hat is a bit bright and might benefit from toning down.   Super Pic.       

Sandy Robertson

Shetland Pony

Great head shot of the Pony with brilliant detail and colour.  It’ s a pity that the light  is coming in from the left leaving the mane  a bit bright.  The main point of interest is the head and this should really be the brightest.   A nice image which again stands out as you flip through the images on your screen.

Dave Munn

Two Dogs and their Man

A great image well seen and composed. I like the slight angle it’s been taken at.  The colours are great and the texture is interesting although I think it might be slightly overdone especially round the dogs.  The eyes on the dog on the left are probably a bit bright as well.  The light is stronger on the dog on the right and maybe should be dropped a bit at the same time the light on the left hand dog can be lifted a bit.   All in all though a lot of people are going to like this image.  

Sandy Robertson 

Who you Looking At?

Love the face and the interesting composition. The black background isn’t a problem but I wish there was a bit of detail around the shoulders so it didn’t look totally suspended.  It looks a little dark on my screen. A bit more brightness and contrast has helped. Don’t know if it’s just the difference in our computers or not but it might be worth trying. Quite an unusual approach here which I like a lot. The  word dramatic comes into it again but it can be the key to memorable images.

Martyn Daniel

And so to the Winners:

Title Author Position Judge's Comments
Self Portrait – Send in the Clowns                Sandy Robertson 1st This image just cheers me up.
Anti Virus                                                          Brian Holland 2nd

Love the drama of  this.

No Pictures Please    Ruth Elner 3rd Love the idea.
Lined Paul Nash HC Love the colours and textures.
Who You Looking At? Martyn Daniel C Love the concept.
Alan 2    Penny Cartwright C Nicely executed portrait.


Here are the rest of the entries:

Title Author

Trace of A Smile


Paul Bolton



Paul Bolton

Mirrored Reflection

David Powell
Self Portrait through the eyes of my wife
Marc Brimble

In self isolation

Peter Brown
Posing Squirrel
Peter Brown

Alan 1

Penny Cartwright


Portrait 2 3Z1A0518Portrait 2 3Z1A0518

Brian Holland


Steve Le Good


Paul Nash

Against the wall


Stuart Ord

In the shadow


Stuart Ord

The Gardener

Graham Sedgley

Larry the Lamb

Josh Sedgeley