The Best Of The Best Winning Photos From DPP’s Annual The Face Contest

Photographers are continually drawn to portraits, as they can create deep connections and express powerful emotions to a viewer within a single frame. After looking through thousands of entries, the winners of DPP‘s The Face 2013 Photo Contest have been chosen, whose images exemplify this dynamism of the portrait. Congratulations to our winners and honorable mentions, as well as our finalists.

1st Place

I’ve been doing portrait photography for about 10 years, though it’s only in the last three years that I’ve taken it seriously. In this image, I’m telling a story about a woman who isn’t happy with her life, or at least with the current situation. It’s an observation of herself, an anticipation, a desire to change something. I like revealing something about a person that isn’t usually on the surface. I think a great portrait leaves emotion that you remember long after you saw the photo. I also love telling stories, so that the viewer can look at a picture and make up a narrative in their head. The best advice I’ve ever received was to do my homework and to think through as many details about the shoot as possible, from scouting, sketching, testing and so on. But shooting is tough for me when I can’t get what I had in my mind. There can be several reasons: a location isn’t working, a model doesn’t give me the right feeling, my lighting setup isn’t working for the mood. The first and the last problems may be fixed by changing and trying. Getting the right expression from a model who can’t relax, get into the mood or just can’t stop posing is the toughest for me. In that case, I try to catch them off-guard.

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 85mm ƒ/1.2 II USM, window light, handheld

2nd Place

When I was 8 years old, my father was given an early Polaroid camera as a gift. Having no use for it, he handed it to me. I began taking photos of people I knew and people I didn’t know. I’m fascinated by human interactions, especially in crowded metropolitan environments. I feel that the best people shots occur naturally. You just have to be in the right place at the right time to capture them. The New York subway system is one of my favorite locations. Thousands of stories are written in the faces of riders. We never actually know their stories, so we just have to imagine them. I took this shot on a very quiet weekday time, when relatively few people were on the platform or the trains, and the interval between trains was extra-long. Here, I captured a woman anxiously, yet patiently waiting to board, while two other passengers inside their car have faces glued to the glass. None of them acknowledges the others or makes eye contact, but all are part of a brief moment of theater taking place in a very small area.

Equipment: Nikon D800E, AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm ƒ/4G ED VR, available light, handheld

3rd Place

I love shooting women. Women possess the mystery of sensuality, and each woman is beautiful. They play and tease, they have secrets, they mesmerize you with their grace. I also really enjoy capturing all kinds of emotions. It took a while for me and my model, Mosh, to finally shoot together. Even though this was a little shoot, Mosh put it all out there. I wanted her to show a range of emotions with the least possible amount of expression. I think she nailed it! What attracts me to a portrait, on top of the composition being pleasing to the eye, is when a picture makes me create my own story or wonder what’s going on. High-contrast black-and-white work has been an influence on me. It definitely adds so much secrecy. I also love the Golden Era, retro-chic and classic Hollywood cinema.

Equipment: Nikon D600, AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm ƒ/3.5-4.5G ED VR, two umbrellas, handheld


A Very LuLu Christmas

In junior high, I first became interested in photography, but really embraced portraiture at Brooks Institute of Photography, starting in 2002. I love connecting with people and telling a story. People can be so camera-shy (me included)! I joke around and try to make them comfortable. When children are particularly difficult, I’ll let them shoot some frames so they get to be the photographer. Great portraits are about sincerity, fun and character. The LuLu family are my favorite clients. They’re fun and creative people. We always collaborate on their Christmas card. This was the first frame we shot—it just came out perfectly.

Equipment: Canon EOS 20D, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L USM, Calumet Travelite strobes

Blending Thought

I’ve been in the business for over a year now, and shooting portraits is something I find magical. I like portraits where the viewer can read the subject’s mind and understand where she/he comes from or is going. We were doing a fashion shoot for a young new designer, and this model’s hair and features captured my attention. For a moment, I wanted to forget about the clothes and focus on what I felt from the model herself. I took another camera and worked my way to create this frame. After I achieved the image I wanted, we went on with the fashion shoot.

Equipment: Nikon D80, AF-S Nikkor DX 16-85mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR, two Lightrein 1200ws monolights with large softboxes, one Lightrein 1200ws monolight with grid, white reflector


Portraits are always a challenge. You need lots of expression, mood and attitude. You want to tell a story and make people wonder. And every good portrait needs a visual "punch." I wanted to shoot a steampunk portrait with some crazy headpiece. I told sculptor Mark Silka I wanted something bizarre with the feeling of pain and anger, something beautiful, but at the same time ugly. We chose human elements like the "eye" and a few photographic elements like the lens to incorporate. We were looking for an old-school industrial look like "the mechanical brain," as if it was the future of the past. Silka nailed the design. It’s a piece of art.

Equipment: Hasselblad H4D, Hasselblad Normal 100mm ƒ/2.2 HC Autofocus, FOBA studio stand, Broncolor Move 1200 L battery power pack, Broncolor Para 88 FB reflector

Song of the Samurai

I enjoy finding hidden traits in people, almost a more fierce side to their nature. Lately, I’ve been expressing myself through more of a fantasy/character type of photography. I had this vision of a great samurai warrior in death dancing for the heavens to open up to let her warrior spirit enter, somewhat like Valhalla. Whenever I shoot women, I always prefer to shoot beauty and strength as if t
hey were one and the same. I know that samurais were mostly warriors of male dominance, but I have a place in my heart for strong women. Knowing only death and war, I wanted to make something beautiful that still had a hint of sadness, hence the flowing kimono, that reacts like the flow of blood from battle or that of the chains that bound her to her life.

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 28-70mm ƒ/2.8L USM, Paul C. Buff AlienBees B800 monolight


I love stories, and I dream people. Taking the images of the people that come in my dreams, and making them tangible, is like therapy. "Tinsletown" was from a series of photos that I created for Margi Kent Couture. Both of my daughters are actors. One night, I dreamed about Hollywood being solely run by women and wanted to integrate that dream into the project. Margi dresses many Hollywood celebrities, so it was a perfect fit. In this image, from right to left, the characters are the insane demanding director, the singer, the actress and, of course, the diva! Each image was shot separately and then brought together in Photoshop.

Equipment: Nikon camera, AF Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.8D, Dynalite 2040 monolight, X-Small Chimera softbox and grid, reflectors

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