The winners of APOY 2023 Round Five, Portraits are in! Here are the top 10 images uploaded to Photocrowd with comments by the AP team and our guest judge

Portraiture is always a challenge. It can be easy to become overwhelmed by our own creativity, or distracted by the technicalities of studio flash, or confused by the pattern and modelling of natural light. There’s potential to forget there’s an individual in front of the camera who needs directing and who has a story to tell – a story that it’s our duty to capture in a single frame.

A successful portrait has an edge – a certain something that, in a split second, reveals some small detail or nuance about the person. And the beauty of it is, a different photographer a moment later might reproduce something completely different from the same set-up. A good portrait encourages the viewer to look longer and deeper into the image, and possibly come up with an interpretation that even the photographer hadn’t thought of. It’s a wonderfully fulfilling, creative genre, and the top ten images in this month’s round all succeed on a range of levels.

APOY 2023 Portraits Top 10

APOY 2023 Portraits Winner

1. Mark Letheren, UK 100pts

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 35mm, 1/60sec at f/2.5, ISO 160

APOY 2023 Portraits Winner woman lying across a fireplace

‘There were many strong portraits entered into this competition, but this portrait and composition stopped me in my tracks – there is a sense of theatre, a scene, a quiet drama, a story. It is like a film still. I found it enigmatic, intriguing and engaging. We collect visual clues when we look at portrait images and these enable us to interpret them. This one, well, so many stories could be garnered from it, and also questions asked. It held my attention for longer because of this.

‘Who is this young woman? We could question why she is on the mantelpiece, but maybe we don’t need to. I love her relaxed position, as if she has placed herself there. The kick of her foot, the way her left arm is woven around the delicate glass vase and the flower, and the hang of her right arm.

‘I imagine the cool of the marble mantelpiece on her cheek, and also imagine the view from her perspective. I love the gentle complementary colour palette of cream, green, brown and grey and the attractive unusual composition. I look around for visual clues – the objects on the floor, the games and books below the television. There are so many things that engage me here. Well crafted, well executed and well done.’

Mark of Launceston Camera Club is this round’s highest camera club scorer!

2. Sophie Jeffrey, UK 90pts

Sony A7, 28-70mm, 1/80sec at f/3.5, ISO 400

person in the bath leaning on the tub second place in portraits round of apoy

Sophie has created a touching and sensitive study of an old friend who is dealing with an eating disorder, which is part of a long-term project (see more on Photocrowd). Shooting through the bathroom door frames the image but doesn’t appear voyeuristic. The natural light models Xanthe beautifully, highlighting the diagonal created by her arms, with the relaxed right hand dropping into shadow. The surroundings might be somewhat austere, but there is a connection in the image that is empathetic, gentle and intimate.

3. Dominic Beaven, UK 80pts

Sony A7 Mark III, 24-70mm, 1/200sec at f/8, ISO 100

woman with pink long hair dressed in red sat on a chair set up with phone in drip

As with Sophie’s image (above), Dominic’s composition is part of a long-term project. This time, it is about society’s dependency on social media. It’s a powerful image – direct and challenging, and all the stronger for the simple set-up. Having the phone appear to be a bag of IV fluids conveys the concept of the message in a way that can be understood instantly. The clash of pink hair against red dress is slightly disconcerting, and stands out strongly against the neutral background. Strong in its simplicity.

4. Isotta Zabetta, Italy 70pts

Nikon D7100, 24mm, 1/640sec at f/13, ISO 400

dozing man against geometric curve of wall

A superb study, in which the sum of the parts makes a hugely eye-catching whole. Placing the dozing man so low and making him small in the frame is a bold move. The black, white and grey curves that make up the rest of the composition are intriguing, leaving the viewer unsure where the man is, why he is there, or even whether it’s posed or natural. We are left to fill in the gaps. Very clever.

5. Mark Constable, UK 60pts

Nikon D780, 24-70mm, 1/20sec at f/2.8, ISO 100

woman gazing over the top of her glasses with paper in lap

Everything in this frame is suggesting that the woman being portrayed lives a full and interesting life. The direct gaze over the top of her glasses is direct and verges on challenging, while the hands very much suggest she’s more interested in getting back to the crossword than being photographed. A very strong portait.

6. Peyman Naderi, UK 50pts

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 100mm macro, 1/160sec at f/5, ISO 100 

woman in veil influenced by the 15th-century Dutch painter Rogier van der Weyden

An intriguing portrait that’s full of mystery. Peyman says that it was influenced by the 15th-century Dutch painter Rogier van der Weyden, and the stunningly controlled light and detail certainly has a painterly effect. We can see just enough of the woman’s eyes and expression through the veil to allow us to formulate a story about who she might be. Her hands have been delicately placed and the plain black background means our attention is focused on her and only her. Beautifully done.

7. Jo Kelly UK 45pts

Nikon D7200, 50mm, 1/250sec at f/8, ISO 250

older woman in black dress and veil sat against black background

Another portrait that has a decidedly painterly feel. The more time you spend with this image, the more detail you see. The folds of the veil stand out just enough against the black background, and even the detail in the sitter’s grey hair is clear. And that’s before we even get to the wonderful face and hands, both of which manage to be expressive despite having almost no expression at all. A deceptively simple image that has been extremely well executed.

8. Mohammad Radi, Jordan 40pts

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 1/250sec at f/8, ISO 100

close up portrait of a girl in the desert

There’s something of the Steve McCurry ‘Afghan Girl’ about this captivating portrait, with its mesmerising eye contact and face framed by the scarf. A touch of flash creates a catchlight, and lifts her away from the background.

9. Abigail Pym, UK 35pts

Nikon D750, 35mm, 1/320sec at f/1.4, ISO 100

portrait of a short haired girl unkempt appearance

There’s a raw feel to this unaffected portrait. The slightly unkempt appearance of the model, and the fact that she’s looking just past the camera makes her appear distracted – as if there’s something more important going on. It almost has the feel of being shot on film.

10. Dave Challenger, UK 30pts

Sony A7 Mark III, 55mm, 1/2500sec at f/1.8, ISO 100

portrait of a girl in pink dress holding pink balloons

Everything about this environmental, fashion-style portrait hangs together extremely effectively. The simple, side-on pose works well, while the puffball dress with its ’80s vibe and the matching balloons are given a real edge thanks to the context of the graffitti-covered backdrop. The depth of field and contrasty light have also been handled really well.

Young APOY 2023 Portraits winner

Luke Dale-Henderson, UK 100pts

Panasonic FZ100, 25mm, 1/400sec at f/2.8, ISO 125

person stood infront of wooden red door in woolly hat and thick scarf

There’s no need to see a person’s whole face in a successful portrait, as Luke’s shot proves. The tension in the woman’s pose and the sparkle in her eyes says as much about the surroundings and temperature as her woolly hat and thick scarf. A simple backdrop completes the shot.

See Young APOY 2023 Portraits top 10 here.

APOY 2023 Camera club competition

Charles Ashton, UK 10pts


man sat on the street with head in hands

Kempsey Camera Club is currently sitting in third place on the camera clubs leaderboard, with an impressive 170 points. Charles Ashton’s hard-hitting portrait has earned him – and his club – a deserved ten points to add to their overall tallies. It’s an image that works on several different levels – it’s intense while also being well composed and softly lit. Good work.

The APOY 2023 leaderboards so far after Round Five, Portraits

The APOY 2023 leaderboards so far after Round Five, Portraits

We’re halfway through, and what’s making this year’s contest so exciting is the fact that there’s still no obvious leader. Anyone in the top ten as it currently stands could win – or we could see a new name coming out of nowhere and flying up the leaderboard. Things are equally tight in the Young APOY competition, with both new and familiar names making an appearance. But as for the camera clubs – what can we say? Launceston Camera Club has an astonishing lead, thanks in no small part to Mark Letheren’s winning shot from this round.

See the full leaderboards here.

Winning kit from MPB

The gear our winners used can be found at MPB

Taking first place this round, Mark Letheren used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III for his wonderfully creative image. Launched in spring 2012, its headline features of 22MP resolution, 61-point AF system, 6fps continuous shooting and enhanced video skills meant it quickly gained many fans. On, it is said that ‘even now, the rugged and solidly built EOS 5D Mark III appeals as a highly capable DSLR…’ that should ‘give reliable service for years to come.’ Pick one up at MPB for between £189 and £459, depending on condition.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III step 1

In third place, APOY regular Dominic Beaven shot his striking set-up using a Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art lens. This superbly versatile Sony E-fit standard zoom has an invaluably wide f/2.8 aperture throughout its range, delivers a superb optical performance, is dust- and moisture-proof and features 11 rounded diaphragm blades for soft, pleasing bokeh. This excellent lens can be found at MPB for between £914 and £994.

Jo Kelly was awarded seventh place for her well-produced portrait, which she shot with a Nikon D7200. At the time of its release in 2015, the D7200 was Nikon’s flagship APS-C DSLR, and its features include a 51-point AF system, 24MP sensor and 3.2in, 1.23-million-dot fixed screen. On the AP website it is described as still being capable of producing ‘stunning results in the right hands’. Ideal for those on a budget, this DSLR is available from MPB for between £99 and £304.

Nikon D7200

The Nikon D7200 is a mid-range DSLR that’s good for a bit of everything.

To browse the extensive range of stock at MPB, visit

See our pick of the best cameras, smartphones, budget lenses, and best lenses for portrait photography.

APOY 2023 Round Seven is now open for entries! Submit your best street photographs here.

Best photography competitions to enter

Further reading:

Follow AP on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.