Thank you to all the photographers that shared their best photos shot indoors in this photo contest in collaboration with SpinLight 360® . TheSpinLight 360® Modular System is a one-stop solution for controlling your flash light, both on-camera and off. The SpinLight 360® is an extremely versatile system, unlike anything else, and gives you many ways with which you can achieve a bounce flash to get studio quality lighting anywhere you are.

A special thanks to friend and professional photographer Gino Barasa for his participation as a guest judge. Gino Barasa in an Austin Texas based photographer who loves stretching the truth with his work. He borrows from reality and uses it to create stunning images of the familiar. Here is what Gino had to say:

First off I congratulate all the entrants on having the eternal fortitude to enter a contest! It takes a certain amount of guts to shove your work into the ring and ask for it to be judged. Even if you completely disagree with the critique you can at least learn from what someone outside of your own head thinks about what you are doing. And since you already know what you think, hopefully, this is of great value to you.

The first criteria I have for a contest is that you image FORCED me to stop and examine it a bit further. If it takes me less than a second to move on then either the image wasn't very well done for some reason (over processed, no clear subject matter of interest, etc.) or it is probably just too obvious and I've already seen similiar images done better.

So with that in mind, here are the images, in no particular order that fulfilled this first step along the way to picking a winner.
“Staircase” by Mikey_BiBi
“Lonely bear – Rainy Days” by samanthawellsphotography
“Cosmetic Series – Five” by jharris582
“The anticipation” by MilicaDC
“News Feed” by Dfreid
“Kitten” by southernwillowphotography
“DSC_0046a1″ by atomicbox
“Inside City Hall” by geminatrix
“Her Own iPad” by Dfreid
“tormented” by MicheleBollhalder
“Walk of Life” by TomCornish
“Pop of light” by southernwillowphotography

So - all of those and all of you who took those are the real winners of this contest, because from this point forward everything will be purely subjective. What might bother me may attract the next so called expert. Any one of these might have been winners to someone else.

So, why these?
They caught my eye and made me look a bit further. Some of the others were very well done, and obviously took an immense amount of time and energy to creative and a ton of skill to boot! So why didn't they make the list? Well, some of them suffered from comparison. For example there were more than a few with things and people floating. It seemed to be almost thematic. But I wasn't really sure what the story was for those images. Well done, but they didn't really move me or inform me of anything. But, don't forget. This is just my perspective. The next person may change religions when they see your floating girl.
There were also a few women in various states of undress to choose from. So, if you are going to put in a naked, or somewhat naked person in your image, IMO the image better be strong because there are a billion images just like this all over the place. So, for me, if you are going to put a naked women in your image the story and the image better be twice as strong or you will not stick out. (Same goes for puppies, kittens, babies, etc.)

So of the ones in the list that stuck out I decided to cut out a few of them for various reason, and here they are in no particular order.
I cut out “Pop of light” by southernwillowphotography because, while I really like this image, it is a black and white image of baby. This is a fairly obvious image with no really exceptional story jumping out at me.
“tormented” by MicheleBollhalder also is an image that we have all probably made in one form or the other over the years. It is well done, but seemed a bit obvious to me.
I loved “Inside City Hall” by geminatrix but again, no real story going on here.
While I wanted to sing "You make me feel like a natural women" by Carol King when I saw “DSC_0046a1″ by atomicbox, I think this image would have been served better without her drawing a heart on the window. That just seemed really forced and actually detracted from what was an otherwise strong image.
It takes a lot for me to actually like an image of a kitten so “Kitten” by southernwillowphotography was a surprise choice for me to like. The shallow DOF kept bringing me back. But that poorly placed watermark was so distracting. It ruined the image for me.
“The anticipation” by MilicaDC is a clever image and well done, but it was clever and well done a bunch of times before already, so while I really liked it I had to move past it in the end.

So that left me with ...
“Staircase” by Mikey_BiBi
“Lonely bear – Rainy Days” by samanthawellsphotography
“Cosmetic Series – Five” by jharris582
“News Feed” by Dfreid
“Her Own iPad” by Dfreid
“Walk of Life” by TomCornish

Errrrrgg!! I hate dropping “Her Own iPad” by Dfreid because it's an image of a kitten staring at an Ipad! What kind of a lame reason is that? The image is so strong that even though I hate the entire company Apple, and I don't like images of kittens, I like this image anyway! But it violates two out of my top three laws of photography, (No major label product placement. No kittens, puppies or babies. In case you were wondering) so it must go! (But it's kind of awesome)

“News Feed” by Dfreid was the image that I probably stared at the most. In the end I couldn't really piece together the story, but that's OK. There was enough going on here to make me come back, like a detective novel in one shot, that I enjoyed the image. The processing was a bit odd for me though. It almost felt like maybe you got into one product while processing it, like Nik Efex or something, and stuck with it. It has an HDR feel too it, which I'm ok with, but maybe too much. The processing distracted me from the image and the story, so that's a fail. In this case I ended up checking out all the processing artifacts and that didn't help me focus on the story/image.

“Lonely bear – Rainy Days” by samanthawellsphotography is so well done that I could almost look past that watermark. Let's take a second to consider why you would watermark this image. Was it to keep other people from ganking it and claiming it as their work? If so, this is a fail. You can easily crop it out or just use Content Aware of something else in Photoshop to get rid of it. Was it put there so people would know it was yours and know how to contact you? They already know who you are and how to contact you. This image is on your page. If they can't figure out who you are at this point they shouldn't be allowed to buy art.
This image is so well done, but that watermark broke through the great story and ruined the great place the image was taking me. Our images when done right, like this one, take people out of the real world and into their minds and take us to other places. The water mark only served to remind me that the real world is filled with art thieves and I need to get back to work. (I hate watermarks in case that isn't clear at this point.) If you really feel the need to make a thief take an extra 5 seconds to get your watermark off do it in a more subtle fashion so that it doesn't detract from the image is all I'm saying. But, great image.

This leaves us with ...
“Staircase” by Mikey_BiBi
“Cosmetic Series – Five” by jharris582
“Walk of Life” by TomCornish

I love all of these images, and for completely different reasons.
Depending on what you like and what you value all three of these could win.
But that's not how this works, so..

Third place goes to -
“Walk of Life” by TomCornish is easily my personal favorite of all of these images because of the content. I love the "Death of a Salesmen" feel of this. The idea is so strong and the work is well done. But in the end I think it needs more polishing up. The processing is a bit heavy handed. The inside clouds are odd and a bit distracting when they should be complimentary. The suitcase shadow is too clear for me. It could be a bit muddled to make it feel more natural. The sky outside is also taking more of a dominant role whereas it should be a supporting role. The story is the man. If the other elements distract TOO much from him then they need to be dialed down. But I really really like this concept and I hope you continue to work on it and make it even better.

Second place -
“Staircase” by Mikey_BiBi
I have to be honest. I did not want to give first place to this image. I really didn't. It was just so clear right off the bat that it was great. And I hate pulling for the favorite. I don't want LeBron James to win. He's so big and strong and better than everyone else. I want the scrappy under dog to win. And this image is the Lebron James of the contest. It's powerful, so bold, so strong, so well done. There's almost nothing to hate about it.
It even over came my third rule. (No people lacking clothing) But there was something I found distracting about it. And once I started looking at it I couldn't stop. And it's something that could have easily been fixed. Look up at the top right corner. A piece of the architecture is sticking down and cuts right into the Statues head. I'm not sure if you could have moved forward a bit to get that out, but surely you could have fixed that in post, no?
I'm sure most people viewing this grouping thought that Staircase was going to be standing on the podium with the trophy at the end of the season. Because it's great. Really great.

But, if you have been playing along at home, that leaves us with ...

“Cosmetic Series – Five” by jharris582
Everything about this image is fully formed. Nothing distracts from the final image. The model, her look, the processing, the items in the image, everything informs the story and nothing takes away from it, and it is well done. The story is everything to me. Anything that takes away from that is taking the image down a notch. This image has a certain nostalgic feel to it, so even the old film type look adds to it.
I could find almost nothing at all to critique about this image. It served it's purpose perfectly.
Job Well Done Ms.Harris.

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