While Sara Lando was in town our intern, Bernard, and I thought we’d have a little shootout with each other with Sara being the subject. We have picked two of our favorite shots of Sara and are now presenting them to you to vote on. Bernard and I have two ways to win. The first being who gets the most votes for the overall winning image. The second way we can win is seeing who gets the most votes total between their two photos. It’s kind of like a presidential election in the States. The images below are labeled 1 – 4. You can vote at the bottom of this post. We’ve stripped the EXIF data so don’t even bother. Plus, we might have traded cameras or styles or ways of doing things just to mess with each other and with you.

SL01   SL02   SL03   SL04
Who shot Sara best? Vote this week and we’ll announce the winner this weekend. This is just for fun. If I beat Bernard then it shows the master still reigns over the intern. If Bernard wins then it shows how good of a teacher I have been. See… I will find a way to make myself the winner no matter what happens. 🙂




3  came in first followed by image #1. 

We’ll reveal the winner next week when Bernard and I each post about our shoot with Sara. Thanks for voting everyone! Stay tuned for the story behind each one!


Zack Arias

A full time commercial and editorial photographer, Zack shoots everything from bands to CEOs to ad campaigns. A gifted teacher and communicator, he has an uncanny ability to meet and connect with all types of people.

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  1. Sid Ceaser

    The tones in #2 are really beautiful. I vote that as my favorite of the four.

  2. Guillermo

    I think the winner should be awarded a Golden Carl, of course 😉

    • Simon

      This…this is just a lovely idea!!!

  3. Keith

    #4 is very Edward Weston, which… I dunno. Jury’s out on a person looking like a bell pepper.

  4. Chris Bersbach

    I was a little torn – I think #4 is probably the most *interesting* and definitely stands out as the “one of these things is not like the others” option. But, to me, #3 is the most pleasing overall. That being said, both the subject direction and lighting of #3 feel *very* Dan Winters, to the extent that it almost seems like a deliberate attempt to evoke his style, for whatever that’s worth. Anyway, #4 strikes me as the more original of those two, but #3 still got my vote.

  5. Bert McLendon

    All of them are very cool in their own way. I think if #1 had the posing of #2 I would have voted for it. #3 is HAWT!!! Had to go for that one. Badass.

  6. Timko

    Wow to #3. Sarah’s expression/emotion and the lighting on her eyes is a match made in heaven. I can pick things I’d change in every other photo, but the pose, styling, expression and lighting all nail it in #3 and the retouching as well.

    #1 is ‘technically’ a good photo. ‘technically’

    #2 is ‘technically’ not a great photo…a little flat.

    #4 looks like the cover to a NIN (or any other innovative industrial/electronic) album.

  7. SFSlim

    If Bernard wins Zack should assist for him for a week 🙂

  8. DEDPXL Admin

    Winner gets a day off free of ANY responsibility to do whatever they want.

    • Simon

      I have a feeling the intern is also the site’s admin….. 😉

      • Zack

        🙂 – Nope. That would be Dan.


  9. Tim

    #3 for me. Love the lighting, very evocative.

  10. Josh Souza

    #1 and #3 are my favorites, really dislike #2’s tones.. it feels like there was some weird HDR style post processing on it.. and #4 kind of creeps me out lol

  11. Mark Viducich

    i voted for number three strictly because i am a sucker for gobo style lighting– being a lover of the mysterious. the winner should simply shake hands with the runner up.

  12. Brandyn

    The emotional connection with the camera in #2, along with the subtle lighting makes it the winner for me. The only thing I don’t like about it is the gritty/grey/HDRish texture that the skin takes on in a few places.

  13. Fritz

    Is it even possible to take a bad shot of Sara Lando?

  14. marc

    You might consider a better exif stripper. 🙂

    • JT


  15. Vali

    Great shootout but I’m sorry to say this Mr.Z but your style is all over two of those pictures.. I’m not saying which two.. but I’ll just say this.. 1&3, 2&4!

    Now let’s shoot some eggs!

  16. Phil

    Having met Sara I think #1 captures her best. #4 looks like something she would do.

  17. jarWoodson

    Shout out to y’all that voted on #4….it is amazing!

  18. Mark Waters

    Prize should be an all expenses paid visit to New Zealand to help me with my photography for a couple of weeks (that way I get something out of your competition too)….lol

  19. Robin M

    I pick #2. I think #1 and #3 both don’t feel like lively, funny and warm woman I met and spent the day with in class a couple of weeks ago. #1 makes her look hard and cold which she most definitely isn’t. #3 makes her look sad and vacant. #4 is out because there is no face. In #2 she is a little vulnerable and a little sad but the warmth and softness are there. I also like the organic background and the lighting.

  20. Stephen Zane

    It’s a tie between #3 & #4 for me. #3 because I think it’s the best “portrait” shot. #2 would tie it, but the processing feels a little heavy handed..
    #4 is gorgeous as a conceptual piece.

    How about the loser has to shave his facial hair? haha

    • mattbeaty

      Those are high stakes! I doubt we could convince either of them to shave for any reason…

  21. John

    #1… simple, but powerful gaze

  22. Chris

    I’m a sucker for a traditional black and white, and the separation between subject and background on #1 I found very pleasing.

    Also, it’s probably not worth it for this contest, but generally you want to randomize the order the photos are displayed for voting, otherwise you’ll wind up with a significant bias on the first one.

    • Zack

      I’ve done these before and I can say that the first one has never had a substantial edge over the others. Not in my personal experience at least.


      • Chris

        With an audience as deliberate, good-looking, and astute as the fine readers of DEDPXL, I’m sure you’re correct, but it’s a pretty well-established UX research area.

        As an example, Microsoft found out the hard way when they were forced to change their 3rd-party browser selection on copies of Windows sold in the European Union:

        • Zack

          Well, Dan has already chastised me for using a free polling site for this. Dan is the one that keeps this place running and always looking kick ass. So maybe we can find a better way of doing this. Thanks for your feedback.


        • Richard Wintle

          In response to Zack – yeah, the free polling site looked a little cheesy to be honest. I know, I know, everyone’s a critic.

        • Zack

          I use that because I can’t even spell HTML. The next poll will be kick ass because Dan will be doing it. 🙂


  23. jeremy solesbee

    I vote #2. I can feel the emotion in the eyes on this one. And the colors are beautiful.

    Winner has to make/order the other a gourmet dinner

  24. mattbeaty

    Number one does it for me. #4 also. I’m a sicker for Black and White.

    Winner should enjoy the honor of choosing the next challenge. Stuff like this is fun!

  25. Miles Weaver

    My guess: Zack shot #1 and #3, Bernard shot #2 and #4.

  26. Jeff Weeks

    Zack’s are clearly #1 and # 3. Because (a) clean, and (b) grids. I like Bernard’s interpretations and execution, but I personally prefer Zack’s style. Which, among other things, is why I am here in the first place.

  27. adam

    she looks so much younger in 2 than in 1. a truly beautiful face no matter how she’s shot.

  28. adam

    if bernard wins, zack has to present his first discussion at photokina dressed in a top hat and tails.
    if zack wins, bernard has to recreate the digital rev challenge zack did a couple of years ago.

    • Mich

      #1) I like. She has warmth and character.
      #2) I don’t mind, but it just seems too dark, yet not dark enough. It is at that in-between point where I don’t know if it should have been lighter or darker.
      #3) Too far away, she seems to be just in a zone, free of any connection with the camera.
      #4) I like the concept, but there is something “Aliens II” about it.

    • Mich

      Ignore the previous comment. I think Adam’s Idea of Top Hat vs DigitalRev is on the money.

  29. Iain

    Winner gets to keep their goatee. Pucker factor just hit f64.

  30. JT

    For me it’s between #1 and #2.
    More intimate shots.

    #1’s pose exaggerates some features (that most of us have) in a non flattering way and the top of the frame, say 25-30% the background is not blown out, which has caught my eye and shall forever remain a distraction.

    #2 is so expressive for me. It looks much more like an intimate portrait than a commercial/fashion shoot.
    The symmetry is better and she is looking at the camera instead of past it.
    The freckles also add a teency bit of familiarity – move her from porcelain perfection to a real human.
    I wish there was less loose fly-away hair (the disadvantage of a textured non uniform BG, I guess – harder to tidy in post) , but this is still the definite pick of the bunch.

  31. Radu Prodan

    I asked my wife to vote. She is NOT a photographer, and knows nothing about the technicalities and does not have the mind saturated with photographs.

    She told me: I vote for number 1, because it is the only one that transmits something to the viewer…

  32. Mich

    #1) I like. She has warmth and character.
    #2) I don’t mind, but it just seems too dark, yet not dark enough. It is at that in-between point where I don’t know if it should have been lighter or darker.
    #3) Too far away, she seems to be just in a zone, free of any connection with the camera.
    #4) I like the concept, but there is something “Aliens II” about it.

  33. Dirk

    I really like the expression in #2 but the greyish areas around the nose are a disqualifier for me. #1 it is.

  34. Jorge

    #4 is extremely disturbing. Not even close to a Weston if that was the goal.

  35. Glenn Euloth

    The curve of her lips, the look in her eyes. Number 1 is the only one that speaks to me with emotion. Funky lighting be damned. The image has to speak to me first and foremost.

  36. Richard Wintle

    #1 for me. Much better connection between eye and camera, and I like the classic simplicity of the B&W. The other two poses seem a bit forced somehow and the “interesting” clothing just seems to be trying too hard.

    #4 was a good thought but Sara is lost in it, plus the reflection is just… well it makes her look like a Mexican jumping bean. Maybe if just the torso from the waist up was presented (i.e., not the reflection), I don’t know.

  37. Timko

    I forgot. I’ll up the ante with a bomber of the winners favorite type of beer, from a good microbrewery in Colorado. If the winner doesn’t like beer, is he really a winner?

    • adam

      zack stated a couple of weeks he’s given up beer.

      i believe he’ll accept bourbon though. maybe a pappy van winkle or rittenhouse would be a suitable offering.

      • adam

        i mean a couple of weeks ago

      • Zack

        Those… or Four Roses or Old Medley. 🙂 I do want to try a Pappy though. I hear it’s great. 🙂


        • adam

          the pappy is divine.

    • Zack

      Oooooo. And you have great taste in beer.


  38. Carlos Sandoval

    #1 is my choice. If Zack loses, he will shave his beard; if Bernard loses, he leaves on a beard. New castle pale ale 12 pack for the winner. Salud!

  39. Carlos Sandoval

    Sara looks a little like Anjelica Huston when she was younger. Wow!

  40. Ben W

    It was tough for me between #1 and #2. #3 was in there, as well, because of the darkness and the hard Rembrandt, but it just didn’t punch me like #1 and #2. I like the confidence and the mischief in her eyes in #1. #2 shows a vulnerability that, for reasons I can’t articulate*, is surprising to me. And the tonal palette – muted, understated, but not washed out, shadows with depth and detail – is in my wheelhouse all day long, I’m a sucker for that… #2 is the winner, for me.

    *I’ll try – it’s always shocking, I think, to see someone represented differently than he/she is perceived. I’ve only learned of Ms. Lando within the last year or so, but she’s always presented as an ass-kicking, take-no-shit, BAMF, and I’ve found no reason to disbelieve it, so seeing this vulnerability in the photo is a bit jolting (in a good way) – nothing short of redefining the subject in this viewer’s eyes.

    If you can do that, you win.

    Signorina Lando, mio italiano e, come si dice, “rusty”… ma, mille grazie per fare questo con Zack e Bernard.

  41. palinode

    I like them all? But anyway, I agree that a Golden Carl should go to the winner. Even a spray-painted Carl would do.

    • Zack

      I’m liking the idea of a Golden Carl award!


      • Radu Prodan

        what is a Golden Carl?… if it’s a term invented on the spot, it’s not a good name for an award… I mean, I looked it up on Google, and the first result is the one from the Urban Dictionary…

        • Christoph

          be hopeful its not some deranged combination of a ‘Hot Carl’ and a ‘Golden Shower’

  42. Mark L

    The light in 1 is a tad hard for me given her angular features. 3 has her with an uncomfortable expression and makes her look a little older than she probably is! 4 is a tribute to the late HR Giger and scary :-o….so it’s 2 I’d vote for BUT…it looks like her right eye is her leading eye and i reckon shooting her favouring her right profile would have resulted in a stronger image. My 2 cents worth, just sayin’ etc. Love from Downunder…winner gets bragging rights and loser has to eat koeksisters for a week 😉

  43. Tas Karpouzis

    First off Sara is a beautiful looking woman, so even with a toy camera she could make anyone look like a pro.

    Without knowing the subject well it is hard to decide what the best portrait is.

    A photograph conveys something and connects us to a person, and their strongest characteristic. Sara from what little I know (friends that attended GPP) comes across as a strong character. That is why I chose the 1st portrait, as being a best representation of her. #3 is also very good, however it shows a side of Sara that appears more soft or even sad.

    While both may be accurate when I think of Sara I think of number 1. That is why it got my vote.

    Keep up the good work, and thanks for the lessons/entertainment.


  44. Ralph Rollin

    I like the story that #2 tells.

    The winner may get your old X100S or you spend the winner a “Kölsch” (local beer) while you stay in Cologne. (I guess you visit Cologne for Photokina?!)

    • Sukey

      I made these for Christmas Eve dinner with all kinds of other Chinese food. They turned out awesome. Much better than the Chinese restaurant since they we#&;er39nt doughy inside.

  45. DRB

    I am glad there is no way to downvote comments because…
    I don’t get it–but I really want to so please explain!

    For me number one is number one and I don’t even understand why the fourth one was included. No disrespect intended! I really just don’t understand. Will someone please explain what makes number three so good? According to the poll results it is basically tied with number one? I am not trying to be an asshole–I really just have no clue.

    I would really like my photography to get better but I don’t even seem to know what looks good. I am not sure how all the striving in the work will help me if I am not sure which direction to head in.

    • Tommi

      Of course you know what looks good! You’re the only person in the world who knows what looks good. And so am I. And everyone else. No matter what your visual taste or opinion about any of these pictures is, you will find people who agree with you, and people who disagree with you. It doesn’t matter one bit which opinion forms the majority.

      For me, #3 is dramatic, which I like. Her pose and expression are tense, she’s looking stressed or worried. This goes very well with the dramatic lighting. It is a very good picture where all parts play very well together.

      When I first had a look at these, I voted for #3. Today I had another look, and would probably vote for #2 this time. Weird how the mind works, isn’t it?

  46. Patrick

    Which one does Sara like best?

  47. Danny Wong

    I like #3 best!

    The neck’s not very flattering on #1, even though the lighting and B&W is lovely.

    Not a fan of the background on #2, and #4 is cool, but is more like an Asger Carlsen piece.

    Good idea for a post though! 🙂

  48. loui

    Vote for #1

  49. bpj

    #2 has a very “Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Tommy Lee” vibe — the natural, perhaps rustic natural fabric draped over the ink which is part covered wagon/church girl, part not so much. That dissonance is also kinda vulnerable (the eyes also plead a kind of loss, like they’re remembering something, some loss or regret). #4 is vulnerable — what is more vulnerable than an exposed spine? But it’s also cloistered, almost ducking or bracing, which is great ’cause it’s got some poison in it. And of course, it’s amphibious and unsettling.

  50. Harry Lew

    I like the abstract version of the portrait of Sara. I have only seen her emote once in the Gulf Photo video Zack shootout, but I get the impression for all her bigger than life personality she does not feel all that comfortable in the spot light.

    To follow up with that theme I think the prize should be that the loser has to sit for the winner in a portrait session. Most photographer hate being in front of the camera, so the loser has to go with any theme the winner want to propose. I love the way John Keatley shoot Gregory Hessler in GPP2013.

  51. Jim Shaw

    Excellent photography on all counts , It doesn’t have to be a competition to share your work. just share and let us enjoy. J

  52. Matthew Thomson

    At first my pick would have been number 3. After looking a few times my mind decided on number 2 due to the colours and tones. Lately I have been into darker images with shadows and a little moody otherwise number one is great also. Number 4 is interesting but I feel it is too different than the others.

  53. Michael Rapp

    What a great idea,
    I hope I don’t piss in Zack’s boots by picking #3.
    At fist pass, my favs were #1 and #2, but #1 had too little expression on the face (sorry Sara) while being the main subject of the picture, and the post work on #3 isn’t quite up my alley. It’s good, but doesn’t resonate with me.
    #4 is the most intriguing of the lot, but not quite my cup of tea, either.
    #3 just holds the right amount of mystery and captivation for me.

    As for The Prize (there can be only one!)
    The loser has to install a signed print of the winning picture in his living room. So, I guess, everybody wins.

  54. adam

    its likely that neither set out to emulate other photographers when beginning this challenge, but they all remind me of work i’ve seen before

    1 reminds me of a mapplethorpe portrait

    2 has an anton corbijn vibe

    3 makes me think of a vermeer painting, especially the lighting. though there is a photographer whose work I’ve seen that has this look. if only i could remember their name

    4 reminds me of one of weston’s peppers

    • adam

      going out on a limb, i’m thinking 1 and 4 are bernards, 2 and 3 are zack’s. though i have to ask, who lets an intern shoot their friend topless? or maybe its just a very careful pulling down of her shirt.

  55. Rich

    Are we going to find out who took which pic?

    • Bernard

      It’s coming Monday morning 🙂

  56. gus

    #2 and #3 are way too underexposed imo
    #1 a bit overexposed.


  57. Musyata

    posting narubata namu nadjera 7 nhrnktio 9 dodqove natu.mani nato.mitrata naveto maleqyabanata natrenatratato nani vn.nmha reanu maro tuamka mnkove trasu bovcy

  58. Musyata

    posting narubata namu nadjera 7 nhrnktio 9 dodqove natu.mani nato.mitrata naveto maleqyabanata natrenatratato nani vn.nmha reanu maro tuamka mnkove trasu bocut natva vanbrata mayum yem 3