At the end of February, we had a blast putting on an event called Models Vs. Photographers in our basement at 500px HQ. Models, photographers, makeup artists, stylists and more all came together at our Home Office in Toronto to eat free food, network, and learn from each other.

The event was a hit! As you can see from this nifty behind the scenes video we recently uploaded to our YouTube channel:

Afterwards, three lucky participants who uploaded their shots using the tag #500pxMvP were selected at random. As a thank you for being Awesome and uploading the photos they took at the event, we sent each a few questions and picked our favorite images from their MvP collections.

Without further ado, meet the three winners of our Models Vs. Photographers drawing, and check out the shots they captured while hanging out with a small piece of the 500px community in Toronto.

Brian Simon

Brian is a studio and event photographer who captured a few traditional portraits, but spent much of his time at MvP engaging in his favorite pastime: behind the scenes shots. Check him out on 500px or pay his website a visit at Tarsipix Studios.

500PX: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started with photography? Is it something you do professionally, or as a hobby?

BRIAN: My photography journey started 6 years ago as a hobby, capturing family and friends with my old Nikon D80. Curiosity being the mother of passion, I first picked up a camera because I wanted to provide my family and friends better quality photos so they could have something to look back on and reminisce over for generations to come.

My hobby quickly turned into a living when my best friend hired me to shoot at his wedding. I swapped my cropped body for a full-frame and haven’t looked back since. These days I offer my services both as a professional photographer and multi-media producer at Tarsipix Studios.

What gear do you currently use? What’s on your dream gear wish list?

BRIAN: I currently shoot with a couple of full-frame Nikon dSLR bodies for my event and studio photography work. I have a number of lenses that I shoot with, but my favourites for event coverage are the Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8, 85mm F1.4, and the Sigma Art 35mm F1.4. They are great lenses that I enjoy shooting and experimenting with during events because the primes allow me to shoot at wider apertures — great for low light and I get a nice bokeh — and the wide 14-24mm lens lets me capture the entire room and give people an idea of what the event would have looked like if they attended. If I really need the extra zoom, I will bring my beastly 70-200mm F2.8 VR II lens. For studio work, I shoot with either my 105mm macro, 85mm, or 70-200mm lens. I also own a couple of Nikon and Godox flashes with wireless triggers.

If I win the sponsorship lottery from Sony, Mamiya Leaf, Profoto, and Broncolor all at the same time, my dream gear wish list would be a combination of Sony a7S with Profoto B2 for my event coverage work, and Mamiya Leaf Credo 80mp with Broncolor Scoro + Para 133 for studio work.

If you could spend one day with any famous photographer (alive or dead), who would it be, and why?

BRIAN: Famous or not, I have a lot of admiration for anyone who can produce great images that capture something unique, something that stays with you for a long time. If I had to choose, I would love to spend time with Pratik Naik, Dani Diamond, Renee Robyn, and Adrian Sommeling. They’re freakishly gifted and I would love to emulate their careers. There’s something to be said about creating timeless work that evokes a variety of emotions and is able to reach down and touch your soul.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to meet the great Benjamin Von Wong at a Meetup at both Dan Lim’s and Sili Studio. He is one of the friendliest and most talented photographers I have ever met. During the event, Von Wong let us use his Broncolor lights and medium format camera. It was a great experience and gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of other incredibly talented photographers, beautiful models, and very talented makeup and body paint artists (Nicole Ziegler and Jocelyn Santos Thompson).

What was your favourite part of the Models vs Photographers event?

BRIAN: Not sure where to begin! There are too many good things to list! Great food, big studio space, multiple lighting setups, many models to choose from, talented makeup and hair stylists, and most importantly, I got to meet the friendly staff at 500px! The experience was amazing and I made a lot of connections after the Meetup which was an added bonus.

I think to grow and develop as a professional photographer, it’s also important to keep a pulse on what is happening in the industry and community. 500px provides all of these opportunities, so I strongly encourage anyone who’s interested in photography to come out to future events and get involved.

Nickolas Kulchar

Nickolas does a little bit of everything. He labels himself a, “photographer, actor, musician, gardener, dancer, and writer.” If you’d like to follow him and his work, check out his blog, show him some love on Twitter, and follow him on 500px.

500PX: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started with photography? Is it something you do professionally, or as a hobby?

NICKOLAS: Aside from photography, I’m a trained gardener, an actor, musician, dancer, and writer from Muskoka, Ontario.

I can remember as a kid having a “blurred pictures of birds at the feeder” phase with an old Kodak, but I didn’t really start getting interested in photography until I went to Scotland for an extra year of gardening school. I took an Olympus point-and-shoot with me, and over the the following two years of traveling and work in botanical gardens, it became less for documenting and more of a passion.

It’s now evolved for me to new realms with my other interests and activities, including backstage work on some of the theatre productions I’ve been a part of; Modelling portraits with the help of friends, fellow cast members, and dancers from the ballet school I attend; As well as a teaching opportunity at a local community college, running a few intro-photography classes.

I would love for photography to become a full out profession, as I can think of a no better way to live, than to adventure the world capturing beauty and awsomeness in all its forms.

What gear do you currently use? What’s on your dream gear wish list?

NICKOLAS: I’m currently loving my Nikon D3200, using the stock 18-55mm or a 55-300mm, and still get out the Nikon AW100 depending on mood or weather conditions. But in the immediate I’m looking to pickup a 50mm f/1.8 lens to take my portraits up another level, and some filters. After that my main wish list would be a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro lens, and a wireless three light studio flash kit.

If you could spend one day with any famous photographer (alive or dead), who would it be, and why?

NICKOLAS: I’d have to choose Mary Ellen Matthews. I must confess that I actually had to look up her name, as I was kinda stumped when I read the question. But then I thought about what some of my consistently favourite photography has been, and how I’ve always found the Saturday Night Live show host portraits eye-lockingly vibrant and alive. I can only imagine the fun she gets to have working with so many amazingly charismatic people, with New York City for a backdrop.

What was your favourite part of the Models vs Photographers event?

NICKOLAS: The whole day was killer: from the models, to the lighting setups and all the friendly people, but I’d have to say there were two big things that really made a positive impact on me. It was great being able to get a good grasp of everything that goes into a proper studio session, and also to watch how other talented photographers took control and used the space. (Oh, and the food was pretty great too! 😛 )

Yulia Zavisha

Yulia is a talented photographer based out of Toronto, and you can see her style stamped across every shot she took while at 500px HQ. She’s currently exploring cinematic photography (can you tell?), and can be found on 500px by clicking here.

500PX: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started with photography? Is it something you do professionally, or as a hobby?

YULIA: Photography is much more than just a hobby for me. I do have a day job, but I prefer spending my weekends shooting portraits and engagements.

I started with street photography a couple years ago (Toronto is a very inspiring place), but I quickly found that what I really enjoy doing is taking pictures of people. I love how no two faces are alike, and how just one person can show so many different emotions. I am currently working on a series of cinematic style street portraits.

I also love assisting wedding photographers in Toronto, and I am looking to do more of it to improve my skills. I have already assisted with many big weddings and engagements, and each time I learned a lot. Weddings are incredible, they are full of emotions, and so many things are happening usually in just a day. Capturing these moments makes me happy.

What gear do you currently use? What’s on your dream gear wish list?

YULIA: I use Nikon D800 with AF-S 50mm f/1.8G as my walk-around lens. This camera is already a dream come true for me, so the rest on my gear wish list is the lenses: Nikon’s AF-S 24mm f/1.4, AF-S 85mm f/1.4, and AF 135mm f/2 DC. As you probably guessed, I prefer using primes. Ernst Haas once said: “Your best zoom lens is your legs.” While it might not be true for wildlife photographers, it is most certainly true for me.

If you could spend one day with any famous photographer (alive or dead), who would it be, and why?

YULIA: It is hard to choose only one. There are many photographers that I respect and whose photos inspired me to become a professional photographer: George Hurrell, Annie Leibovitz, Steven Meisel, Zhang Jingna, Jeff Krol, James Yeung, Maxime Villalonga, to name a few. However, if I had to choose only one, that would be Zhang Jingna.

She is a fantastic fashion photographer with a very unique and sensual style. She produced a lot of fashion editorials for magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Flare, Elle. It would be amazing to somehow participate in one of her photoshoots.

What was your favourite part of the Models vs Photographers event?

YULIA: The favourite part was getting to know other people: models, MUAs, photographers, and the 500px team. Everyone had a story to share. It was great. I also enjoyed trying different light setups and some of the equipment that I had never used before. Thank you again for organizing this wonderful event.

Sad you missed the first Models Vs Photographers event in February or were out of town that week? If you’re in Toronto this weekend, you’re in luck! We’re doing another this Saturday, April 11th.

This one will be focused on sports/fitness photography, and you can get all the deets or RSVP to the event by heading over to EventBrite HERE. If you’re in or near Toronto this weekend, you won’t want to miss out!