Taya Iv is an incredibly talented photographer (and a 500px Ambassador) who specializes in self-portraits. Her photos are full of emotion and captivate the viewer with the story and hidden messages in each of her images. So when Taya said she wanted to judge an Emotional Portraits Quest we were very excited and with over 18,000 submissions, it’s safe to say the 500px community was too.

Keep reading to see who Taya selected as the winners and runners-up for this Quest.

A message from Taya:

It was an incredible honor to judge this Quest and to look through all of your wonderful submissions. Some photos blew me away because of their lighting, and others amazed me thanks to their unusual compositions. All in all, every submission was full of emotion and made me think about emotive portrait photography from a different perspective. As you can imagine, it was difficult for me to choose just a few winners!

First Place Winner


Photo by Aram Kirakosyan

We often associate portrait photography with clear details and visible facial features. This image proves that emotive portrait photography doesn’t always have to follow the rules. Aram’s Jemma instantly drew me in thanks to its beautiful colors, the model’s gaze, and the foreground. I agree with some of the people in the comments, who pointed out that it looks very similar to Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Overall, this is an outstanding image that demands attention and makes you wonder what the model is thinking and feeling. Very, very beautiful work.

Second Place Winner


Photo by Amine Fassi

Brown Sugar caught my eye immediately. The photographer used a simple lighting setup to highlight the model’s eye, add depth to the image, and create mystery. The model’s eye is sharp, which is perfect for this kind of image. The colors, composition, and texture all make this photograph the epitome of emotional portrait photography.

Third Place Winner


Photo by Anna Turková

The beauty of portrait photography is that it can tell a story about anyone. It’s not always about having supermodel looks or perfect skin. More often than not, it’s about being vulnerable, telling people’s stories authentically, and looking at the world from different points of view. Strong Woman is the perfect example of that. The photographer did an amazing job capturing the model’s emotions. The texture of her skin, color of her hair, and her wistful expression all make this a brilliant example of portraiture at its most authentic.

Runners Up


Photo by Martin Ivanov

I used to worry a lot about not getting the perfect focus in my shots. I’m pretty sure that if I saw a photo like this back in the day, my worries about out-of-focus portraits would immediately disappear! The model’s features are hidden, which creates mystery. What kind of story is this photo trying to tell? Where are the movements coming from? These are the questions that come to mind when I look at this picture. This is exactly the kind of emotion and mystery I was looking for when judging this Quest.


Photo by Kirill Golovan

This image perfectly balances details and mystery. Too much detail can make or break an image. In this case, it worked to the photographer’s advantage. The dark background, mixed with the perfectly sharp details on the model’s face, create a similar atmosphere to that of Renaissance paintings. The model’s stern expression makes you wonder what he was feeling in the moment. It’s obvious that the photographer knows what he’s doing and understands how to make his models feel whatever they need to feel in front of the camera.


Photo by Nataliya Youdanova

Last but not least is Nataliya Youdanova’s ethereal portrait. I absolutely love photos with depth, especially ones that make good use of foregrounds. Even though this photo is posed, it has a candid feeling to it, which adds to its emotional factor. All the right places are in focus, and everything else is softly blurred in a way that tells a deeper story without being distracting. The texture of her skin, the color harmony, and her pose all make this a brilliant portrait.

Check out the entire Shortlist here

If you’d like to see more of Taya’s work, check out the following: