Adrian Stillwell is our second spot prize winner in our spectacular Professional Photographer of the Year Competition, so get your entry in now to be in with an extra chance of great prizes!

Film Noir with Ren

“This image was one from my first photo shoot in 18 months and Ren the model is a friend who is really into the 40s’ and 50s’ look. This image was actually shot outside and not in a studio. The sun was setting behind Ren as she sat under a tree, so I placed a 2×3 softbox with a strobe at ¼ power about two feet from her, and the shade of the tree allowed me to throw sufficient light back to highlight her face while using the setting sun to act as fill light on her hair. I removed small blemishes and then darkened the shadows and deepened the blacks in post-processing, whilst trying not to lose detail in the hair. A black and white layer was added and the red and yellow levels were tweaked to lighten the skin a little. I cropped to create a square format, mainly because it seemed to suit the image best.”

Canon 5DS and 24-105mm lens, lit with a single strobe with the setting sun providing the hair highlights.

Adrian Stillwell is a fine art photographer.

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THERE’S A VERY SPECIAL spot prize being offered this month, £250 to spend on training that’s been generously provided by acclaimed fashion and beauty photographer Damian McGillicuddy. Damian is widely considered to be one of the best and most giving trainers around, and there’s a wealth of choices available on his dedicated website.

For example, you could take a look at picking up some core beauty photography skills, dip into Damian’s ‘Lego Block’ lighting system, take on board tips about how to get the most out of on-camera flash and discover how to achieve five different looks from a single light. All of those courses are available for a bargain £29 each and you can simply enrol online.

Damian also offers virtual mentoring, which is designed to take photographers on to the next level. Available from just £10 a month for the Bronze level, with Silver and Gold at £45 and £99 respectively, it’s a chance to learn first-hand from a photographer who, during his 35-year career, has been there and pretty much done it all. Head to the website to discover full details and to sample a ‘sneak peek’ free video that explores a fusion of pin up and boudoir photography and gives you the chance to sample how Damian lights his images.


The competition is open until August 31, 2021, there’s no fee to enter and everyone is welcome to take part. We’ve teamed up with our friends at The Societies to tie in each of our ten categories to one of the Societies that operates under their umbrella. Along the way we’ll be awarding exciting and valuable spot prizes to highlight the best of the entries.

In September we’ll be choosing a winner for each of the ten categories, who will receive not just the section prize but also a 12-month Professional Level Membership of the SWPP and a copy of Affinity Photo and the Affinity Photo Workbook, courtesy of Serif. Each of ten winners will then be in with a chance of being judged our first-ever Professional Photographer of the year, and picking up that fabulous Panasonic S1R kit.


All entries need to be made online through the Professional Photo website and you’ll be able to enter as many categories as you like but we’re asking for single images only, and you’ll only be able to upload one image to one particular category each month, so a total of ten images a month across all the categories.
Overall closing date August 31, 2021. Full details of all the prizes plus terms and conditions can be found online.


  • LANDSCAPE Olympus LS-P4 value £149
  • WILDLIFE Olympus 8×42 Pro binoculars value £449.99
  • WEDDINGS Voucher for £150 for use at One Vision Imaging
  • PORTRAITS Spyder X Pro worth £159
  • TRAVEL AND TOURISM Fotospeed Voucher for £200 worth of paper.
  • FASHION Sigma I-Series 65mm f/2 DG DN prime in E or L Mount, value £649
  • MEDIA AND PRESS Sennheiser MKE 200 On-Camera Mic, value £87
  • SCHOOL AND EVENT PHOTOGRAPHY Nikon School Voucher, value £120
  • SPORT Rotolight NEO 2, value £319.99
  • COMMERCIAL & INDUSTRIAL 12-month Pro Package with theimagefile, value £432


WE ASKED DAMIAN to reveal some of his fashion and beauty tips and to tell us about the type of work that resonates with him.

“To me great photography should be timeless,” he says, “which is why I particularly like images that have depth to them. One of my most prized possessions is a signed ‘Dark Summer’ book by Bob Carlos Clarke, and every picture in there has a narrative and tells a story, and it just makes the work so much more interesting.”

Acknowledging that it can be a little intimidating for a photographer working with a model in the studio for the first time, Damian advises that you really need to do your homework beforehand and have to turn up with some ideas in mind.
“The best fashion and beauty images will have a theme,” he says. “I’ll often sketch out my lighting beforehand and will talk to my model and ask her to visualise a particular scenario. For example, on a recent shoot I went for a kind of Marilyn Monroe look, where the girl was sitting on a bed wearing an oversize man’s shirt and with ‘bed head’ hair. I asked her to visualise a peaceful Sunday morning, with the sun shining through the slits in the blinds and she’d just had the perfect night with the perfect man. It was a starting point and it gave her somewhere to go and a role to play.”

Damian also advises that you need to pick your model carefully. “A lot of models these days will feel they know themselves the look they want to portray and they will be looking to stick to that. It can be difficult to get models to leave their comfort zone and to try something that’s new. However, that’s invariably what I’ll be looking to do and I need to find someone who is willing to do that.”

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