I entered the LensCulture portrait competition because they give a review as well. This is what I submitted and the review from a photography professional.
“William thank you for your diverse portrait submission.
Your first photograph, Old Master Selfie, does embody some of the qualities of Rembrandt lighting, moving from light to dark, the color hue scheme as well as some of the clothing effects. Overall nice effect. The head and eyes turned away does create curiosity and a slight mystery for the viewer as to what else might be occurring. You may want to investigate slightly darkening the background lightness in the upper left corner, which does cause the viewers eyes to wander to that region and then due it is proximity to the edge, out of the frame.
The second photograph, another selfie, has an interesting visual tension; the background is slightly off-kilter while the subject has concealed eyes behind the shades. If you were concerned about the slight tension in the image, you might want to experiment with a slight image rotation to bring the window lines a bit more horizontal. There appears to be extra space above the subject that reveals some structure above the building that includes a few light spots that I find visually distracting; thus recommend cropping this a bit tighter to eliminate it as it does not appear to add to the environmental context.
Marilyn Mitchell portrait in performance has an interesting graphic & color palette that probably created by the high contrast stage lighting and communicates that this is an event in progress. The cropping is tight just revealing feet, arms and instrument and that tight framing can also convey some visual tension. The face is lost in dark shadows, thus this image has more metaphoric qualities. If your subject’s identify is important, then I would mask the face and with a contrast layer experiment if any of the facial textures can be coaxed out of the shadows. Not much might needed to establish the identify.
Your photograph of Grant embodies some of the wonderful qualities of the night and has one of the issues of night photograph; a strong off-lens light source that introduces some bright and distracting glare into the image as well as creating high contrast tonalities. Although these lighting issues can be problematic, I think in this photograph it seems to unify the narrative as sometimes things going wrong can create something that appears right. Only quibble is the bright white object in the background (dumpster?), perhaps masking it and reducing the brightness or depending on the use of the photograph, cloning it out all together.
The last photograph of the Bart rider as a street photograph is not your strongest submission; although I can see some potential in the layering of the various individuals who are in some “far-away” emotional or physical state. The issue for me is the layering does not provide sufficient delineation (visual separation) of the stack of night-time riders. The photograph is technically strong, but an important aspect of street photographs is why is this photo important? I created a tighter cropping which creates more emphasis on the interplay of four individuals riding a train and eliminated some of the bright or light visual distractions and I recommend you experiment with some similar cropping ideas.
I enjoy your sense of experimentation and working with alternatives; that exploration of images and ideas should serve you well in your future endeavors; good luck!”