Meet Our New Portrait Masters Fellows!

April 25, 2023 Blog
© Barbara MacFerrin

Three times a year, portrait photographers from around the world share their finest images in The Portrait Masters Awards & Accreditation Competition. When awards are announced, there is a collective experience of a full of a range of emotions from excitement to despair and elation to disappointment. With submission numbers commonly being over 4,000, only a small fraction of those who submit get to experience the joy of ranking in the top twenty in each category, but countless others get to experience the thrill of receiving merits on their images that earn them Bronze, Silver, or Gold badges.

[Read in Rangefinder: Winning Image Stories — Portrait Masters 2023]

Those who earn badges begin or continue to tally their results towards earning another professional distinction, that of Associates, Masters, or Fellows Accreditation. To earn an Associate, one must earn 25 points. To earn a Masters, one must have earned at least 50 points, 2 silver merits and no scores below a bronze in the previous round. To earn a Fellow, one must have received 10 silvers and must already be a Master. Both Master and Fellow are confirmed by a comprehensive portfolio review of all submissions. Each round the rules are updated before the start date, so all entrants are encouraged to read the rules again before clicking submit.

In this blog post, we’ll get to know our 3 new Fellows, who have experienced the road from no accreditation to all three levels. Before we jump in, we’ll recognize all our Accreditation holders, who now are listed in Accreditation Directory.

© Heidi Margocsy

New Accreditation Holders

 The Portrait Masters welcomes 22 new Associates!


The Portrait Masters welcomes 4 new Masters!

The Portrait Masters welcomes 3 new Fellows!


And to everyone reading, wherever you are on your Accreditation journey and whatever stage you are at with your professional development, we applaud you for striving to grow in your professional development. Your efforts have elevated the field of portrait photography to new heights, and every year, we are so pleased to see the standard go even higher. Thank you for being part of this community and for always working to achieve more.

© Barbara MacFerrin


Meet the Fellows

Our 3 new fellows are all longtime Portrait System Members who had a long road to achieving their fellows. Read on to hear what they went through to attain this great achievement, including confronting obstacles, reaching out for help to see their blindspots, losing hope, and rekindling their ambition.

Fellows Accredited Photographer Barbara MacFerrin

Meet Barbara MacFerrin

Barbara’s studio Barbara MacFerrin Phototgraphy is based in Boulder, Colorado where she produces fine art portraits inspired by paintings of the Baroque period. She aims not just to take portraits,  but to create works of art. In her time off, she enjoys traveling and photographing landscapes that include icebergs, glaciers, and polar bears. Barbara is also a mentor and educator for other photographers.

Barbara’s Accreditation Journey

“I am so honored to have reached this achievement with The Portrait Masters! I joined TPM in 2016 and started entering the Awards and Accreditation in 2017 when it first launched. My goal was to reach Fellow but I wasn’t sure how long it would take. I guess I took the “slow and steady” approach as it has taken me 6 years to achieve.

An obstacle that I had to overcome is the fact that I do not have my own studio space, so the time I have to create is limited. Most of the images I’ve submitted over the years are from images obtained during the workshops that I teach. I have also had some challenges in the last couple years with the passing of my mother and moving to a new home — which are both very stressful events. Having achieved this goal through all of that is definitely a major accomplishment for me! I want to thank The Portrait Masters for this recognition and for pushing me to continually improve my craft.”

Portrait of Portrait System Mentor Ashleigh Taylor
Fellows Accredited Photographer Ashleigh Taylor

Meet Ashleigh Taylor

Ashleigh is a mentor with The Portrait System, a conference speaker, and has educational content for photographers available at Ashleigh Taylor Portrait and in The Portrait Masters Store: Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Ads & Book Clients with Instagram. At her Santa Barbara, California studio, Ashleigh creates stunning images that capture the beauty of every woman. While she is honored to have been featured in print and online publications, her highest honor is helping her clients celebrate their beauty.

© Ashleigh Taylor

Ashleigh’s Accreditation Journey

It has been a long road to Fellow! I started submitting images to TPM way back in 2017. I was able to achieve Masters rather quickly, but I’ll be honest that I never understood fully why certain images scored silver and some of my most favorite images were low bronze. It felt extremely haphazard to me and for awhile I got frustrated and stopped submitting to the competition.

[Read: Award-Winning Knowhow with Rachel Owen]

However, in early 2022, when Kevin Conde and I were cohosting the Clubhouse edition episodes of The Portrait System Podcast, we had the opportunity to interview award-winning photographer Rachel Owen. I left that conversation inspired, and I personally reached out to Rachel to see if I could hire her to critique my portfolio. This critique session was a game changer as she was able to help me see my strengths and also see what was holding me back from getting silver.

Basically, I learned that my images have a high visual impact, and I have a strong sense of styling, posing, lighting and composition. However, I was not paying attention to little details– such as lack of detail in the shadows and highlights, small distractions like wrinkles in clothes– things like that, which are all easily fixable, but I didn’t ever know to pay attention to them. I had to retrain my eye to not just see the big picture, but all the little details.

© Ashleigh Taylor

I also learned I needed to add more storytelling to my imagery. Armed with new knowledge, I scheduled in more creative shoots in my studio, and I put a lot more effort into planning my concepts and looking out for all the small details, not just in post-production but while I was shooting. This made all the difference. Suddenly, I was getting consistent silver images, and I was getting all my points & merits needed to make Fellow in short order. It was not easy for many years, but once it all made sense to me, I could see how to up-level my work and meet the challenge of awards.

So, if someone out there is struggling, I would highly suggest considering hiring an expert for a portfolio critique to learn where you are missing the mark. Also, now that TPM offers feedback on judging that helps a lot, too.

Fellow Accredited Photographer Heidi Margocsy

Meet Heidi Margocsy

Heidi and her partner Tara run In Her Image Photography in Sebastopol, California, where they specialize in elevating and celebrating women and girls with Personal Branding and Fine Art Creative Portraits. They shoot on location and in studio. Heidi is originally from Australia and has a background in theater, which makes her extra fun.

© Heidi Margocsy

Heidi’s Accreditation Journey

I remember sitting watching these awards announcements before I’d ever entered, thinking “I want that.” Not the accolades per se (although those are lovely too), but the idea of seeing my work alongside such other brilliant photographers who I admire and respect was exciting. The notion that aside from my clients, that industry judges would deem my work “award worthy” was a goal I wanted to set for myself.

You see, even with a thriving business that kept me very busy doing what I love, I never 100% felt like I measured up. For years, I avoided portrait contests as I didn’t feel worthy of sharing my work on an international stage like this. It took a long time to push through those fears and insecurities. My imposter syndrome had always been my Achilles heel, but I now work on it daily. It still pops up from time to time, but I think for artists, that’s a commonality that many of us share. It’s what we do with those feelings that count. So that’s probably the biggest hurdle for me – it’s getting out of my own way. To allow myself the time and space to create from the heart and without boundaries or fear.

© Heidi Margocsy

When I reached my Associates accreditation, I decided it was time to push myself further. I really set out to challenge myself to grow with my art. I reached for new ways of creating and expanded my technical skills with lighting, styling, composition, editing and storytelling. The courses that Sue Bryce Education (now The Portrait System) offered were paramount in that growth. (Pratik, Felix, Richard– thank you!)  Each round I put myself in competition with not the other photographers, but with myself. I wanted my images to do better than the last round of my own submissions. To me, that was going to be proof to myself, of growth as an artist.

[Read: TPM Awards Advice with Erica Manning]

When I reached my Masters accreditation, an even greater spark was created inside me. I made a very intentional decision to go as far as I could with The Portrait Masters Awards and Accreditation.

I’ve been fortunate to place in the Top 20 for the past 3 years. Each time the announcements are made, I watch and feel so humbled and proud to see my work honored in this way.  I’ve been honored to place 1st in 2 categories and even reached the elusive Gold!

© Heidi Margocsy

My journey to Fellow didn’t come easily or quickly. It took me almost 6 years to reach this personal goal.  And for sure, I’ve entered a lot of images that didn’t score well with the judges over the years. And that’s ok because art is subjective. The important thing to me is that all the images I entered were created with intention and passion. I’m grateful to The Portrait Masters Awards and Accreditation for being a platform in which photographers like myself get to step out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves to reach higher levels with our art. It has helped me build a strong desire to learn and grow, in an environment that is supportive, educational and fun.  This platform has been a constant source of education and community for me from the first day I became a member. I am forever honored to be a part of it all.

© Barbara MacFerrin

The Journey Continues!

Congratulations again to our new Fellows, Masters, and Associates, and to our Category Winners. To see a gallery of all the Category Winners, meet some of the talented winners, and hear the stories behind their winning images, follow this link to Rangefinder. 

It’s not too early to prepare your images for the next round of The Portrait Masters Awards & Accreditation, which open on Saturday, July 15. Submissions close on August 15, and the results will be announced at The Portrait Masters Conference on Tuesday, Sept 13 in Phoenix, Arizona. Along with all the usual categories, the next round’s Challenge Category is Fashion. Don’t forget to read the rules before you submit to be sure your image will have no reason to be disqualified!

[Read: What Makes an Award Winning Photographic Portrait? with Richard Wood]