Wedding + Portrait

The Portrait Masters Awards: Meet The Talented Winners

August 10, 2022

By Abbey Pleviak

The Portrait Masters Awards & Accreditation program, by The Portrait System, powered by Sue Bryce, was created to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate high-quality professional work and arm photographers with the public recognition they deserve. There are three awards rounds every year—with rounds opening in the winter, spring, and fall, and winners announced in the spring, summer, and late fall.

Each entry receives a score based on an average by five judges. Images can receive Bronze, Silver, and Gold awards according to their score, and from this is derived points that count toward accreditation as an Associate, Master, or Fellow. In addition to earning points toward accreditation, each category awards the highest-scoring image $1,000 and a trophy. The highest-scoring image overall receives an additional $1,000 and another trophy.

[Read: How to Build a Successful Portrait Photography Business]

This last round, which announced its winners on July 22, had 5,575 entries from all around the world. Thirty six photographers received their Associates, and five received their Masters (no one claimed the highest accreditation level of Master in this round). You’ll find the top-scoring images in each category in the slide show above. Below, we peek into the businesses and processes of five of the award-winning photographers.


  1. Alison Bounce
  2. Marissa May
  3. Andre Brown
  4. Eleonora Barna
  5. Belinda Richards
Portrait Masters Awards winner Alison Bounce's underwater image.
© Alison Bounce

1. Alison Bounce: Grand Champion and Winner, Movement and Boudoir Categories

French underwater photographer Alison Bounce used to be terrified of the water or, “this strange fluid depriving man of all oxygen,” as she calls it. When she was in University, she decided to face her fears. In a course called, “Stable Environments,” she and her classmates were challenged to develop a practice in a sport, going from beginner to pro over the course of one semester. Bounce chose swimming, and by the end, she had mastered her fears and abilities, completing a 400-meter medley. She was hooked and went on to become a certified free diver. But it wasn’t until a photography trip to Antarctica, when she saw a mother playing with her son in the crystal clear water, that she decided to marry her passions for swimming and portrait photography. She went on to author a book called The Secrets of the Underwater Portrait (Eyrolles Editions, 2020). Bounce took 1st place in the Movement and Boudoir categories and 7th place in Boudoir.

“I like to have long discussions with my muses about the images we will create together,” says Bounce. “In my mind, we are a team: the water, my muses, my assistants, and me. . . I love warm colors. Underwater, the light being weaker, colors naturally turn blue and green. Red evaporates. In my retouching work, I like to keep this part of realism. My greatest inspiration comes from the paintings of the Renaissance. The warm, almost monochrome tones, are simply driven by the cameos of light.”

Discover more about Alison Bounce and her work on her website.

© Marissa May

2. Marissa May: Winner, Challenge Category—Monochrome

South African maternity and newborn photographer Marissa May began her career as a wedding photographer and was introduced to maternity and newborn photography by her wedding clients. May loved creating sets for her clients and soon changed her specialization to this genre, which she feels so passionate about. She recently won “Maternity Photographer of the Year” in the “Admired in Africa Awards”—a South African national award—and has recently made top 20 in other international awards. However, this is her first international win, and she is so delighted now that she has achieved her goal of becoming a category winner in The Portrait Masters Awards & Accreditation.

[Read: Three Secrets to Portrait Photography Success from Roberto Valenzuela]

May says, “Even though I do a lot of composite work, it was important to me to challenge myself and create a piece that could be captured in camera and needed very little retouching. . . I wanted her to look like she was truly a part of the sculpture and not like a person in front of a background. To achieve this, I outlined the model onto the backing board of the sculpture at the very start of the process to ensure she would fit into the cut-out perfectly. I’m truly blessed to have clients that trust in my creative vision and are happy to be nude and painted gold from head to toe.”

You can find out more about Marissa May on her website.

Bridal portrait by Andre Brown.
© Andre Brown

3. Andre Brown: Winner, Wedding Category

Andre Brown, named a Rangefinder 30 Rising Star in 2020, resides in Atlanta, Georgia, where he specializes in wedding and maternity photography. Before pursuing photography, Brown worked as manager for Grammy-Award winning songwriter and producer Ric Rude. With the encouragement of his family, he shifted gears to pursue his passion for photography. Subsequently, Brown has received awards from WPPI, Modern Luxury Magazine, and now The Portrait Masters, where in addition to being category winner in the new Wedding category, he also took 2nd, 8th, and 12th place in the same category, 5th in Maternity, and 11th in Movement. Brown’s work has featured in Essence Magazine, The Knot, Munaluchi Bride, Black Bride, and The Huffington Post.

Brown’s winning image is of a group of bridesmaids, taken in the lobby of The Starling Hotel prior to the wedding. He has been taking images in a similar style since 2017 and as a result has become known as “the group photography guy.” Says Brown: “The lighting setup is simple—directional light, which is my go-to lighting style. This image was lit by two of the Profoto B10 Plus flashes—one modified with the Westcott Octa M and the other with a Magmod Magbox—with both lights coming from the same side. It was shot with the Canon EOS R5 and I had ample space to execute the shot, as well as a wedding party that understood the vision and provided me with the latitude to work.”

You can find out more about Andre Brown on his website.

Group portrait with some subjects on ladders.
© Eleonora Barna

4. Eleonora Barna: Winner, Family & Group Portrait Category

Los Angeles photographer Eleonora Barna fell in love with wedding photographer as soon as she tried it. She started her business in 2011 and has collected accolades from WPPI, The Knot, and WeddingWire. During the pandemic, she shifted her focus to portraiture and has a special affinity for environmental portraits, which occur in the subject’s home. Barna has converted her dining room into a home studio and says the shift is both challenging and rewarding. In addition to taking 1st in Family & Group Portrait, Barna also took 3rd and 16th in Wedding, 6th in Creative Portrait, and 8th in Movement.

Says Barna: “The winning image was something I have been hoping to shoot for a while. I had the idea to create a Vanity Fair-style image but instead of celebrity-style portrait in glamorous attire, I wanted to play with juxtaposing a group of working tradespeople in their shop environment with Vanity Fair-style posing.” The subjects are various artisans who work in Barna’s husband’s set fabrication studio. When she shared the video of the winning announcement with her husband, he shared it with his crew. He told her, “Your photo had ‘em misty eyed. They’re just so overwhelmed to be a part of that image, and it means the world to us that we have that record.”

You can find out more about Eleonora Barna on her website.

pet portrait of same dog in different frames.
© Belinda Richards

5. Belinda Richards: Winner, Pet Portraits Category

Belinda Richards resides in Yarraville in Victoria, Australia, where she has run Frog Dog Studios since 2016. Prior to that, she studied photography and fine art at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Richards spent the next several years working as a groomer before deciding to marry her passions by becoming a pet photographer. She has been named Pet/Animal Photographer of the Year by the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers, Epson AIPP Victorian Pet/Animal Photographer of the Year, and Nikon NZIPP International Photographer of the Year. In addition to winning 1st place in Pet Portraits, Richards also took 3rd place in Movement and 17th place in Creative Portrait.

[Read: Preserving Memories of Your Pet with a Personal Portrait Session]

Richards got the idea for her prize-winning photograph after a shepherd she had photographed passed away. Not long after, the couple he belonged to welcomed German Shepherd puppy Penny into their lives. Richards had the idea to document Penny’s growth and her owners were all in. Over the next year, they made the 45-minute drive to the studio every week and then every two weeks until Penny was grown. Richards says she didn’t have an exact idea of what she wanted to produce, so she documented her in comparison to so many things—“chairs, bowties, sitting with Sarah, you name it, Penny posed it. In the end the greatest change was her ears. And my dog were they cute! So, I started playing with ideas of how I would show this change as she went from a baby into adulthood. . . As soon as I get a chance, I will be making a book out of this documentation of Penny’s growth.”

You can find out more about Belinda Richards on her website.

The Portrait Masters Awards: To see all of the top 20 images from this round and past rounds, visit the awards gallery. The next round opens on Thursday, Sept. 15th with winners announced on Tuesday, Nov. 15th. Learn more about The Portrait Masters Awards & Accreditation, including all the rules and how to enter, HERE.