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The Portrait Masters Awards and Accreditation | How to Choose the Best Photographer

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

Associate Level Accredited Portrait Photographer

It's official! I'm now an Associate Level Accredited Portrait Photographer according to The Portrait Masters and Sue Bryce Education. That’s a mouthful, I know. Let me explain what that means.

As many of my readers know, I’m both an educator and photographer. As an educator, I challenge my students to think critically about their work every day. As a photographer, I challenge myself to do the same so that I don't start feeling too “comfortable” with my work.

I am always looking for ways to learn more techniques and receive feedback. I found that opportunity when I learned about Sue Bryce Education and The Portrait Masters Awards and Accreditation.

The images shown throughout this blog post are the latest images for which I received awards and accreditation points.

Professional Headshot Photographs taken in Columbus, Ohio

Young man in professional headshots taken by Aaron Taylor

Portrait Masters Awards and Accreditation

The Portrait Masters Awards and Accreditation Program are essentially two programs. There is a competitive portion and an accreditation portion.

The competition program allows photographers to submit portraits that will be critiqued and judged by a panel of five world-renowned judges. As each portrait is judged, if it scores highly enough it will be ranked as Bronze, Silver, or Gold in Merit. Additionally, after receiving over 12 images of Bronze Merit, the photographer will begin accumulating points toward accreditation.

The accreditation program consists of three levels - Associate, Master, and Fellow Photographer. To be recognized as a Portrait Masters Accredited Photographer is a high honor and reassures clients that they are working with a true professional in the field.

The accreditation program defines a photographer’s body of work as achieving a ‘high professional standard.’

Senior Photography Headshots

Collage of outdoor senior photography images

My Journey in The Portrait Masters Accreditation Program

Chasing awards and accolades was never the reason behind my photography. But I love being able to improve my photography skills and showcase that in my client work.

In July 2020, I submitted five images to The Portrait Masters competition. All five scored a Bronze Merit. A Bronze Merit might not sound like a high score, but it’s difficult to achieve. I was ecstatic with this result and inspired to keep learning.

In January 2021, I submitted eight more images. All eight images scored Bronze Merits. I felt like I was onto something and was eager to keep up-leveling my skillset.

In June 2021, I submitted 38 images to the competition. During this round, all 38 images scored Bronze Merits, and 1 scored Bronze Merit with Distinction. This was my highest-scoring portrait to date (shown below), and I was thrilled! My effort was paying off and my results were improving.

Portrait of young woman in professional headshot, awarded Bronze Merit with Distinction

Here’s a link to an IGTV I made on the day I found out about my scores from this competition!

Portrait Photography Bronze Merits Portrait Masters

What does it mean to be an accredited photographer?

It means the photographer has scored highly enough on a full portfolio of images earning at least a Bronze Merit level, which is considered of ‘High Professional Standard.’ Bronze, Silver, and Gold images earn different amounts of points towards accreditation, but suffice it to say that all accredited photographers show high standards across plenty of images.

In my case, I scored highly enough to win awards on 51 portraits, all of Bronze Merit, and one that scored Bronze Merit with Distinction. It also means that my entire portfolio is cohesive in style.

Professional portrait of retired man

Collage of men in various headshots

Headshot Photography - Aaron Taylor

How to choose the best photographer?

As you’re weighing your options, you’ll look for photographers who create images that move you and match your tastes and expectations. A good rule of thumb is to look at the photographer’s entire portfolio. Can you see a cohesive style? If so, it’s a good indication that the photographer can replicate that style and image during your session.

If the photographer’s body of work seems a bit inconsistent, you might not walk away with images like the ones on their website (or the images that you were expecting).

The bottom line is this - choose a photographer that can produce the style of images you want to hang on your walls and pass down for generations.

Senior Portrait Photography Bronze Merits

Young woman in senior portrait, awarded Bronze Merit

Does accreditation matter?

Absolutely! Each round of the competition has taught me something that I used in a future session. The title “Associate Accredited Photographer” assures clients that they are working with a true professional with a cohesive body of work. Think of it as a Quality Check stamp of approval.

I’m proud to be one of only two accredited photographers in all of Ohio. This is a link to my profile within the Accredited Photographer directory.

Now what?

If you’re in Ohio, I would be honored to be your portrait photographer. Perhaps your portrait will be the next feature on The Portrait Masters website and in my portfolio!

If you’re ready to schedule your portrait session CLICK HERE


If you’re interested in reading about the first time I entered The Portrait Masters, I wrote about it here.

Some of my other published work has been featured in Shutter Magazine, Kids Linked, and Shutterfly.

Official Seal of The Portrait Masters Awards & Accreditation Associate Award for Aaron Taylor Photo

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