Bronze to Silver: Level up your Portrait Masters Awards Submission, Part II

February 11, 2021 Blog

Episode 58: Marie Sales, Angela Klaus, Mike Gillette, Melissa Ring

In Episode 58 of the Portrait System Podcast, Nikki Closser talks to four more photographers who have all leveled up their Portrait Masters Awards submissions to achieve silver medal status, and one who reached gold, after previously attaining bronze – Marie Sales, Angela Klaus, Mike Gillette, and Melissa Ring. Nikki speaks with each about their unique perspective on what it takes to make those extra steps that attain higher judging scores.

Remember, awards submissions close on Feb 15, and if you are looking for inspiration to keep submitting, and also to find ways to bring up the level of your contest submissions to score more points, you won’t want to miss this podcast!

Keep reading below to see bronze, silver, and gold winning portraits and inspirational quotes from each of these photographers.

Marie Sales – Marie Sales Photography

“I took quite a bit of time to learn about ballet as someone who never danced ballet but was a dancer and respected the art of it. . . Just to know their world and understand them, I feel like that is what really helped me – to prepare to work with a ballerina and almost get into their mindset.”

“It’s very calming, not just her pose and the fabric, but I tried to put the image overall together to have the tones even be a calming presence. . . Every time I look at it, that’s exactly how I feel.

“I think when we look at our own work, we see a lot of errors, and it can be hard to pull yourself away from that sometimes, but . . . those errors add beauty at the same time, too. . . They can be great, too. You try to work through them but keep them minimal, but also, love them, too. They help shape the photo, too.”

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Angela Klaus – Angela Klaus Photography

“Even though I thought about this image for two years, it’s just thought out. You don’t have to take two years to do it. If you have an image in your head that you want to create, especially if it’s personal, that’s the best thing, is to make it personal, or make it a story. That’s where gold comes from – is making it a story. Tell the story in the image.”

To put it in a higher bracket, it’s not just your everyday pictures. You have to create something. Be creative. Use everyday life for those creations, those stories that you can tell from your childhood, those stories that you can tell from your teenage years, whatever it would be. That is what’s going to be standout. . . something . . . that would make you think about things.”

“Bronze is still good – definitely, still great, and I’m still proud of every bronze I have. But to take it to the next level, either lighting is missing, or emotion was missing, the story was missing, or editing was wrong. So that’s all that stuff that you have to look at. . . Bronzes are excellent, but to take it to that next level, it’s just little components here and there, and then especially, just taking a step back, looking at your editing and saying: Is that enough? Am I ok? Or am I doing too much? And sometimes, you have to step back and take away some of the editing that you’ve done.

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Mike Gillette – Mike Gillette Photography

“What’s special to me . . . I mean getting silver, and I think it won . . . 8th in the category, which is amazing, but what means so much to me is what that award meant to Lily’s family. I mean, it blew me away how happy they were because Lily had passed away about a year ago, and her family has been really very despondent, and one of the things that happens a lot of the time is that when you lose a child to cancer, is that your friends and even some close family members don’t know how to respond to you, and so these parents are left kind of isolated, and they don’t even hear from some of their closest friends. And when I posted the news that this had won a silver, they were so excited. I think it got hundreds of comments when her mom shared the post, and it just really brought a lot of joy to her, and that really meant more to me than anything.”

One of things that I love about photography, is that it is an incredible tool, not only to raise awareness of things, but also to empower your subjects. And Lily, for example, when I first met her, her family’s house was on the market. They wanted to get out of their town because Lily wasn’t fitting in at school. She was getting bullied a little bit. She had zero self-esteem, and through photography and some of the videos that I produced, her confidence came back, and she became so inspired, so full of life, and she was helping other children that were fighting cancer, and that really meant the world to her. Her parents took their house off the market. Lily ended up being featured in her school newspaper, and then all of a sudden became pretty popular. She was named Homecoming Princess. It became a turning point in her life, and it really was through the power of photos that she was able to tell her story. And it’s something that – I feel every single person has a story – and it’s something that we as photographers really have an obligation to find that story and bring it out.

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Melissa Ring – Melissa Ring Photography

“Every single detail needs to be looked at for perfection. It paid off. I spent a month editing that one shot. I changed it probably ten times. I finally came up with something that I really, really loved – that really told a story that I was trying to tell. And I got that silver!”

You can! Educating myself and challenging myself and not giving up, and not taking those things for granted that I have access to. Spending the little bit of extra money on the education was more important than any equipment that I could have bought. I could have bought anything out there and still been taking the same pictures. But learning and growing, that’s where it’s at – taking those experts and learning what they have to teach you – and learning how to see that higher level of work.

Follow Melissa: Instagram –  Website  

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Learn more about the Portrait Masters Awards and Accreditation 

Submission window closes February 15, 2021