It’s good to have a goal


With my mentor and sponsor Carol Andrews Jensen at the Gaylord Opryland Resort.

Last week I flew to Nashville, Tennessee to our largest professional photography convention and received my Master and Craftsman degrees. These degrees are from the Professional Photographers of America with structured guidelines and parameters to achieving them. Approximately 4% of PPA photographers earn their professional degrees.

Degree medalsFBThere were 14,000 photographers in attendance at the convention. There were huge auditoriums with professional photographers speaking on business, photoshop, composition, lighting, everything you can imagine. There was an enormous room housing the trade show including cameras, frames, photo labs, props and more. Throughout the conference there were smaller groups celebrating awards for best prints in print competition, and a charities party celebrating photographers helping Operation Smile. On the final evening, there was a degree ceremony and a huge party to wrap up the week.Laura_Cottril_Photography_Shelter_in_a_storm

“Shelter in a Storm”

This year 145 photographers received either their professional Master or Craftsman degrees. Five of us received both together. A Master’s degree is earned by submitting prints into the International Print Competition and receiving a score of 80 or above. You are allowed to enter four prints per year and thirteen points are required. In addition to this one must earn twelve points through education or service to the profession through PPA sponsored events.

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“Old Dog, New Trick”

A Craftsman degree is earned through the service of speaking, teaching workshops, mentoring or published writing through PPA channels. Again, service and education points round out the requirements. I’ve been working on my Master’s degree since 2006. I have not entered every year and I did not score every year, but other years I did well. I started working on my Craftsman degree in 2010, speaking at regional professional photography groups and also leading my own day long workshops. When I knew I had enough points to earn my Masters degree I hustled to finish my Craftsman degree in the same year. I’ve been called an overachiever weirdo for that, and they are probably right!

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“New Kids on the Block”

Now that I have met my goals and it’s official, I look back with much sentiment. I’ve been in business for twelve years and learned from some of the best in the business. I trained with Lisa Evans as her apprentice and am forever grateful for the gift of learning from such a talented photographic artist and business person. I have friends I “grew up” with in photography and I am immensely grateful for the encouragement and support of all them. At many points I thought about throwing in the towel. I’ve been burned out and tired. Then I did a personal project with my niece in a vintage costume inspired by a childhood storybook and it lit my fire again. Laura_Cottril_Reverie_Jonathan_Penney


My last four images to receive merit points were from my vintage work! The day I scored my last needed point was like a burst of stars. I’d finally achieved my goal. Last week, walking across the stage and having the medals placed around my neck was like the best frosting on an enormous cake.Laura_Cottril_John_Muir_house_sisters

“Treasured Time” and “A Wish to Play”

Someone asked my why I did it? What is the point? Do my clients care? The answer is easy. I did it because it was an organized way for me to challenge and better myself with photography. The structure of the program and the twelve rules of judging were something I could use as a container to stretch my creativity and improve my skills. As a natural light photographer, I was excited to score a merit on one photograph that was taken at 11pm with video lights!Laura_Cottril_Photography_Bartender_I'll_Have_Another

“Bartender, I’ll Have Another”

Now that I’ve achieved this long awaited goal it is natural to ask “what’s next?” I’m not sure, but there are many options. My main interest now is to stretch my creativity through special projects. By challenging myself to create in new ways I remain fresh for my clients.

I feel a deep gratitude to my clients of the last twelve years. Your trust in me has allowed me to create for you, bringing the lessons learned through seeking my Master’s degree into your treasured portraits.


  1. Carol Gage Andrews Jensen

    Congratulations, my dear friend and sister in professional photography. Your creativity, your wisdom and your heart all grew through your journey to your Master and Photographic Craftsman degrees. I am proud to have been a part of your experience !

  2. Nancy Garbarino

    So proud!!!

  3. Jim Griesemer

    Congratulations, Laura! It’s every bit deserved and well earned! I want you to know that your body of work and abilities have restored my faith in the continuation of photography as an art form and in the preservation of craftsmanship. It is so much better to invest in a Laura Cottril Photography original than rely on hundreds of quick snapshots from a cell phone. Those quick photos capture moments in time. Your photos capture our very hearts and souls. I see it in every photo you take.

  4. Sheryl Ruzek

    Your overachieving approach delights me! Goals, goals, goals make life an adventure and I so enjoy seeing you pursue yours. Jim and I love your photos and are so glad you just fell into our lives in Groveland.

  5. Krys Sanchez

    Laura, congratulations on achieving your Masters and Photographic Craftsmen degrees! You are truly a gifted photographer!