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Pursuing Excellence: On Becoming a Certified Professional Photographer | Denver Family Portraits

Updated: May 19, 2021

Last week I received word that I passed the exam offered by the Professional Photographers of America to become a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP). After weeks of waiting for the final results, I was elated, to say the least.

Some of you are thinking, “Isn’t photography an art? Why do you need to pass a test and have some panel of judges tell you your images are good enough? You either have a gift for it or you don’t, right?”

Sister kisses brother in a Denver area portrait session

Well, yes and no, but mostly no. There are three main reasons I wanted to become a CPP, and I’ll describe them briefly here:

1) To Gain the Education

Especially in the arts, you sometimes encounter the sentiment that education isn’t necessary. Why pay a bunch of money and get a degree when you can learn your craft by doing it and hope you find yourself wildly successful because of raw talent?

But, as a very logical friend pointed out recently, “Hope is not a strategy.”

We can hope for greatness, but the better approach is active steps in that direction.

I value education, the process of learning something for a test and then seeing firsthand how it fits into real world situations. I was pushed by the materials covered in the exam to learn new processes and techniques I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered, and I love the feeling of expanding my toolkit in terms of equipment and skills in order to better meet the needs of the families I serve.

Mother snuggles daughters in a Denver area portrait session

2) To Pursue Excellence

As in any profession, becoming certified is a mark of excellence. It’s a badge that says you have put in the hours of study and practice; you’ve made changes where necessary and are ready with skills, equipment and preparation to tackle difficult situations. Plus, it indicates a hunger for more, a dedication to the craft and a willingness to stay abreast of new techniques and technologies.

Sisters eye each other in Denver area portrait session

My passion for photography has been relentless since my husband bought me my first DSLR a few years ago. I started with every book I could find in the library and moved on to YouTube videos, in-person classes at a school of photography, and online classes taught by experts in the field. And I plan to continue learning, because the more I know, the more I can easily execute a creative vision and deliver images that not only capture the love among my subjects, but are genuine works of art that any family would be proud to hang on their walls.

Brothers in a lifestyle family portrait session

3) To Differentiate

I’ll be honest, the final reason I pursued the CPP is to stand out from other photographers. I needed a definitive way to guarantee that your experience with me will be different, and those three letters after my name were a way to do just that. The difference is in the experience: the personalized attention you receive when you express interest in a photo shoot, the attention to detail during the shoot including the lighting, composition, and careful posing, and finally the genuine interest and knowledge in helping you print these images in a way that serves your family’s unique needs and aesthetic.

Family portrait in Denver area portrait session

As with any profession, not all photographers are created equal, and it is up to the consumer to do their research and determine who is the best fit for their needs. If this is your first time to my website, or if you haven’t been here in a while, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to look around. Check out my portfolio or peruse my product catalogue to see some of the beautiful ways you can enjoy your images for years into the future, and then give me a call. I’d love to chat about what you have in mind.


Holly Freeman is a lifestyle family photographer helping down-to-earth families in the Denver area create stunning portraits. She specializes in printed art and loves to help folks explore the best ways to celebrate their love for one another with the stunning images created during their photo shoot.


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