This is not the kind of post I like to write (I don’t like to toot my own horn LOL), but becoming a 2021 Diamond Photographer of the Year and earning my Master of Photography degree are probably the most important achievements of my professional career and truly deserve a spot here. So here goes!

Last year I made the commitment to myself to enter PPA’s (Professional Photographers of America) International Print Competition. It is a requirement to enter and score high to receive your Master of Photography degree from PPA. I have entered two other times over the years and was close to having enough merits (images that score high enough) to get my degree.

It is a major time commitment and a labor of love to enter images into print competition. Here’s what it involved: Creative brainstorming to have a vision of what you want your final images to be. Shooting the images that I had in my head – finding models, clothing, and props to meet my vision for the images. And pouring through my portfolio of work looking for other images that meet all of the 12 Elements of a Merit Image – Impact, Technical Excellence, Creativity, Style, Composition, Presentation, Color Balance, Center of Interest, Lighting, Subject Matter, Technique, and Story Telling. Then there is the painstaking process of retouching, digital painting and perfecting the images. This whole process took many months.

Then submitting images, waiting for the competition, and hanging on pins and needles as the images go by and the jurors score them, sometimes commenting and debating your score. It’s a very stressful and humbling experience to say the least.

Well…I was absolutely honored and SHOCKED when ALL of my images, not only merited at District Competition, but were also chosen for the prestigious Imaging Excellence Collection. Out of 5,000 total submitted entries, all four of my entries were selected as the best of the best. They were recently on display at the Imaging USA convention which is one of the largest annual conventions for professional photographers in the world. They will also all be published in PPA’s “Excellence Collection” book this year.

The level of the award is determined by how many of my four images receive the highest possible honor: acceptance into the PPA Imaging Excellence collection. I was named a Diamond Medalist, meaning that ALL FOUR of my merited images entered the Imaging Excellence Collection – in 2021 there were only 58 Diamond Photographer of the Year in the world!

The best part was, not only did I receive Diamond Photographer of the Year, I received exactly enough merits to also receive my Master of Photography degree from PPA. After 17 years in this industry I am so honored to carry this distinction and am so grateful for all of the people who have mentored me, guided me, and buoyed me up when I didn’t think I could go on any longer. My amazing sister, Julia Kelleher (, my personal motivational genius with whom I have spent countless hours analyzing our businesses together, brainstorming new ideas, lifting each other up and constantly pushing each other forward. She is always encouraging me to be better and to think BIG for which I will forever be grateful. Michelle Parsley (, who’s incredible artistic talent inspired me, and who taught me the art of digital painting and the ins-and-outs of print competition. Beth Brinston (, who’s insane work ethic, beautiful images, and fierce determination to create kept me motivated to compete. And Lori Nordstrom, Allison Rodgers, Allison Tyler Jones, and countless other women photographers along the way who have quietly set an example of excellence, grit, and determination to keep me going in this crazy industry that I love so much. My sweet husband and kids who put up with my photography obsession and always offer their undying support of my work. And finally, my dad, who put the first camera in my hand, spent countless hours with me in our home darkroom, is the best advice giver I know, and has always been my number one cheerleader. I can never thank you all enough!

Here are my winning images:

mother in blue dress with baby award winning diamond photographer
girl in brown dress with blonde hair holding a bird award wining diamond photographer
baby in white window playing with curtain award winning photo award winning diamond photographer
laughing asian baby with rolls in pink tutu award winning photo

You can view my other award winning images from previous years here