On November 4th, 2020, I was awarded an LRPS Distinction by the Royal Photographic Society. This was the culmination of many years of photographic experience followed by several months of preparation and the award was granted at my first submission.
About the LRPS
RPS Distinctions are internationally respected and sought-after by professional and amateur photographers alike. Over 1000 applications are made for the three levels of RPS Distinctions with around 600 being successful. Submissions are held in different categories and are assessed by a qualified panel of senior members of the society. The Society takes great care in maintaining standards and in promoting excellence amongst photographers.
The LRPS is the first of the three levels and requires the photographer to present a series of ten images, displayed to a pre-determined hanging plan. Your images are required to meet the required standard for:-
- Camera Work & Technical Quality - the depth of focus, aperture, ISO selection, exposure, sharpness, and colour rendition
- Visual Awareness - light, composition, colour, viewpoint, and appropriate image manipulation
- Communication - clarity of intent, imagination and creativity, empathy with subject and the decisive moment
- Overall Impression of the panel - balance and cohesion, paper and mount selection, variety of approach and skills, layout
Draft Panel Preparation
I had been thinking about applying for LRPS for several years and would periodically attempt to put together a collection of images that I believed were suitable contenders for a panel but it always ended the same way. I’d find something easier to do instead. Enter Covid 19 along with all the limitations it placed on other forms of creative endeavour and I had no more excuses to procrastinate.
Before I had even begun to assemble my panel I booked the assessment for a print submission on November 4th and that gave me four months to get my act together. It is important to remember that at LRPS you don’t need a theme, personal style or statement of intent. This level of distinction requires you to demonstrate a range of photographic and creative skills.
You can make your LRPS application in the form of prints, digital images or a book. I elected to go down the print submission route as I love the printed image and the organic feel it brings to my art. During the assessment, a print specialist reviews the quality of the images and their presentation in addition to the other judges reviewing the content and composition against the listed criteria.
The first step was to create a shortlist of images that were potentially good enough to submit while comparing each against the RPS Guidelines. After trawling through the possibles, I selected some of my favourite images, taken during the past five or so years. Once that was done I realised there were too many portraits and people shots, which was always going to be a problem as that’s where most of my interest lies. After further reading of the RPS Guidelines, it became apparent that this wasn’t really a problem when you considered other aspects of the images. Some had been shot in natural light, some under studio light, while others were shot under artificial light that I had no control over. Equally, some were static, some candid and some were action shots. That gave me a core set of six images as a basis of my panel. To complete my draft panel all I needed to do was fill in the blanks with a landscape, a macro shot, and a couple of other suitable images that adequately demonstrated my understanding of the assessment criteria.
One-2-One Panel Review
In the days before Covid-19, the RPS offered Advisory Days where you could subject yourself to a public review of your proposed panel in front of a live audience and take whatever criticism and advice were handed down. Nowadays, a much more relaxed service is provided in the form of a one-2-one Zoom meeting with a member of the LRPS Assessment team. You are required to submit your ten images along with the hanging plan. In addition, you can also provide 5 spare images. Your One-2-One assessor will review the 15 images and then set up a 40-minute Zoom meeting where he will go over the acceptability or shortcomings of the images in your collection. This was the only outside advice I took and found it to be incredibly useful. The assessor was fairly happy with seven of my ten images but suggested improvements to some of them. Three images were found to fall short for a number of reasons and needed to be replaced.
Final Panel Preparation
Armed with the One-2-One advice I was able to replace the three weak images and make the necessary adjustments to those that still needed a little rework.
I chose a print size of 400mm x 260mm, a little larger than A4, printed to a fine-art lustre paper and mounted using a white card matte with a 75mm border. Then it was simply a question of dropping the prints off at RPS House to await my fate.
One of the big disappointments caused by Covid-19 is that you can no longer sit in on the assessment and hear the critique of your work. This means that I have no idea if I squeaked an acceptance or sailed through. But early in the afternoon on the day in question, I was delighted to receive an email from the RPS congratulating me on my success.
The successful set of 10 images is shown below.