“A Look at RPS Distinctions”, 4th December, 2019

The latest meeting was a departure for the Society with an evening highlighting two of the distinctions that can be awarded to photographers by the Royal Photographic Society. It was founded, almost unbelievably, in 1853 under the patronage of Queen Victoria and has the Duchess of Cambridge, a photographer herself, as its current royal patron. The distinctions are made to individuals on the basis of collections of their photographs organised and presented as a panel. We were fortunate to have three club members and two visitors who guided us through their successful panels, two at Licentiateship level (LRPS) and three at Associateship level (ARPS).

Julie Walker started the evening by presenting her LRPS panel and explaining both the requirements for entering for this distinction as well as guiding us through her prints. The optimal print size recommended is around A4 size in a 21 by 16 inch plain white mount. The aim of the LRPS distinction is to recognise the photographer’s proficiency in various photographic techniques. Julie’s images included a mix of landscapes,


mainly from Yellowstone national park, and wildlife images taken under different lighting conditions, at different focal lengths (from close-ups to distant views), with different depths of field to show the effects of having only the main subject sharp or the whole image pin sharp.

For this level ten prints are required which are usually presented as two rows of five in a balanced arrangement so that, for example, vertical portrait format prints might bookend the panel at each extreme with landscape or square format prints in between.


Julie arranged for corresponding images to appear on the two rows, such that landscapes were positioned above each other and her raptor bird images were positioned above each other. The importance of a visually pleasing balanced panel is emphasised by the requirement to submit a hanging plan to show precisely how the prints should be displayed for judging. There are five assessors and a chairperson doing the judging and after a period spent examining the prints they each pronounce an indicative judgment of pass or fail. One assessor recommending pass and one assessor recommending fail then present their reasoning with a critique of each photograph in the panel. The chairperson may well intervene during these discussions with guiding principles or other observations. After this a second and binding vote is taken with the opportunity for assessors to change their original judgements and the award is made or not on the basis of a simple majority.

Aileen Hopkins also presented her LRPS panel which was a mixture of travel photographs from Burma and Singapore which included individual portraits and people groups as well as urban and rural landscapes and achitectural images, with some taken indoors in low-light conditions. Again, her prints demonstrated a command of different photographic techniques and were arranged in a visually balanced panel.

The ARPS distinction panel is very different with fifteen prints (in three rows) reflecting a single theme within a specific genre and which together demonstrate the development of a cohesive photographic style. This requirement is emphasised by the need to present a written statement of the intentions and aims of the panel as well as a hanging plan for the display. Linda Duncalf showed her very distinctive fine art panel of creative multi-exposure  images of trees.











In these two or three images were overlaid to create each print using an app on her mobile phone.











All her prints were printed on the same photographic paper and at the same square size.


Carmen Norman’s ARPS panel was also in the fine art genre but was a collection of delicate Lake District landscapes all of which were suffused with mist to varying degrees. The emphasis on misty scenes meant special care was needed with the choice of paper (Permajet Distinction) to allow the warmth and detail of the mist to shine through the images.


The final ARPS panel was in the travel photography genre and was presented by Tim Hancock from Junction 36 Photo Club near Kendal. His theme was people in Paris, including visiting tourists and locals at work and play. All prints were 10 by 8 inches on a lustre photographic paper. Tim emphasised the need in the travel genre to have a central print in the panel arrangement which defined the location and so tourists around the Arc de Triomphe with the Eiffel Tower in the background fitted the bill perfectly.


All the presenters were enthusiastically received by an audience who were appreciative of the quality and variety of prints on show as well as gaining an understanding of the distinction requirements and the inspiration to perhaps have a go themselves.

Keith Snell