Explaining The Royal Photographic Society Distinctions; the order you take them in and what the initials mean. This section also includes information on other qualifications and exemptions.
The RPS offers three levels of Distinctions which set recognised standards of achievement throughout the world. Both members and non-members can apply for Distinctions (non-members will need to join The Society if they gain a Distinction).
We recommend you apply for the LRPS first, unless you are an experienced photographer:
LRPS (Licentiateship of The RPS) - images of a high standard of photographic execution - demanding but achievable for most dedicated photographers. Applicants must show variety in approach and techniques but not necessarily in subject matter.
ARPS (Associateship) - images of exceptional standard and a written Statement of Intent (what you hoped to achieve with the work). This is a significant step up from the LRPS. At this stage a creative ability and a personal style (what makes your work unique to you), along with complete control of the technical aspects of photography must be evident. It is at this level that you can first choose to submit your work to a particular specialist category. It is possible to apply for an ARPS without having first achieved an LRPS, but we do not recommend this unless you have considerable experience in photography.
FRPS (Fellowship) - our highest level of Distinction. Fellowship submissions are open to Associates of the Society and Fellows of the BIPP. Images must be of an outstanding photographic and creative standard and accompanied by a Statement of Intent. An obvious personal style is expected at this stage. You need to have achieved the ARPS before you can apply for the FRPS.
Guidelines of entry requirements for all levels can be found in the Downloads section.
REAP (Research, Education and Applications of Photography)
You submit written, not photgraphic, work for a REAP Distinction. You can use images to illustrate it and the submission could be a website, an essay or an academic paper.
Work submitted is usually of a scholarly nature, the Panel has identified a number of popular categories for submissions:
- The application of photography in education
- Research on a photographer who merits a biographical treatment
- Aspects of the history of photography
- The use of photography to access history
- The conservation and restoration of photographs and photographic materials
- Photography as an aid to conservation
- Curatorial accomplishments, such as, archival content management, photographic exhibitions.
A REAP Distinction gives applicants the chance to develop and share knowledge about aspects of photography.
Some candidates may be exempt from having to apply for certain Distinctions if they already have qualifications that reflect the high quality of their work. Degree students for example, may fall into this category. Find out more below.
The Society also offers two other Qualifications for those working in the areas of 1) Science and 2) the Creative Industries. Find out more below.
To read a history of our Distinctions click here.
Learn more about The Society’s Qualifications: The Imaging Scientist Qualification (ISQ) & the Creative Industries Qualification (CIQ).Learn more→
If you have gained a photographic qualification within the last ten years you may be eligible for an Exemption - which means you could be awarded an LRPS or ARPS Distinction without having to submit a portfolio Do you qualify?→