The RPS Distinctions - forthcoming changes

25 July 2014

Society news

At the Council meeting on 15 July 2014, the Trustees on the recommendation of the Distinctions Advisory Board,  discussed and agreed a complete revision of the Distinctions Handbook and its format. This also incorporates a number of changes to the Panels and their requirements. Full details will be available on the Society website from the beginning of August, with the changes being implemented from 2015.

The changes are the result of a lengthy consultation process, and are designed to meet the aspirations of members and photographers, and aid a better understanding of the Society’s Distinctions. The principal changes are:

The Visual Art category will split into two categories:
1. Pictorial – “intended to recognise the creative use of the camera, in producing images which are not fundamentally altered either in post-production processing or in-camera manipulation.” – the emphasis is on the creative use of the camera.

2. Creative - “is intended to recognise digital creativity, either in camera or in post processing”. It will be a requirement in this category that it is photographically based and that all content must be produced by the applicant.

A second concern has been a broad lack of understanding of the requirements of the Contemporary category – the interpretations of ‘Contemporary Photography’ vary widely and are difficult to define. The requirements of the category are clear – “the category considers applications which explore, define, illustrate or evaluate issues through photographic images.” This also has been discussed widely with the membership – we see many Panels which could be very appropriate for this category submitted in other categories, because applicants hesitate at the word ‘Contemporary’.  

As a result, the Society has agreed to adjust the name of the Panel to ‘Conceptual and Contemporary. This is not ‘Conceptual’, as defined by art world, but reflects the requirement for a concept, set down in the Statement of Intent, to be illustrated through the photographic images. This perhaps differentiates the Distinction from the Contemporary Group, but more accurately reflects the Distinctions requirements of the Society.

 ·         There are a number of other changes to the process of applications:

1. Images used in a successful Licentiate or Associate application cannot be used subsequently in an application at the next level.

2. Applicants are required to show a progression in their work (something which has been required in recent years, but not defined) and will need to manage their images appropriately if they plan future applications. Applicants must provide hanging plans or a layout of the sequences of past successful applications where. For full details on progression please download the following PDF document Click here

There are a number of other minor changes, and applicants are advised to read the revised Distinctions information going live on the website at the beginning of August, at

Roy Robertson HonFRPS
Deputy Chair, Distinctions Advisory Board