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CREDIT: Richard Sheldrake LRPS

Distinctions Update for 2021

An update of intended changes for 2021

Changes will come into place 5 January 2021

The new year brings some exciting changes to our Distinctions. Our team would like to thank the volunteers for their support, and all of the applicants for their patience and understanding throughout this difficult year.



To add clarity to the Fellowship definition, we have removed the requirement for "Distinguished". The definition will now read as “A submission that demonstrates a distinctive body of work”.


Applied photography

  1. The definition for Applied is updated from "Photography which has been produced for a specific end purpose" to "Photography which has been produced for an intended purpose". 
  2. Applied photography is now titled Applied and Portraiture Photography. A new definition and criteria for Portraiture will be announced in January 2021
  3. All other criteria remains unchanged.

Fine Art Photography

  1. Fine Art Photography is now titled Visual Art Photography.
  2. All criteria remains unchanged. 


To simplify the requirements, Sequence and Hanging Plans will be referred to as “Presentation layouts”. 

Images for Screen (IFS) is now titled Digital.

Whether a submission is presented as digital or prints, applicants can choose to design the overall presentation in either 1, 2 or 3 rows.

The assessors will look for evidence of a well-designed presentation that is cohesive and balanced. Full details of presentation plans are available from Jan 8 on the RPS Distinctions website. We recommend gaining further advice on these elements prior to submission, via our 1:1’s

PRINT PANELS: during COVID restrictions, the applicant is also required to submit a set of high-resolution digital files as used to make the prints, these files will be used to assess the content only by online assessors. The print advisor at RPS house, will offer impartial advice on the technical aspects of the prints to the online assessors.


Any submission for a book format for Licentiate, Associate or Fellowship will now fall in line with Prints and Digital. Books will now require a minimum of 10 images for Licentiate [previously 20], a minimum of 15 images for Associate [previously 30] and a minimum of 20 images for Fellowship [previously 40]. There is no minimum size for a book. 

Rebecca Faith Photo 1038
CREDIT: Rebecca Faith Photo


We are delighted to announce that the spring Distinction assessments, which run between March and June, will be open for observers. All assessments will be accessible including, for the first time in more than 15 years, Fellowship! More details of how you will be able to join will be announced in the New Year. We all hope that before too long we will be able to welcome you in person to view assessments in RPS House once again. 


We're constantly working on ways to help our volunteers fulfil their roles within the department. We have therefore decided to appoint three panel members to the role of deputy within their specialist genres to provide assistance to and relieve some of the workload on our Panel Chairs. Chris Palmer FRPS [left] will be appointed as deputy Chair of the Visual Art panel, Kevin Elsby FRPS [middle] will be appointed as deputy Chair of the Natural History panel and Richard Brayshaw FRPS [right] will be appointed as deputy Chair of the Contemporary panel. 

We're also excited to announce the appointment of three new panel members who will each bring their own expertise to the assessment team. Carol McNiven Young FRPS [left] and Bhupinder Ghatahora ARPS [middle] will both be joining the Licentiate panel and Valda Bailey FRPS [right] will be joining the Visual Art panel. We would also like to welcome Malcolm Wright [bottom left] as an external advisor for the Film panel.  



The lockdown resulted in a pause for the majority of our Advisory days. However, in order to provide a useful service to our applicants, we launched online 1:1 portfolio reviews.

These portfolio reviews have been a huge success with many applicants appreciating the dedication that our panel members have been providing throughout the past few months.


Can't recommend this [1:1 Online Portfolio Review] RPS development enough. Rather than having a full formed panel ready to present, it's great to be able to check if you are on the right track.

- Susi Petherick ARPS 

We will also be offering online 1:1 statement of intent reviews. More details will be announced on 8 January.

Distinctions Talks Live 2


Since our first live talk on the 30 April with Joe Cornish HonFRPS, a whopping 5,000 of you have joined us online for some enthralling conversations with 16 talented photographers. 

We've chatted with award winning cinematographer [and Film genre panel member] Anne-Marie Lean-Vercoe FRPS about her BAFTA award winning work; Ria Mishaal FRPS has shown us how working with children and animals needn't be the hassle it's sometimes made out to be; Paul Colley FRPS has proved that with a little bit of patience it is possible to photograph bats in flight and international award winning photographer Mandy Barker FRPS has highlighted the global crisis of plastic pollution within our seas.

The conversations and more are all available to view at your leisure. 

In 2021, we look forward to bringing you more live talks.

RPS Distinctions **Official Group**

On the 25th March 2020 we launched our RPS Distinctions Facebook Group and since then we have had 2,600 people join us. If you haven't done so, use the link above to join us and take part in a very active photographic community. 

All information at the time of writing is correct.