During my second year of blogging, I started this post… back in 2016 … so bear with me, sorry it is long but it took me a while to complete….

I have been thinking for a while about a photographic qualification, and what I would really like is a recognisable qualification known by the public and other photographers so I started looking into the awards run by various photographic societies, and to raise my confidence as a photographer.  The distinctions by the Royal Photography Society drew my interest and I discovered that I can start with the LRPS, and if I achieve it – I will be able to grow as a photographer.


The Royal Photographic Society Distinctions

Where to start though…

Tim and Richard at the Old Bakery group both have LRPS qualifications, and Tim is working towards his ARPS… so I chatted to both of them and asked whether they felt I could do this (I lack confidence) and whether my photos are good enough (I still lack confidence). I only need 10 amazing pictures to make up my panel after all.

Every so often the RPS run Distinction Advisory Days, this is where photographers submit up to 15 pictures that they would like consider for that panel for advice … there are limited places – but I have booked to go to the January 2016, as a spectator – so I can learn more about what kind of images they are looking for, whether I really think I can do this and as the first step along my journey…. and I have started to look at other LRPS  panels via the Royal Photographic Society Web Site, but have found very little on the internet. No one seems to talk about doing the award.  Robert Rhead, blogged about achieving his LRPS and highlights some of the points the RPS are looking for… but right now I feel like it is a leap into the unknown!

LRPS / ARPS Advisory Day

I attended an LRPS advisisory day and it was a great experience – I was not able to take any pictures – The RPS shared a report though on their web site – which included the photo below – I am looking at the images on the right! (It looks like their photographer has a lot to learn about taking photos!)

I did take away lots of ideas and advice to carry forward with me about what is required to do the LRPS – and it was really interesting. The LRPS is not just just about individual images it is about creating a selection of images that go together and are all of a great standard – I can really see the importance of some of the judges comments at camera club now.


RPS panel Day – not my photo.

I took lots of new information away from the day but most helpful I think are the following pointers:

  • There is no right or wrong image to include – but images that have been made rather than taken are better and it is important to choose a variety of images, subjects, models, techniques so you show case your versatility – no more than 2 of the same style.
  • Just cause an image does well or does not do well in a club competition, does not mean it will have the same effect in your panel – they are different things.
  • Point of focus is important, the images most be in focus and composed well, and there needs to be space within images for a subject to breathe.
  • Printing and the mounts are important – a semi luster paper perhaps, and a variety of mount holes can be used as long as across the panel they match. Banding equals failure, and the bigger the print, the bigger the errors that the judging panel will spot.
  • Don’t over process – processing does not make a bad image better – take a better image first time found!
  • It is great to take and discuss your images with a fellowship member if you can – they know what makes a great panel and what judges are looking for.
  • When you have an idea of what your panel is going to include submit it for RPS feedback online and take it along to a panel day, they are there to offer helpful advice and to guide you.

The Photography Show 2016

I went to the photography show at the NEC in March 2016, and discovered that there were lots of photography awards – lots of organisations that you could pay an annual fee for in order to be assessed and use there letters, logo and branding. I had not quite realised how many… there is more choice that I imagined and I have collected information to read… but I came away with some new ideas…

  • Award winning images are taken by photographers who are not necessarily accredited with anything – it is photography that counts.
  • Photos for competitions, photos for clients and photos for panels are all different – they meet different crtieria
  • Photography is a serious business… the organisations who assess your images want your business and spend lots on marketing too photographers, but they don’t make money through photography, instead through their business of marketing
  • For me I want to create images the client wants and I want to have fun and enjoy my photography….

Other Shows and Networking Events

I have gone on to attend a number of other networking shows and events – which are often run or involve some of the leading societies and I have discovered a great deal …

  • The speakers are often photographers – they take great pictures but they are great at selling themselves, encouraging you to sign up for their workshop, their training scheme, their award system. Do they make mony out of photography, despite all the letters and accolades after their name – some do – but more make money through training others, telling them how to do it – the old saying “those who can – do, those who can’t, teach” – comes to mind.
  • The different between a profitable photographer and a non profitable photographer is not the letters after your name, or the standard of photography in some cases – but it is being confident in what you do and the service you offer.
  • Letters / Qualifications where you enter to images and are judged… does not make you better than someone who who had chosen not to do this …  and it can get costly – especially if you have to pay to enter competitions … but you can often access the same training  – every society and club that is a business is out to make a profit, and that means charging the photographer – if funds are limited … are they better spent on training,  high specification lens, a web site, up to date software, insurance?

I joined a Society

I have continued to waver on whether I wanted to join a society or not …and then decided I would give one a go – which to choose – the RPS.. why? Cause as a photographer and pre photography that is the name I recognised, new and associated with great photographers… so as of the 29th July 2016 – I am now a member of the Royal Photographic Society, and I have added its branding to my web site.

I then had the opportunity to enter their annual Digital competition, I could submit 4 images… the results of which can be found on my blog post in December 2016. I have not got round to entering since.

Does a photography qualification make you a better photographer?

I am still thinking about getting my LRPS, I know I can do it, just at times I have doubts in my own ability and my own style… but if I look at where I was when I started blogging and where I am now …  having the qualification does not make you a better photographer, it might even make you complacent, as you no longer try and develop new skills…  some people with letters after their name think it does make them better than others… but to me it just says that they took a small selection of images that they may have spent time planning and preparing, and they were good enough to meet the criteria … it does not mean every image they now take it … and it also does not mean that they will sell more images, win more competitions or consistently take better pictures. and I still have to decide what to do… it also doesn’t help that talking to different photographers they all have a different view on whether a qualification is needed, what it means to them, whether it is worth the effort – but they also all photograph different things, have their own style and their own purpose and reason for taking photos.

Still deciding

January 2017 – I have now attended a “how I achieved my distinction” RPS training, and saw lots of panels, people showed off the panels they did to earn their LRPS, ARPS and FRPS – the most interesting two were the panels that failed. I am still confused over what makes a great panel photo, along with the reason to get the LRPS or ARPS … but it was a really interesting day…

So what now…

I can spend my life wondering whether I can or should… but I will never know for sure if I don’t try… I have done some research and there are a number of photography qualification options available:

I am sure there are more… please let me know in the comments…

So where am I now…

It is 2 weeks to go before I attend another LRPS Advisory Day (April 2017) – this time as a participant – I have to have together 10 images that I think will form my panel and another 5 that could be swapped in… I have got the panel selected.. I am struggling to choose the extra images.

My panel had to look great as individual images and work as a whole… this is why I have selected the images I have to include…

  • 10 prints
  • CAMERA WORK AND TECHNICAL QUALITY including correct point of focus with appropriate depth of field,Suitable sharpness for the subject matter, correct exposure, Correct colour rendition/management and the absence of processing faults or digital defects. I have included close up and wide angle shots, wide and narrow appertures, I checked focus and sharpness.
  • VISUAL AWARENESS including a good understanding of light, Composition and design,viewpoint, awareness of backgrounds, backgrounds and distractions, Appropriate use of colour and post production techniques. I have included natural light, back lit and flash images, shots where the background add to the story and where it has been minimalised. I have done a variety of crops to add the composition and edited all the images to a similar feel, as I want to represent my style.
  • COMMUNICATION including a point of interest, demonstrate evidence of imagination and creativity, show understanding and empathy with the subject matter and the ability to capture the decisive moment. I have chosen a subject in each image to draw your eye, I took each picture at the moment I feel that was right for me, and I tried to show a range of shutter speeds as well in the image.
  • OVERALL IMPRESSION, the panel as a whole has to be balanced and cohesive set of images, an appropriate choice of materials and a variety of photographic skills and techniques. This was hard but I have balance colour tones across the panel, matched the shapes, pointed the images into the centre, tried to reflect my style of what I like to photograph and amazingly every image has a heart beat!


The extra 5 images I am now struggling to choose with 2 weeks to go… but I have done it … these, it is quite hard to choose images that can be cropped to fit the above design, that are of similar tones and that would work with the images I have selected. We will see what happens. I have submitted the panel for feedback.


I have now applied….

Had an email this morning (27th March) that states:

“Thank you for your application for the Licentiate of The Royal Photographic Society. I can confirm your assessment will be on the 8th June 2017″

Guess that means I can’t put it off for much longer.

Advisory Day Attended

I attended an advisory day on the 2nd April, there were two people there from RPS who commented on my panel – Richard and Cathie both who had FRPS status and over 20 years experience between them… it was a really interesting day, they provided great feedback on all the panels that were shown, had a sense of humour and gave some really good feedback.


Photo by RPS Southern – spot me in the stripy top!

They suggested I swapped two images with my reserves:

  • The central puffin shot was slightly out of focus on one of the puffins so they swapped it for the other one, and they also felt this met the overall panel image too.
  • The bride, they liked the image but felt your eye was drawn to her hand – the darkest part of the image, and suggested I swapped it for the other baby shot. It was a strong image with character.
  • They particularly liked my black lit images – which I was worried were a bit the same, they queries the feathers on the birds head, but admitted they were not nature photographers.
  • They also suggested I swapped the owl image – number 6 – to something else… maybe wildlife, possibly even a different owl as this one had a sticky out twig where it’s beak would be – and they are right.
  • Overall not too much to admit, they liked the panel as a whole, pleased with the size and the print quality, the focusing was good, and it showed a variety, I came home feeling fairly pleased.

My rearranged panel on the easels – with one image to swap.

Assessment Day One

So where am I now. My revised panel is chosen, mounted and submitted and I am waiting judgement. I am sat at the rather unimpressive RPS HQ in Bath for their opinion. There was no real introduction to the day, no one really put you at ease, you were not even offered a coffee or encouraged to talk to other delegates and so far 7 panels have been shown – 5 fails, 1 referral, 1 pass. I honestly feel I have not picked at my panel enough, I don’t think my work is high enough to make it. They are a tough panel to get round. Mine was the 11th panel of the morning. 9 had already failed at this point – anything from a dust spot to to much contrast, a poor selection of images, focusing – and I failed on highlights.

Under the lighting three of my images had slightly blown highlights in a small area of the frame, and talking to the panel chair afterwards it was quite possibly cause I had not looked at them under a bright enough light. I was disappointed and felt let down as the previous assessment panel had not noticed the issue, especially two of the images that they failed on were swapped in by the pre assessment panel –  but it also highlighted how hard it was to pass. 10 failures out of of 11 panels this morning, and you never seem to read that online. Is this the norm? I have no idea!

What happens next. Apparently I have to wait for a letter from the chair of the panel and it goes from there…

My thoughts on the RPS, at the moment I feel they are an unwelcoming group. This is not because I did not pass, more the lack of communication – there was a problem with my application and I needed to return a form last minute – I did by email but it was not acknowledged. I rang to follow it up – but the call was not returned. I had expected more communication about the day rather then just the initial email – not even a reminder about what was needed, and on arrival I expected a hello, an explanation of what was happening rather than my folder taken, placed against the wall and then a second party walking off with it. I arrived not knowing what to expect, but a simple welcome, a friendly smile and an explanation would have helped and by the looks of people’s faces I was not the only one. Assessment days are obviously just part of the job, but first impressions matter and it was my first visit to their HQ and it was a real let down.

I got my letter, the highlights were blown on three images – I am cross it was not picked up earlier… but I am going to try again and resubmit those images once I have reworked them.

Assessment Day Two – October 2017

Interestingly it was no more welcoming this time than last time, you were greeted, the folder was taken and that was kind of it… and you are just shepherded through. I had edited three images – I kept them the same but processed them differently and had no idea how that would work… I marked them on an additional plan, which I had popped into the box with my images – but there was no chance to explain anything to anyone. I was the 13th panel displayed, they only accessed the three images and looked at them closely. They knew they had been reprinted cause I had written it on the notes, but they were guessing what was wrong with them.

There was disagreement between the panel decision and they went out the room to discuss it – in the end they agreed that 2 images passed – one was particularily good (the baby one) but the puffin had a halo… not noticed at the pre assessment day, in the online evaluation, commented about on my first assessment day but  on the fourth time – they spot it! The halo they spotted, when it was pointed out to me was actually a white flower behind the bird, but there is no opportunity to discuss it.

At each assessment we are told that what happens in the room stays in the room, that the judges comments are confidential, I guess is why there is so little information out there about the LRPS experience …  I may feel differently about it if I had passed first time… right now I feel let down – despite asking, recieving and acting on the support and guidance I have recieved I still have not been assessed as not good enough and not really any signposting to go forward.

It really does feel like it is an exclusive group, almost an old person’s club and the advice recieved to date is very vague and inconsistent. Apparently now the next step is to resubmit 3 digital images for advice reagarding the 10th image – 9 have now passed –  but it has to fit the panel.

Panel Vs2

9 images passed – one failed.

So what was next…

All I had to do was choose a couple of suitable alternative images and email them to them for the next stage, I choose 3 and had feedback that they thought one was suitable for the panel so my next mission was to send off 2 copies of this as a print. I posted them recorded delivery – emailed a week later to check if they arrived and I heard nothing – not even a thank you for the email.

I have heard discussions about the RPS and questions about why membership is dropping off, and I can see why…

  • No response from HQ for emails – not even acknowledgements
  • Little information online about the panel process… it is is like it is a secret…
  • Conflicting advice all the way through the journey
  • Communication is really lacking

I will wait and see now if I ever hear anything… but after doing a 2 day RPS Wedding Workshop this weekend and seeing photos like the one this one photographed from the presentation… I think the RPS belongs very much in the past… and really is not the style of photos that I want to offer clients and friends, but it has also highlighted to me how much I have grown as a photographer, how much I know now, and how I must research the photograper offering the training more.

It took 10 days for the RPS to reply to an email to say my prints had arrived. I was then told I would need to wait and they hope I would hear back soon. I am sure this blog now sounds really bitter if I am not of the standard of an LRPS, honestly – I really no longer care.

Below is my final the panel that is being judged – who knows what the latest view is as I only had to send off 2 copies of the centre image as a print and copy of the final panel to see whether they think this image is also of standard.  They don’t have the others to compare it too – and it could be a different judge. I personally think the centre image is now a little two weak – maybe a too familiar location, but it is about spotting a moment so I will wait and see.

However the panel does reflect what I look to photograph:

  • Local wildlife – as grab shots, and locations I have visited here in the UK
  • The Coastguard and RNLI at work
  • Children
  • Images that tell a story…

Panel Vs_Ducks1

Helen Renouf LRPS

Well today… 23rd Febuary 2018 – I have an email…

“I am delighted to inform you that your Panel has been recommended for Licentiate of The Royal Photographic Society.

On the 1st March 2018, all referral recommendations will go to the Distinctions Committee for approval and Council to be ratified. This may take up to 14 days. Once all recommendations are ratified, your Certificate and confirmation letter will be sent.

Congratulations on your recommendation.”

I am going to wait until the actual paperwork arrives – but as I understand it I have now been recommended, and now just have to keep my membership up to keep it valid, I suppose.

27th March

I still not heard anything offically, so I have emailed the RPS to ask them whether it was normal to still be waiting…. and on the 28th I get a reply…

“Many apologies, with heavy snow at the start of the month causing us to have to cancel some assessments and the preparations for The Photography show, various tasks became delayed and I have been playing catch up.

However, I am happy to say that your Recommendation for LRPS has been ratified.

I’ll be sending over the LRPS emblems today and your certificate will also be in the post shortly.”



I will wait for the certificate!

Have I changed my mind about it being an old man club along the way, not really,  they don’t really care about their membership or the work that has gone into achieving recognition,  I feel that the RPS have lost sight of the photographer, and that they really need to learn something about customer service, the value of their members and look at how they want to support photographers.

But, I have achieved my aim, I have developed as a photographer over the last two years, I am gaining more confidence and I even help other photographer… did I do this through the RPS – no, I did this on my own, has it given me more confidence – would I recommend it to others… I think it depends on the reason why you want to do it, it won’t make you a better photographer but it will make you think more about your photography!

29th March – finally!


My LRPS Certicate and Badge

View my panel here on the RPS Web Site

Update May 2018

Today I had an email from the RPS about my blog… they had found it, and found my thoughts on the process, I think it is only fair to show their comments based on what they have read:

” Hello Helen,

I just wanted to say thank you for your blog, it was very interesting to read and highlighted some areas we need to review. I am aware of some of the issues/comments you have mentioned, but especially e-mails and communication. I will share your blog with the team for their comments.

All of us in the Distinctions team want to provide the best service we can to our members and non-members, and are always looking at ways we can improve, and your blog has helped me to focus on some really key issues.

With thanks and many congratulations on gaining your LRPS

With thanks

Andy Moore LRPS, Distinctions Manager”