You may have seen that some of our members have of an alphabet soup of letters after their name, e.g. CPAGB, LRPS, BPE1, MPSA, EFIAP or similar. These represent photographic distinctions which show that the photographer has reached a particular standard recognized by either a national or an international body. Distinctions can be a bit daunting and hugely confusing, so we hope the information on this page will help guide you through the mire!
Distinctions ending in PAGB are awarded by the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain. Penrith & District Camera Club is part of the PAGB and any of our members can try for a distinction in prints, PDIs or AV if they think they’ve reached the required standard. There is a one off application fee which differs depending on which distinction you apply for and images are judged at Adjudication Days which are held twice a year in April and November at various locations around the country. Prints and PDIs don’t have to be connected in any way and are judged as individual images, not as a set.
If you’d like to apply for a PAGB distinction you are strongly encouraged to get advice first from a club member who already has the award – there’s a list in the Member’s Section of our website. There are also various advisory days held around the country you may wish to attend. Before you enter, you must show that you have ‘supported your club’ for a certain number of years depending which distinction you are applying for by having a fully paid up subscription. Having decided to enter, the first step is to contact the PAGB Awards Officer at the Northern Counties Photographic Federation who will supply you with an application form which must then be signed by the Chair of Penrith Camera Club and returned with the appropriate fee. You will then be awarded a place on one of the Adjudication Days and sent further instructions on how to submit your application.
Once you have a PAGB distinction, you retain it for life without any further costs or subscriptions.
Distinctions ending in RPS are awarded by the Royal Photographic Society. You must be a member of the RPS in order to apply for one of their distinctions and keep up your annual membership in order to retain your distinction. You apply for distinctions under your own steam and the RPS hold advisory days to help with your application. These distinctions are based on a panel of images which are shown together as a set.
Distinctions ending in BPE are awarded by The British Photographic Exhibitions, which exists to encourage photographers to enter exhibitions. In order to obtain a BPE distinction members enter BPE recognized exhibitions under their own steam. Each acceptance into an Exhibition acrues one point and when you have enough points you can apply for a distinction free of charge. Further details can be found on the BPE website.
International Salons (PSA and FIAP)
Distinctions ending in either PSA (Photographic Society of America) or FIAP (Federation Internationale de L’Art Photographique) are awarded by international bodies and are based on the number of ‘acceptances’ gained after entering photographic Salons. Salons may be print, PDI or sometimes both, which photographers pay to enter under their own steam (costs vary depending on the Salon and can range from approx £8-£40). There are various categories per Salon, eg. Open colour, Mono, Nature, and you can enter up to 4 images per category (make sure you abide by the rules for each category which will be advertised on the website).
If you have an image accepted into a Salon it will form part of either an online or print exhibition and there may also be a catalogue produced of the Salon – see an example of an online catalogue here (don’t be put off by the high standard of the images in the catalogue as these are the medal winners and not all images accepted need to be this good!). You can enter Salons just for the fun of it, but most people do so because every time one of their pictures is accepted into an Exhibition this counts towards the criteria needed for a distinction.
If you’d like to enter a FIAP Salon find upcoming Salons here (you may have to create an account or register first). Once you’ve found a Salon you’d like to enter, click on the link to go to the Salon’s website and follow their instructions on either uploading PDIs or sending prints. You will be directed to Paypal to pay your fee. Check the website for the closing and judging dates, after which you will be informed by email if any of your submitted photos have been accepted.
You must keep detailed records of your accepted images if you ever intend to apply for a FIAP distinction! Please ask one of our club members for advice on the type of information you must record.
Once you’ve reached the necessary criteria you can apply for your chosen distinction. Only one submission for a FIAP distinction is permitted in any given year and is done through the FIAP Liaison Officer of the PAGB. Applications usually start in November, with a closing date for completed entries of 31st March each year – it can be quite a long and detailed process. Full details and timetabling for the forthcoming year’s process is always advertised in the PAGB e-news and is also available from the Applications Timetable link on the PAGB website.
As part of the application process for your first FIAP distinction you will need to apply for a FIAP life card which costs a one off fee of around £50, however once you have a FIAP distinction you retain it for life without any further costs or subscriptions.
If you’d like to enter a PSA Salon find upcoming Salons here. Entry details are the same as for FIAP, i.e. visit the Salon’s website and follow their instructions.
Again, it’s vital that you keep detailed records of your accepted images if you ever intend to apply for a PSA distinction!
The PSA distinction application process is a little complicated and requires 3 steps:
- Get accepted into PSA accredited Salons.
- Use these acceptances to apply for Star Ratings Certificates.
- Then use the Star Ratings Certificates to apply for ROPA distinctions.
You don’t have to be a PSA member to enter PSA approved Salons, but you do have to become a PSA member in order to apply for star ratings or distinctions once you’ve reached the necessary criteria. In addition to the annual membership fee, an administration fee is charged for each star rating or distinction application and you need to continue your annual membership to retain any distinctions gained.
Further information and criteria for Star Ratings Certificates and ROPA distinctions can be found in the member’s section of our website.
Note: some Salons are approved by both PSA and FIAP so you can kill two birds with one stone!
You’re probably now totally bamboozled and thinking you’ll never even attempt to aim for a distinction, but you’d be missing out! There is a huge sense of achievement in obtaining either a PAGB or RPS distinction and knowing your photography has reached a nationally recognized standard.
In the case of FIAP and PSA, entering Salons is great fun and it’s exciting watching your inbox for the results! Let’s be honest, entering Salons can initially be a bit complicated and does cost money but you quickly find your feet and it’s fabulous to see your acceptances stacking up and the goal for your first distinction getting closer.
There is some excellent, detailed information about all of the distinctions mentioned on this page, including photography standards and criteria, in the Member’s Section of our website and a detailed beginner’s guide to Salons can be found here.