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To be or not to be? - (Qualified) - The final question! - part 1 of 1

by Tom Lee Published 01/02/2011

Well it seems a while since we started our discussions on qualifications. However, here we are, competent with our Licentiate, having demonstrated creativity and flair with our Associateship, you have a lot to be proud of right now. So what is required to get the full set?

The final step in the ladder is far more difficult to quantify and, as you would expect, is not something that comes cheaply. Just as with Photoshop, there is more than one way to achieve your goal.

Fellowship by Contribution (Hon) One of the main goals of the Societies during its infancy in 1988 (as the SWPP) was to reward members with its highest accolade but not purely for technical competence. This is more than adequately catered for in its Associate qualification. The Credit System, briefly outlined in the last article is an effort to quantify how members contribute, not only to the Societies, but to the photographic industry as a whole.

It was felt that photographers who put back into the profession as much as they got out of it were not recognised or rewarded for their contributions to the organisation, membership and industry as a whole. The concept was initially proposed at director level, in consultation with eminent members. Latterly the system awards a sliding-scale score for activities undertaken by its members, and contributes towards the 1,000 points necessary for the Honorary Fellowship. Remember, as an Associate you will already have 500 points towards that total.

If you are curious to know exactly where you are, then drop an email to HQ and ask them how many points you currently have. Remember, if you don't contribute, you won't earn points and you will need to undertake a variety of activities (not just enter competitions) in order for the award to be ratified by your peers.

Fellowship by Submission

The quickest (and probably most difficult) route to Fellowship is by submission. The rules regarding submission of your panel and the overriding criteria regarding qualification mean that only the best of the best will get through. It's worth noting that the RPS only have a 17% pass rate at Fellowship level, which is awarded via submissions.

Our previous scoring system goes out of the window at this stage - you either pass or fail, as determined by five of your peers. Scores will only be awarded should a submission fail to indicate to the applicant how far off the mark they are.

The first stage towards success is to choose only the very best of your work and have it printed and mounted to a impeccable professional standards. This will inevitably involve some serious cash outlay and therefore you will take additional care in your selection. This is the first of our departures from previous qualification submissions, which can be made electronically.

The judging panel will be reviewing your work based on the following guidelines:

• Does the applicant show originality of approach, style or subject matter?
• Has the author achieved a maturity of vision and a standard of excellence above that required for an Associate?
• Is the photography of the highest technical and aesthetic quality?
• Is the standard of presentation worthy of the award?
• Has technical excellence in the use of appropriate camera craft, composition, lighting skills and post production been shown?


In addition to the above, the applicant is asked to provide a 'Statement of Intent'. This is required to assist the judging panel in assessing the application where extremes of style and technique have been employed in the submission, or where the prints are to be viewed in a specific order. Any hidden messages in storyline should be explained (be careful not to try to con the judges); commercial work should be explained with a client brief and raison d'κtre.

The investment getting to this position is considerable and you need to be sure of yourself before committing to a submission. Failure to comply with any criteria in the above will provide the judging panel with a reason to fail your panel (including the Statement of Intent). However, the object is not to fail you, you should see the smiles on fellow colleagues' faces when a consensus for a pass is agreed.

The stringent nature of the criteria for qualification means that this type of assessment can only be done 'in camera' (behind closed doors) and is usually held only once or twice a year when sufficient Fellows are available to hold sessions. It's not only expensive for you, but the Societies also.

Beyond Fellowship

We hope that you will want to continue your contributions towards the Societies, photographic industry and fellow colleagues once you attain your own Fellowship. To this end, additional distinctions are available by continuing your support and are only attainable by the Credit System. This is similar to the system in place across the USA who reward their own photographers with medals of achievement and additional bars for the more committed contributors.

Master, Grand Master and Grand Master Bar await those who see themselves in a long career in this most rewarding of professions. The Societies only award these prestigious distinctions to its members at the Annual Convention and currently has a total of seven Masters inaugurated over the past two years.

In conclusion, we hope that the structure of qualifications set out in these past three issues will encourage the membership to strive for excellence and continue their professional development throughout their association within the Societies. Be the best you can be and prove it with qualifications. If you don't succeed first time around don't see it as failure, just a challenge.

By way of example we illustrate this final feature with the recent successful Fellowship application from Socieities' Photographer of the Year, Helen Sapiecha fsda. It was a timely arrival, highlighting all that is good and necessary for a Fellowship application. Our congratulations are recorded herewith!


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1st Published 01/02/2011
last update 30/04/2014 16:22:37

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