How to start your LRPS
Author: Judith White LRPS, AYWMC Community Manager
Working towards gaining the Licentiateship of the Royal Photographic Society (LRPS) is not to be undertaken lightly, but is a very rewarding experience that will take your photography to another level. Having been through the process myself, to maximise your chances of being successful, I would recommend these steps:
1. What exactly is required?
Visit the Distinctions section of the RPS website to read the most up-to-date guidelines. Currently for the LRPS, you need a panel of 10 images that show technical competence. These will usually be arranged over 2 rows, 5 images on each row.
There is no need to have a theme for your panel, but your images must sit together as an overall set – this is often referred to as “the 11th image”. Images on the ends of the row should look inwards. A symmetrical image would work well in a central position. It is fine to have a mixture of landscape and portrait formats but they should balance each other. Similarly, it is fine to have a mixture of colour and mono images but again they should balance.
Images are marked on five different areas (presentation, technical quality, camera work, visual and communication). All images must pass on all five areas.
There are examples of successful panels on the RPS website, which show a huge variety of images.
2. Get help
Try to find someone who has been through the process themselves to act as your mentor and an independent eye. It’s very hard to be objective about your own work. If you are a member of a camera club there will be plenty of people willing to help.
Book onto an advisory day as an observer. Take note of the advice given to applicants. The main reason why panels fail are: blown highlights, image not sharp enough (particularly eyes), light or bright areas at corners or on edges, and poor printing.
3. Start to build a panel of images
Read the guidelines carefully, and note the requirements for every single image:
In particular: be selective with composition and crop if necessary, don’t use a straight ‘record’ shot as there needs to be evidence of the author’s input, and always zoom in to 100% on your screen to check the detail of the whole image.
Your images will need to be sharpened before you print them. Don’t overdo it.
Use the same paper for printing and the same colour of mounts for the whole panel. It is usual to mount printed images using 500 by 400 mm board, with images of A4 size.
You won’t fail because of bad presentation if the images are good enough, but good panelling will help a marginal panel.
When you think you have sufficient images, book onto an advisory day. Take your panel of 10 images, plus at least 5 spares. You may find that a strong image is rejected because it doesn’t fit in with the other 9.
You are very unlikely to be told that your planned panel doesn’t need any work. The advisers may swap your images around, discard some in favour of one (or more) of your spares, or advise you to fill in the gaps they have left. For example, one of my proposed images was rejected because it had a very strong colour that didn’t fit in with the rest. I was advised that I could try to find another image with equally strong colour, but that I’d be better off not using it.
Because of this, you won’t leave the advisory day with a complete panel. Therefore, you can’t be certain that you will pass the actual assessment.
6. Assessment day
When you have followed the guidance from your advisory day, book your assessment day.
You don’t have to attend the assessment day, but I went to mine as I wanted to know exactly what the assessors thought. I was extremely nervous, not least because there was no announcement of the order in advance. As far as I know, the assessors don’t know whose work they are assessing.
When my panel was put up for assessment, one of my images (the central one on the lower row) was displayed upside down! Luckily, another member of our camera club was also there so he told the chair of the assessment panel.
The assessors look carefully at each image and the overall panel. They discuss amongst themselves, then one will give verbal feedback. Their assessment sheets are then passed to the chair (who does not actually assess). If the panel is deemed to be successful, your name is called. If not, the reasons are given. The decision is not final until confirmed in writing a few days later. If a panel is considered to be especially good, it may be retained for up to 6 months to use as an example of a successful panel.
All this may sound very nerve-wracking. For me, the whole process was very worthwhile as I felt that I had achieved a good standard as a photographer.