Photographic Distinctions





 (and how do I get some?)

 The lecturer or judge comes to the club and the chairman in introducing him reels off a load of letters after his name. To the regular it is all clear, but to many it means very little. Remember though, he of she probably started out just like your self and worked hard to get those letters. So why can’t you? Well you haven’t got much chance if you don’t know what they mean.

Broadly speaking there are two types of awards. The first are those granted for achievement in photography, which generally you have to apply for. The second type of award is granted for services to photography probably over many years. These latter generally cannot (and must not) be applied for and are usually done by confidential recommendations.

There are a number of organisations who grant awards or distinctions and they tend to be national or international organisations.   The information has therefore been set out below, organisation by organisation for the most commonly known:-

Royal Photographic Society (RPS)

Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB)

Federation Internationale de l’Art Photographique (FIAP)

Photographic Society of America (PSA)

British Photographic Exhibitions

 In some cases these organisations, especially RPS and PSA, do make other awards but the ones covered here are those you are most likely to come across

Please remember the articles on the accompanying pages are brief notes; you should refer to the relevant web site for full information and guidance.



Web site:-

 The RPS grants distinctions for three levels of achievement.   You have to be an RPS member to hold any of these distinctions and you can only use them as long as you are a member of the RPS.

LRPS – Licentiate of the RPS

The first level, Licentiateship is open to all members of The Royal Photographic Society.    Non-members of The Society may also apply but if they are successful, the Distinction will not be approved until they have become Members.   The Licentiateship is awarded either for competence in practical photography, or by passing of an appropriate examination in photography recognised by The Society.   Normally you will be required to submit 10 prints, or 10 slides or 10 images on CD-rom as evidence for your application in still photography. In AV you will be required submit one or more sequences lasting not less than 10 minutes.

ARPS – Associate of the RPS

Members and non-members may apply for Associateship, a more specialised Distinction.  It is for a high degree of proficiency and a high technical and visual competence in particular categories.   The Award will not be approved until membership is taken up. You have to submit 15 prints, Slides, images on CD-rom; or a 15 mins sequence in AV.

FRPS – Fellow of the RPS

Fellowship is the highest Distinction of The Royal Photographic Society and recognises original work and outstanding ability in a specialist field.  It is open to Associates of The Society and Fellows of the BIPP, but photographers with an established reputation may apply direct, based on their CV, references, publications and exhibitions, even if they are non-members of The Society. They still need to join to hold the distinction once awarded.

In most categories you will be required to submit either 20 prints or transparencies, or 20 minutes of Audio Visual sequence, or 20 minutes of film or video.

Hon.FRPSHonorary Fellow of the RPS

For exceptional service this is principle award of several, made annually, which may not be applied




Service Awards

The Service Awards are made following confidential recommendation to the relevant Sub-Committee of the PAGB Executive, and approved by the full Executive Committee.

APAGBAssociate of PAGB

This is granted to members of affiliated Federations and their clubs for prolonged outstanding service to the PAGB, their federation or club.   Generally at least 10 years Federation service is a minimum of at least around 30 years or more at Club level is required. This service award is the most well known and any club member in good standing can nominate a fellow member for this award.

Further explanation in respect of APAGB is therefore warranted to assist those of you who might know of someone deserving of the award, but not know how to go about the process of nomination.

The award is not handed out lightly but the process is quite straight forward. The best  advice to be given is to refer to a current edition of the PAGB Handbook, where full  details of the criteria and the official Nomination Form are to be found. It is also helpful  to seek the advice of a member of the Executive, will either be able to assist or point you in the direction of someone who can do so.

The person nominating someone for the award must obtain at least two further referees  who will be prepared to support the nomination. He should then complete the Nomination Form and prepare the citation papers. The guidelines in the PAGB Handbook are especially helpful in preparing these latter documents.

The Nomination once complete should be sent to the Chairman of the PAGB Sub- Committee for Awards for Meritorious Service. He will, independently of the person nominating, consult with the referees before seeking the approval of the Sub-Committee to recommend the award to the full PAGB Executive. Once approved by the Executive the Certificate and Badge will be sent out to the Federation involved to arrange a suitable presentation of the award. The name of the nominee must be kept fully confidential until he is presented with the award.

J.S. Lancaster Medal (HonPAGB)Honorary Member of PAGB

In a small number of cases the service given by someone is so outstanding that it merits a further award than the APAGB. To give recognition to this exceptional service PAGB introduced the J.S. Lancaster Medal. There are no strict criteria other than “Exceptional Service to the PAGB”

Again reference to the PAGB Handbook is helpful.

Awards for Photographic Merit (APM) (Updated April 2014)

The PAGB introduced this group of awards in the 1990’s with a view to recognising the photographic ability of members of clubs affiliated to its member Federations. An Entry Fee is payable but the awards are held for life without further annual payment and the holders are entitled to use the specified letters after their name. The only prequalification criteria now is that an applicant must be a member of an affiliated club and have been so for the minimum periods set out below for each award.

Adjudications are normally held twice a year in April and November, although additional adjudication session may be organised in certain circumstances, such as when the number of applications exceeds that which can be managed in the April and November events. Also separate Adjudications are held for awards in the Audio-Visual discipline. The location of these events rotates around the various member Federations of the PAGB.

Initial requests for “Application Forms” should be made by post to the Federation’s PAGB Awards Officer, currently Jane Black ARPS, APSA, HonPAGB, of 9, Cardigan Grove, Tynemouth, North Shields NE30 3HN, and MUST be accompanied by a SAE please. She will will supply prospective applicants with the necessary paperwork and guidance.

There is a high demand for these awards, and therefore there can be a waiting list but PAGB endeavors to ensure no one waits more than twelve months before appearing at an Adjudication.

The Adjudication is carried out by panel of six judges from the PAGB Judges List. Applicants’ entries are not judged as a panel but are mixed with other applicants and judges as individual photographs.

Again these awards are not lightly given and you are strongly advised to seek help and guidance from more experienced colleagues and if possible to attend one of the workshops organised periodically by the Federation for this purpose.


The first of three awards for photographic merit; it is offered for what is generally interpreted as ‘good class’ photography. Such photographs would be of a standard whereby they might be expected to represent the club at inter-club and/or Federation events at least.   You must have been a member of an NCPF affiliated club for 2 years out the last 10 and must submit 10 photographs to an adjudication panels which normally convenes twice a year.

DPAGBDistinction PAGB

This is the next one up the rung.   It may be interpreted as requiring 15 photographs which are of open exhibition standard and again you have to achieve a set number of points from the panel of 6 adjudicators. You do not need to hold CPAGB to apply for this award but you must have been a member of an NCPF affiliated club for at least 3 years from the last 10.


This is the highest award for photographic merit granted by PAGB and requires the highest standard of amateur photography with each of 20 photographs likely to achieve consistent success at International Exhibition level and also likely to win at least an occasional award. You must have been a member of an NCPF affiliated club for at least 5 years from the last 10 and you cannot apply until 11 months has elapsed from achieving DPAGB award.



Web Site:-

FIAP grants two types of Award, the first for Service to photography and the second for achievement in International Exhibitions and Salons sponsored by FIAP.   These latter Awards are also linked to substantial periods of active participation in such events.

Service Awards:

ESFIAPExcellence in Service

Awarded for substantial service at National and International level to Photography, there are never more than a handful held at any one time, rarely more than one or two per country.   The fact that only fourteen have ever been issued to UK residents in over 40 years will give an idea of its standing. (cannot be applied for)

Hon.FIAPHonorary FIAP Membership

This is an even higher award, usually given to holders of ESFIAP for prolonged service to FIAP.   Four have so far been granted to UK Residents. (cannot be applied for)

International exhibition/salon achievement Awards:

These awards can be applied for by individual applicants, who must make their applications through PAGB’s FIAP Liaison Officer (details in PAGB Handbook and the web site).   PAGB is normally allowed to submit one batch of applications in any one period of 12 months. There is a charge for each application and with each application the applicant is required to submit to FIAP a portfolio of PDI images from their accepted works. Finally with your first application for a FIAP award your will be required to purchase a “Photographers’ Photo Card”.


The minimum requirements are that over a period of not less than 12 months the applicant has supported FIAP Patronised Exhibitions/Salons worldwide, and has received at least 40 acceptances from at least 15 different salons, in at least ten countries.

EFIAPExcellence FIAP

An application for EFIAP cannot be made less than 12 months after receiving AFIAP. Including those from AFIAP, applicants must have gained at 250 Acceptances from at 50 different photographs. These must be received from at least 30 different FIAP Patronised salons in at least 20 different countries.

For both AFIAP and EFIAP a ‘circuit’ counts as only one salon. Entering the same salon in different year’s counts as entering separate salons.   England, Scotland and Wales count as separate countries.

 EFIAP/bExcellence FIAP Bronze                                     EFIAP/sExcellence FIAP Silver

EFIAP/gExcellence FIAP Gold                                           EFIAP/pExcellence FIAP Platinum

These further awards are subject to a scale of achievement in FIAP Patronised International Salons and Exhibitions, each over a period on no less than 12 months. Applicants must holders of EFIAP or MFIAP and are to achieve the following minima on an accumulating scale from salons patronised by FIAP:-

Bronze –   300 acceptances from 100 images & submit 4 awarded images from 3 countries.

Silver –     700 acceptances from 200 images & submit 5 awarded images from 4 countries.

Gold –       1,000 acceptances from 300 images & submit 6 awarded images from 5 countries.

Platinum   1,500 acceptances from 400 images & submit 7 awarded images from 6 countries.

All AFIAP and EFIAP awards to any level can be achieved by an appropriate mix of media, ie prints, Slides Digital etc.

MFIAPMaster Photographer of FIAP

Considered by many to be the highest award of its type from FIAP this can only be obtained in Prints and requires a presentation of the highest standard, which is themed and accompanied by a dissertation on the work. Candidates must have held EFIAP for at least three years from the date of the certificate.

The submission involves 20 prints, which in FIAP’s words must be coherent from its conception to its realisation and presentation. There must also be an introductory text that describes the subject and the creative concept of the photographic artist. Consideration of the award is by the FIAP Directory Board and is granted by a simple majority vote.

Further details of this award should be obtained upon request from the FIAP Liaison Officer and it should be remembered that once again there is only one batch of applications submitted each year.



 Web site:-

This is the one foreign national photographic organisation whose awards you are likely to come across in the UK.   NCPF is itself a member of PSA, which is one of the sponsors of awards to our Northern Counties International Salon of Photography. There are also dozens of individual members of our clubs who are also members of PSA.

Service Awards

They have a scale of awards for service to photography and these are granted to members of PSA who have given recognised levels of service to photography anywhere in the world. Again as with other service awards they cannot be applied for. Unlike some other organisations these awards not only involve a requirement of service to photography but also recognise photographic ability.

APSAAssociate of PSA

This is granted to PSA members of 5 years standing or more for service to photography.

FPSAFellowship of PSA

This is granted to holders of the APSA award to PSA members of 5 years standing or more for service to photography, since the award of APSA.

Hon.FPSAHonorary Fellowship of PSA

This is granted to PSA members generally for very long periods of outstanding service to photography and PSA in particular.

PSA Awards for Achievement in PSA Patronised International Exhibitions/Salons.

PSA also runs an awards scheme, which recognises success in International Exhibitions and Salons sponsored by them.   The basis of qualifications for these awards, called “Star Ratings” is the accumulation of specific numbers of Acceptances from specific numbers of different images.   These are gained separately for a number of photographic disciplines, such as Colour Projected Images, Electronic Images, Prints, Nature, etc etc.

Each on these has it own Divisional structure. They record Exhibition results separately but have a common own scale of Star Ratings from 1 to 5, which can be applied for if you achieve the required numbers of acceptances and different pictures used, in sponsored Exhibitions in the world, which run sections for their type of photography.   The current standard requirements for each division is as follows

1 Star                18   Acceptances from                       6       different photographs

2 Star                36                     “                                  12                     “

3 Star                72                     “                                  24                     “

4 Star                144                   “                                  48                     “

5 Star                288                   “                                  96                     “

There are then higher scales generally, but not exclusively called “Galaxy Ratings”.

PSA does not recognise Star Rating Awards as being eligible for placing after the recipient’s name, but it is a fairly common practice for them to be so used.

PPSA Proficiency PSA

To apply for this award you have received at least 288 Acceptances from one or more division.

EPSAExcellence PSA

To apply for this award you have received at least 700 Acceptances from one or more division.


To apply for this award you have received at least 1500 Acceptances from one or more division.

GMPSAGrand Master PSA

To apply for this award you have received at least 3000 Acceptances from one or more division




BPE is designed to encourage and support the British National Exhibitions that BPE members organise.   In furtherance of this it rewards those who achieve success in these exhibitions by a rising scale of awards known as Crown Awards. A point is given for each acceptance.

BPE1 Crown Award              requires                        25 points

BPE2 Crown Award              requires                        50 points

BPE3 Crown Award              requires                        100 points

BPE4 Crown Award              requires                        200 points

BPE5 Crown Award              requires                        300 points

The awards are free of charge. You simply apply the “BPE Crown Awards Officer” and you will be sent an application form to fill in. Successful applicants will be sent a Certificate & Ribbon & be entitled to use the appropriate letters (eg: BPE2* for a BPE2 Crown Award) after their name.

Once you have achieved BPE5* you can go on to achieve Associateship (ABPE) and then Fellowship (FBPE) Awards.


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All images on this site are subject to copyright (c) and should not be used without express permission of the author. Website by Gerry Adcock ARPS e-mail