The atmosphere in the room was tense, there were some positive murmurings from my fellow spectators but I couldn't quite make out what was being said and besides I was too busy trying to assess the reaction of the panel of judges. I was sat with 20 or so other spectators at an LRPS assessment in a small, dark viewing room deep in the heart of the Royal Photographic Society HQ in Bath. After a brief look from their seats, the panel of judges who were sat in a line with their backs to us at the front of the room, had now got up to take a closer look at my panel of prints. I hadn't expected to be nervous but as the judges went through their routine and returned to their seats to fill out their score cards it was pretty nail biting.
Rewind back to March when I joined the RPS and decided to apply for my LRPS thinking it would just be a matter of choosing ten nice photos and getting them printed… how wrong could I have been.
If you're not familiar with the RPS distinctions, there are basically three, the first of which is the Licentiateship or LRPS for which you submit a panel of ten images that show a good standard of all processes of photography from seeing, taking and making to presenting.
I began the quest for my LRPS by searching through my Lightroom catalogue for my 'best' pictures which seemed like the best place to start but I ended up with far too many and with a 'you never know' mentality found it very difficult deciding which should stay and which should go. Getting it down to just ten or fifteen wasn't going to happen anytime soon so I decided on a different angle and split the images up into themed groups (the LRPS requires diversity of technique but not necessarily subject matter). I think a panel with a theme looks so much stronger so I wasted a lot of time trying to come up with a themed yet diverse panel, the resulting panels didn't fill my with optimism though and I knew I could do better.
On closer inspection I realised that perhaps my 'best' pictures weren't technically speaking my best pictures and set about trying to detach myself from my photos and instead picking a pool of technically good photos from which to choose a balanced panel.
I came up with a couple of panels and sought as many opinions as possible on my selections but to find out what is required technically and visually, I would advise anyone considering an LRPS to attend an advisory day. Even if like me, it's just as a spectator, an advisory day is invaluable... just seeing how closely the judges examine the prints tells you everything you need to know.
There is also an email feedback service offered to members by the RPS and once I had chosen my final panel I took advantage of what proved to be an excellent service, acted on the detailed feedback and my panel was ready. When I say 'ready' I mean I'd chosen my panel but it still had to be printed and mounted... twice as it turns out as nine of the first set of prints needed a few adjustments.
So, is it worth all the effort and indeed the cost? I had my doubts about halfway through the process but I'm glad I persevered as, apart from the fact that I passed, I definitely learnt from the experience. My main reason for applying though was that I thought an RPS distinction should hopefully bring piece of mind for prospective clients of my workshops's that I have at least some idea what I am talking about.