Bristol Photographic Society

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What do all the letters after a Photographers’s name mean?

The lecturer or judge comes to the club and the chairman in introducing him reels off a load of letters after his name. To newer members these might as well be the letters they have just been given in a game of Scrabble for all the sense they make, however they do mean something and are a recognition of either service to photography or are granted for achievement in photography.

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 common, RPS, PAGB, FIAP and PSA. Please remember these are brief notes; 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; 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, slides, images on CD-rom, or 20 minutes of Audio Visual sequence, or 20 minutes of film or video.

Hon.FRPS – Honorary Fellow of the RPS
For exceptional service this is principle award of several, made annually, which may not be applied for.


Web Site:-

PAGB Offers both Service and Merit awards, the former may not be applied for, but the latter must be.

Service Awards
APAGB – Award of PAGB
This is granted to members of affiliated Federations and their clubs for prolonged outstanding service to photography. Generally at least 10 years Federation service is a minimum or at least 30 years or more at Club level is required.
Hon.PAGB – Honorary Member of PAGB
This is generally awarded for prolonged outstanding service to the PAGB usually by membership on its Executive.

Merit Awards
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 Federation events at least. You must have supported your Federations events for 2 years out the last 10 and must submit 10 photographs to an adjudication panels which normally convenes twice a year. You must achieve a set number of points from your images from the 6 adjudicators.

DPAGB – Distinction 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 supported Federation Competitions 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. Requires at least 5 years support for Federation Competitions from the last 10 and cannot be applied for until 11 months has elapsed from achieving DPAGB.


Web Site:-

FIAP grants two types of Award, the first for Service to photography (which cannot be applied for) and the second for achievement in International Exhibitions and Salons sponsored by FIAP.

Service Awards
ESFIAP – Excellence in Service
This is awarded for substantial service to FIAP and photography at National and International level.

Hon.FIAP – Honorary FIAP Membership
This is an even higher award, usually given to holders of ESFIAP for prolonged service to FIAP.

International exhibition/salon achievement Distinctions:-
All the below requirements for acceptances are now accumulative, which means that acceptances gained from ANY lower award count towards ANY of the higher awards. However no more than 15% of any of the minimum requirements for acceptances for any of the distinctions below can come from any one country.

AFIAP – Artiste FIAP
The minimum requirements are that over a period of no less than 1 year the applicant has supported exhibitions/salons worldwide, and gained 40 acceptances from 15 different salons, in at least 8 countries. 10% of the required minimum acceptances (4) must have been obtained using prints as opposed to PDI. A ‘circuit’ counts as only one salon. Entering the same salon in different year’s counts as separate salons. England, Scotland and Wales count as separate countries. These conditions apply for both AFIAP and EFIAP.

EFIAP – Excellence FIAP
An application for EFIAP cannot be made less than 1 year after receiving AFIAP. Including those from AFIAP, applicants must have gained at least 250 Acceptances from at 50 different photographs and with at least two photos gaining an award, each in a different country. 10% of the required minimum acceptances (25) must have been obtained using prints as opposed to projected digital images. These must be received from at least 30 different salons in at least 20 different countries. (see AFIAP re conditions about salons & countries)

EFIAP/b – Excellence FIAP Bronze Award
EFIAP/s – Excellence FIAP Silver Award
EFIAP/g – Excellence FIAP Gold Award
EFIAP/p – Excellence FIAP Platinum Award

These further awards are subject to a scale of achievement in International Salons and Exhibitions, each over a period on no less than 1 year. Applicants must holders of
EFIAP and are required, to achieve a minimum of achievement on an accumulating scale:-
EFIAP/b (Bronze) 400 acceptances, with at least 100 different works
EFIAP/s (Silver) 700 acceptances, with at least 200 different works
EFIAP/g (Gold) 1000 acceptances, with at least 300 different works
EFIAP/p (Platinum) 1500 acceptances, with at least 400 different works

All AFIAP and EFIAP awards at any level can be achieved by an appropriate mix of media, ie prints, slides digital etc.

Considered by many to be the highest award of its type from FIAP this can only be obtained in Prints or AV work and requires a presentation of the highest standard, which is themed and accompanied by a dissertation on the work.


Web site:-

Service Awards
The PSA 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 all service awards they cannot be applied for.

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

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

Merit Awards
PSA runs an awards scheme, recognising success in Exhibitions sponsored by them. They start with “Star Ratings” which recognises the accumulation of Acceptances from different images in different disciplines including PDI, Prints, Nature, Travel, 3D and Photojournalism.
The requirements for each discipline are as follows
1 Star 18 acceptances from 6 different photographs
2 Star 36 acceptances from 12 different photographs
3 Star 72 acceptances from 24 different photograph
4 Star 144 acceptances from 48 different photographs
5 Star 288 acceptances from 96 different photographs

There are then higher scales called “Galaxy Ratings”. PSA does not recognise Star Rating or Galaxy Awards as being eligible for placing after the recipient’s name.

ROPA Awards
ROPA (Recognition of Photographic Achievement) Awards detailed below can be used after the recipient’s name even if the recipient is no longer a member of the PSA.

QPSA – Qualified PSA
To apply for this award you need at least 54 Acceptances from one or more disciplines.

PPSA – Proficiency PSA
To apply for this award you need at least 288 Acceptances from one or more disciplines.

EPSA – Excellence PSA
To apply for this award you need at least 700 Acceptances from one or more disciplines.

MPSA – Master PSA
To apply for this distinction you need at least 1500 Acceptances from one or more disciplines.

MPSA2 – Master PSA 2
To apply for this distinction you need at least 2250 Acceptances from one or more disciplines.

GMPSA – Grand Master PSA
To apply for this award you need at least 3000 Acceptances from one or more disciplines.

Grand Master PSA/Bronze/Silver/Gold & Platinum Distinctions
To apply for these four additional distinctions you need to have have at least 5,000/7,000/9,000/11,000 Acceptances respectively from one or more disciplines.

PSA Portfolio
This is like the LRPS, ARPS, FRPS with four major differences.

  • Firstly, they are purely about the quality of the photography and not about being different
  • Secondly, you will notice the plus overview comment. The overview image is not a hanging plan – it is an assessed image in its own right, showing all of the submitted images as a panel. If the overview does not work, the portfolio fails. If the statement does not work, the portfolio fails.
  • Thirdly, you must achieve each level before you can apply for the next level.
  • Fourthly, unlike FRPS, you cannot apply for a second or additional GPSA.

BPSA – Bronze PSA Portfolio

To apply for this award you need a portfolio of 10 images plus the overview image plus statement

SPSA – Silver PSA Portfolio
To apply for this award you need a portfolio of 15 images plus the overview image plus statement

GPSA – Gold PSA Portfolio
To apply for this award you need a portfolio of 20 images plus the overview image plus statement


BIPP British Institute of Professional Photographers
BPE British Photographic Exhibitions
BPS Bristol Photographic Society
FIAP Federation International de l’art Photographique
IPF Irish Photographic Federation
MPA Master Photographers Association
PAGB Photographic Alliance of Great Britain

Regional Federations within the PAGB:
CACC Chilterns Association of Camera Clubs
EAF East Anglian Federation
KCPA Kent County Photographic Association
L&CPU Lancashire & Cheshire Photographic Union
MCPF Midland Counties Photographic Federation
NCPF Northern Counties Photographic Federation
N&EMPF North & East Midlands Photographic Federation
NIPA Northern Ireland Photographic Association
NWPA North Wales Photographic Federation
SPF Scottish Photographic Federation
SCPF Southern Counties Photographic Federation
SPA Surrey Photographic Federation
WPF Welsh Photographic Federation
WCPF Western Counties Photographic Federation
YPU Yorkshire Photographic Federation

PSA Photographic Society of America
RPS The Royal Photographic Society
GPU Global Photographic Union

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