My ARPS in Fine Art in Photography

The 5th of November 2019 found me sitting in the auditorium at the headquarters of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) in Bristol. The day of my ARPS assessment had finally arrived. I was waiting for my distinction panel of 15 fine art prints to be assessed by a panel of 5 experts including the Chairperson. I must admit, until the last minute, nerves didn’t really play a part. All the work had been done. There was nothing more I could do to influence the outcome. No further participation by me was required.

The Judging

Had nerves been a factor it wouldn’t have been long until they were to be put to rest in one way or another. My panel was first up! This was probably a consequence of the fact that the panel had been submitted to the RPS quite some months earlier. This was just to do with timing within the cycle of assessment days. My Statement of Intent was read aloud. The judges, seated along the front row of the auditorium remained sitting for a short time, observing my panel as a whole. Then they stood and approached the panel, mingling between each other, examining each print in fine detail. Each member of the judging panel would select a print and lift it, examining closer, tilting it to the left and to the right, up and down, to catch the best light, which indecently was not in short supply. I have to say, the facilities at the new RPS HQ in Bristol are excellent. The judges would then move on to the next print and repeat the process. I was in no doubt that scrutiny was thorough and any flaws in my panel would be certain to be identified and would lead to certain failure.

Eventually, the judges would return to their seats and a vote was taken by the raising of a red or green card, visible only to the Chairperson. Two judges are then invited to talk about the panel. The moment of truth had finally arrived. All I could hope for at this time would be that positive comments would substantially outweigh any negatives. It is actually difficult to remember the comments but I do recall a general tone of enthusiasm and something about the quality of printing and the harmony of the panel as a whole. Slight relief! It wasn’t over yet. The next judge to speak, I thought was a little less enthusiastic though still mostly positive. He didn’t think my choice of textured paper was appropriate to the subject. Apart from that I cannot for the life of me remember anything more of the critique. To my relief, one of the seated judges countered the comment on paper choice. Again, slight relief. A second vote was taken. I believe a second vote is taken at this stage in case any of the judges have a change of mind based on the comments made by their fellow judges.


The process dictates that the names of only successful candidates are read aloud and they are congratulated. Was my name about to be read….?

“Is Lionel Mitchell in the auditorium?”

Yes!!! Result! I was happy with that. Of course this only means that your application has been recommended. It still has to be ratified.

So my certificate has arrived and I am now very happy to confirm that I have achieved my ARPS. I am an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. (ARPS)


Most photographers, like to have their work compared or judged in one way or another. Some prefer to collect likes and adoration in Facebook groups and forums, some join camera clubs and enter competitions. Some pursue academic qualifications and some pursue distinctions in organisations such as the RPS. I have done most of these things and value them all. My panel of prints were the outcome of a landscape fine art project that I commenced around the autumn time of 2018. I had previously achieved my Licentiateship with the RPS and an HND with Southern Regional College. For me the next logical step was the Associateship.

I am also absolutely delighted to confirm that my partner Tracy was equally successful the following day in Bristol. Her Licentiateship panel was recommended by a second panel of judges and she achieved her LRPS. Congratulations Tracy.

images from my arps panel
Three images from my Associateship Panel

Next Step?

As you can see, this qualification was achieved with a panel of landscape images. My logical next step must be to achieve an accreditation in wedding photography. At the time of writing, I haven’t decided whether this will be with the RPS or one of the professional photographer’s organisations. In any case, it will be something that I will be working towards with every wedding going forwards.