I have been an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society for a few years but yearned to gain an FRPS distinction the highest level attainable. Whilst having work published provides a much needed income taking on challenges such as an RPS distinction helps keep the work fresh and stimulating.
Gaining a distinction is not simply a case of putting together a panel of your best work, especially at the Fellowship level, it requires planning and a lot of work. Preparing your panel is not something you should do entirely on your own. When I first decided to aim for the distinction I discovered a group on FaceBook dedicated to helping others work towards theirs whatever level. Within that group there is a peer support group for those working towards an FRPS who meet monthly via Zoom.
I joined the group and at one of the meetings presented a selection of images that I thought would be panel contenders. The group thought the images were of a standard that was close to FRPS but advised I book a 1:1 session with an RPS advisor. I took up that advice and booked a session. An FRPS panel comprises of 20 or 21 photographs and a statement of intent.
I reworked the panel following the peer group meeting and sent the contenders to Michael O'Sullivan who was my assigned advisor. The advisory session was over Zoom and was exactly what I needed, Michael had clearly looked through the panel and assessed each image and the set as a whole. His review and advice was both honest and fair, whilst the images in general were of the right standard there were some that were not strong enough, or did not match the overall style. Following the session I booked my panel assessment for 3rd November 2021.
I went back through the selected images removing some re-editing others fully taking onboard Michaels advice. I sent the images to Michael and we had a follow up phone call to discuss them briefly the view this time that the set of images were mostly there but potentially one or two could do with replacing. I then printed the panel to see how they looked and ran through them with my family.
I continued to attend the Peer support group presenting my proposed panel and statement of intent a couple more times. The last time was really to look at the layout and review the statement of intent, having already printed the 21 Photographs and had them mounted. As always the group came up with great advice on both the layout and the statement of intent. 
 Having taken on board the advice I finalised the panel and delivered the prints and statement of intent to The RPS office in Bristol. Then the wait for the assessment began I could do no more everything was complete.
On the day of the assessment I linked my laptop to our sitting room TV and joined the Zoom call, my wife and daughter sat with me for the duration. For the entire session I had to have the microphone muted and the camera off. The assessment panel was chaired by the brilliant Trevor Yerbury and consisted of a group of highly accomplished photographers. My work was to be the last assessed of the print panels, with ARPS in the morning and FRPS in the afternoon. As the day wore on I became less and less confident, whilst the assessment was always fair I felt that today might not be my day, after all not everybody likes rugby.
When it eventually came to my panel my fears were almost immediately quashed with the comments coming back from the assessors. The panel is viewed digitally initially and then one of the assessors at the RPS head office reviews the printed panel from a quality and consistency perspective. During this section other assessors can verify if any issues they see digitally are reflected in the prints. A couple of points were raised but these were all addressed positively. At this point the assessors submit a second vote on the panel and Trevor announces that it was successful and that I was now a Fellow and congratulated me.
Whilst the panel is my own work and a representation of my style in photography, getting to the point of having a body of work ready to present takes teamwork. Without the support, advice and guidance of the FRPS Peer support group; Michael O'Sullivan and my family I would not have succeeded. Additionally it needs to be planned like a project, once I decided I was going to apply for an FRPS and booked the date I worked back from that so that I had my work reviewed by peers and printed in a timely manner. This included buying a printer that could produce prints at the right quality. I selected the Canon PIXMA PRO 200 whilst not the cheapest the quality and consistency of the prints was outstanding. I also booked the prints to be mounted so that I had them back in time to deliver them to the RPS.
My thanks go to the FRPS Peer support group; Michael O'Sullivan and my family for their help through this process and my gratitude to the assessors and chair for their unstinting work and kind comments.

The panel layout

The panel of images as a video slideshow

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