Jul 16, 2015 - by Robert Rhead

Admittedly I have a tendency of leaving things to the last minute and I had visions of myself frantically rushing around the day before the assessment to print and mount images. I promised myself not rush my final panel prep and started choosing possible candidates for selection almost immediately after sending my application some 3 months prior to the date. I'd researched online, picked peoples brains on Twitter and photography blogs and to be honest I found myself getting rather confused with what the judges would be expecting. 

So for all future LRPS candidates here is my take on the assessment day, why many people passed and why some failed.

Firstly, I did my assessment at the RPS head quarters at Fenton House in Bath. Being a 3 hour drive from my corner of the UK I set out at 5:30 in the morning, leaving me plenty of time for traffic and parking. Naturally and as expected Birmingham provided the some traffic problems, parking in Bath was the other. Fenton House has no parking facilities so the only option is parking in nearby streets, most of which are for resident permit holders only.

Allow yourself plenty of time to get there.

After arriving at Fenton House and delivering my package of prints and my two hanging plans there was time to relax and chat with other candidates of the day.

At 10:30 the judging began with the five judges sitting up front ready to asses the first panel, which is brought out and arranged as per the owners hanging plan. From there the judges peruse the panel as a whole and then each individual image. Taking turns, one of the judges talks to the audience about the panel before each judge writes their remarks on paper which gets handed to an official who reads out whether the panel is successful or not.

A good rate of success was apparent during the assessment session. I stayed until lunch break which allowed time for roughly 20 or more panels to be assessed. From those assessments two panels failed completely and two went into a review phase where the candidate was allowed to change one weak image from an otherwise strong panel.

Why some panels passed

The LRPS assessment revolves predominantly around technical skill and variety of technique which was apparent by the judges comments and why many panels passed. The overall technical skill level of each panel was very good but it was apparent that the judges were looking actively for very common faults such as:

  • Blown highlights
  • Over sharpening
  • Soft focus
  • Colour casts in printing
  • Poor exposure
  • Compositional faults

You must get all of these correct in every image to pass.

The overall panel and positioning of images within the panel is very important. "The 11th image" was how the panel was referred as. It was frequently noted that a strong portrait should be positioned in the middle of the panel. Judges also liked colour themes along a row, one panel had five images across the top row which all had a red theme.

Balance is important both in visual weight, image shape (square, landscape, portrait) and colour. If one picture looks heavy or too bright within the panel, it's probably in the wrong place or it's the wrong image.

Why some panels almost passed

Two panels were allowed to replace one image which was considerably weaker than the other nine, a process which requires a re-assessment in private by the RPS. While this means that a pass is probably highly likely it still detracts very much from the celebration of the day.

Of the two that went into this process each panel had one image that was clearly under exposed, one was of a jet skier in action with water that looked grey rather than white.

Most panels were laid out in two rows and this seemed to please the judges. Two were laid out in three rows and on both counts the judges remarked that each panel work in this layout as the images fell into three distinct subjects; Portraits, Landscapes and Wildlife. 

Make sure all your images are of an equal standard and make sure the printing quality is good throughout. The judges refer back to the hanging plan images so make sure the printing there reflects the printed examples. Unless you have a very good reason to do otherwise, a two row layout is better.

Why some panels failed

Two panels failed on my assessment day and interestingly they failed for different reasons.

One displayed multiple images with faults such as colour casts in the printing. This failing image was a portrait which are harder to print correctly as everyone knows what colour skin should be and therefore printing colour casts can be clearly evident. Another image was heavily manipulated and over sharpened, an error that the judges assumed was the photographer compensating for soft focus issues.

Good quality in printing and post-processing is required throughout the panel.

The second failing panel must have been a big disappointment for the candidate. The panel displayed a set of 10 macro images of flowers. The panel was balanced and colourful, each individual image was of a very high standard both in visual creativity and image quality. I would say that on an individual image level they were better photographs than 50% of all other submissions. The big failing issue is that there was no variety, all pictures were visually similar, of the same subject and taken with the same technique. The judges noted that the panel only displays that the photographer can only use one lens with one technique.

The LRPS distinction assesses five areas; Presentation, Technique (Camera), Technique (Technical), Visual Awareness, Communication. Submit a panel of different images showing different techniques; portraits, still life images, landscapes, night photography, flash photography.

My successful panel and why I picked the images.

LRPS Succesfull Panel

Before getting to the individual images I'll discuss the layout of my panel. Having six images in landscape format and four in portrait I was limited in layout possibilities as visual weight is important. I could either have the four 'uprights' in there position as shown or the first and last image in the row. I wanted 8 in it's position as it's a strong portrait and forms a strong centre to the panel (the judges remarks confirmed this). Image 6 helps to keep the eye inside the panel as the visual follow of the image points towards the right. Image 7 belongs between the two other portraits. Image 3 is a more creative style and sits nicely between 2 and 4 but is also related to the people theme of image 8 below it. That leaves the three classic landscape at the end of each row.

LRPS Submission 1

Image 1

A classic wide angle landscape showing good composition and shutter speed control. Long exposure images of water can be difficult to control and blown highlights are common, showing a good exposure control is vital.

LRPS Submission 2

Image 2

A creative still life with the use of flash and fast shutter speeds. Water and ice with flash is shows again good exposure control to avoid blown highlights. Specular highlights that go to pure white are fine.

LRPS Submission 3

Image 3

A creative image showing street photography skills and creative intent. The black and white shows monotone printing skills.

LRPS Submission 4

Image 4

One of my favourite images: good composition, style, tonal work and printing skill.

LRPS Submission 5

Image 5

A classic and interesting landscape showing extreme long shutter speeds and exposure control. I was a little worried about this image as the composition tries to break some rules with heavy rocks at the top balanced by open space and two pebble highlights at the bottom.

LRPS Submission 6

Image 6

Capturing movement in a creative way with the use of flash outdoors. This image is actually a composite of two photographs, the skateboarder and the background alley.

LRPS Submission 7

Image 7

A studio portrait showing light control, aperture control and printing skills.

LRPS Submission 8

Image 8

A strong street portrait using mobile studio flash. This image shows lighting skills, exposure control and aperture control with the subject in focus and a blurred background.

LRPS Submission 9

Image 9

An example of wide angle night photography showing compositional skills, exposure control and black and white printing skills.

LRPS Submission 10

Image 10

An interesting landscape showing rule of thirds composition with visual tension between the boat and church building.

General tips for your LRPS submission

  • Make sure your images have no common faults like blown highlights and soft focus.
  • The hanging plan is considered to be the 11 image so make sure it works as a group.
  • Print on either semi-gloss or matt paper; from all the submissions only two were printed on matte paper (mine and another) and I must say they looked best under the lights. One candidate used some weird titanium which the judges didn't like.
  • Make sure your printing is spot on. If you print yourself then don?t be afraid of printing the image a few times in search of the best result.
  • Make sure you show variety of technique and skill. 
  • You don't need a single theme for the LRPS images.
  • Enjoy the assessment.


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Paul Martin

Feb 19, 2016 - 1:04

Wow, Robert. What a fantastic article! So much to think about and feels as though I'm way off at the moment. Thank you for all the advice and very useful tips throughout.

Your images are inspirational to say the least.


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Jun 27, 2016 - 1:04

Thank you Robert for this brilliant advice, wish I had seen this before my advisory, but will take note of these guidelines before the next assessment. As your top tip suggested, printing and colour very important to be perfect, mine wasn't, .

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Jul 23, 2016 - 1:04

As I am about to apply for Licentiate this was extremely useful Robert. Thank you and well done with your panel.

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Euan Fraser

Jan 7, 2017 - 13:35

Well done with your panel. Just about to start my LRPS journey. Thank you for such a informative article and photos. I have picked up more information here than the RPS website.

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David Joy

Jan 9, 2017 - 15:22

Robert, thanks for a brilliant article. Being at the start of my LRPS journey I found your advice really helpful and your images inspirational. They are very high quality, well done. Could you please just explain the print and mount sizes you used for your successful panel? I feel that all of the mounts should be the same size and that the print size can vary although too much variation could look very messy.

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Ken Hanrahan-Smith

Apr 16, 2017 - 6:56

As I am looking to achieve my LRPS distinction, I have recently attended an Advisory day, which was both informative and beneficial. I would highly recommend attending one to anyone who is considering a distinction. I am also reading up on all the information the RPS has on its website, as well as searching for hints and tips, so your article was a perfect find! It added enormously to my research, especially regarding paper choices as we were told on the Advisory day that the lights at RPS HQ are particularly bright. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to put this article together.

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Steve Share

Nov 23, 2017 - 6:29

Great article, informative and motivating. The quality of your personal work is excellent. I am living outside UK so Advisory days are going to be difficult as will be quality printing. The information here is really useful and will help me decide whether to take the steps toward starting the LRPS. Many thanks for your time and effort producing the article.

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May 26, 2019 - 9:02

Hello Robert

Thanks for that, much better than the advice I just received from the RPS. I took the online approach and submitted my photographs. Their comments left me feeling very disappointed and overall despondent. Interesting seeing a couple of your Black and White photos and the shadow effects. Very nice indeed.

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