How I put together my LRPS Panel
Having decided to apply for a Licentiateship from the RPS I had to put together a panel of my work, but first I needed to do some research. I wanted to see successful panels and also wanted an objective view of the quality of my work. Helpfully the RPS runs Distinctions workshops at which their judges assess and advise on potential applicants work. Also it is possible to attend RPS assessment panel sessions as an observer.
Unfortunately I could not get to a workshop but did manage to book attendance at an assessment panel at the RPS in Bath. Also I was fortunate in knowing several fellow members of my local Oxford Photographic Society who hold distinctions from the RPS and they gave me feedback about whether my work was up to the necessary standard.
After attending an assessment day and having had feedback from friends who had been to a RPS distinctions workshop, it was clear to me that the most important factor was to ensure that the photographs submitted worked together harmoniously as a panel. So it was not a case of printing out my top ten photos of all time and presenting them to be judged, I needed to give this some serious thought.
Although I have been taking photographs for over 30 years, I felt that my panel should focus on my current work. This is because I feel that I have improved significantly over the last two years - primarily due to my involvement with the local Photographic Society. An LRPS panel must consist of ten photos, does not need to have a theme but it should demonstrate a variety of photographic techniques. I had various ideas and at one point thought I should produce a panel based on pictures taken during one day. On reflection I felt that this was over optimistic and that I would be better drawing on a larger pool of photographs. So I decided I would concentrate on a coastal theme featuring primarily boats and wildlife - both of which I have taken many shots.
The layout of the panel needed much thought. The usual layout is of two rows, each of five prints one above the other and I decided to stick to that. There needs to be a consistancy in presentation, so I decided to size all my photos approximately 25x35cm in 40x50cm off-white Mounts. I would have a mixture of portrait and landscape formats but decided to ensure they were symmetrically arranged. Then the relationship between the individual photos needed to be considered in respect of colour, shape, brightness etc.
So I got down to the task of selecting the photographs. A lot of this was done on the lightbox and on the computer. Shortlisted shots were printed out at A4 so that they could be laid out with each other and easily moved around to determine whether or not they worked together.
The top row of five I decided would be selected from a series of Galapagos wildlife shots I took in January 2003. I started with the centre of the top five with one of my favourites - a shot of a Marine Iguana looking straight out to sea in a portrait format. The two outside shots of a Blue Heron and a Blue-Footed Booby looking in towards the centre were selected quite easily and were also in portrait format. Finding the right shots for the two remaining slots was more dificult. Eventually I decided on a particular Gull photo in landscape format for the left of centre slot as its composition and colours fitted very well with the primarily browns of the Heron shot and the Blues of the Iguana one either side. For the remaining position I decided on a close-up shot of a Land Iguana in portrait format, which fitted with the others in composition and colour.
The bottom row now needed to be selected and was further restrained by needing to fit with the top row. I had decided to try and use photos from a series I had taken in the Morrocan port town of Essaouira in October 2003. The left hand shot of early morning in the boatyard and the right hand shot of the town and old port in the evening light were favourites of mine and so easily selected. A portrait format shot of Blue Fishing boats fitted well in the centre and seemed to go well with the Iguana shot above it. For the middle left slot a wide angle shot seemed to link well and showed a diiferent style of composition. For the middle right hand slot a sunset shot of a lone gull was selected.
This was not an obvious choice but I felt it worked compositionally due to the shape of the clouds and also the gull echoing the birds in the top row and linking to the flock of gulls in the background of the photo to its right.
Having selected the photos then came the usual trials and tribulations of printing and mounting. Eventually I was happy with the completed prints and I had them all numbered, labelled and finally ready a whole week before the assesment was due. The RPS assessment panel was held at the Focus on Imaging show at the NEC Birmingham and I went along to watch. The most nerve racking part of the day was the traffic jam that made me late for the assessment, but eventually I arrived and sat waiting for my panel to be assessed. The judges gave it close scrutiny and then went into a huddle. After a few more tense moments the verdict came back, I had passed!