- Written by Alfred Zommers
Applying for Honours via the Panel System
- What is the honours system?
The Australian Photographic Society (APS) has made provision for the awarding of Photographic Honours to reward those who achieve appropriate levels of skill. These honours can be achieved by either gaining acceptances and awards in National and International exhibitions or by submitting a number of images to a panel of judges.
- Exhibition System
Entering exhibitions is mainly done online (prints are posted of course). Each exhibition will have several sections that you can enter and you can enter up to four images per section at a cost of about $15 per section. Generally, the more sections you enter the lower the cost per section becomes. Some exhibitions also have circuits where the same images are judged several times by different judges. The latter is a very cost-effective way to enter exhibitions.
- Panel System
As opposed to the Exhibition system submitting a number of images to a panel of judges costs nothing except your application fee (currently $35). Judges are selected who have a high level of photographic skill and suitable honours. Applicants’ images are sent to them for their critique and “scores”. As long as the majority of judges think that most of the images are of a reasonable standard (National for LAPS & AAPS and International for FAPS and MAPS) then the applicant will pass. If the result is borderline the judges will be asked to reassess the images. Every effort is made by the panel to “pass” the applicant. Applicants who do not succeed are supplied feedback about their images to help them in the future.
- Some tips on ensuring your images are good enough to succeed.
- Join a Photography Club and enter the club competitions. Listen to the critique about your images and to the critique of the other members’ images. A good judge should inform you why and what they like about the images and what could be done to improve them. Dismiss judges comments that trash the images and comments like “this image would make a great postcard” or “not another image of a pelican”. Organise a group of like-minded people in your club to critique your own images once a month.
- Read articles and books about critiquing images (references at the end of this article).
- Visit art and photography galleries. Look carefully at each image and try and work out why it appeals or doesn’t appeal to you. When travelling try and include at least one gallery visit in each location.
- Review the On-Line galleries of National/International Exhibitions. That will give you some idea of the standard of awarded and accepted images.
- Enter a few exhibitions and keep records of your successes and failures (spreadsheets are good for this). Images that have done well in exhibitions will tell you that you have met the standard required especially if those images are successful a lot of the time. Images that you submit several times and are not successful will also tell you that those images were simply not good enough. Then it is up to you to look carefully at your images and try and work out why some work and others don’t. Here some critique from skilled photographers will help. In most exhibitions, 20-35% of images will be accepted for display. If you have gained an acceptance then you know your image is quite good. If it gets an award it is in the top 1-1.5%.
- If you are a member of a club you will soon find out who are the good photographers. Seek their opinion about your images. They may be willing to give ongoing advice.
- APS Digital Group has a Critique Room Gallery where members can get peer reviews about their images.
- What is a National/International standard image?
There is no definition for “National/International standard image” as photography is a contemporary art and as such standards change over time. Also what are good images in a National exhibition quite often would also be good images in an International exhibition. The only difference really is that there are far more applicants entering International exhibitions than National exhibitions. Some exhibitions have many thousand per section.
In any exhibition, only the top 25-30% will be accepted for an exhibition so therefore it will be more difficult (normally) to get an acceptance in an International exhibition.
Members are advised to look at past catalogues of International exhibitions, Maitland, Vigex, Sydney, Sydney Harbour, Queensland circuit, Lake Macquarie circuit and for National exhibitions, Warragul, Pakenham, Newscastle and Sutherland Shire Nationals would be a good place to start.
They can all be found by typing in the exhibition name followed by the words “National/International Photographic Competition (or Exhibition)” or go to the PSA or FIAP website and get the links for Internationals and ask for assistance from APS office for Nationals.
Probably the best advice that I can give is to find a mentor/s to give you advice about your images and what could be done to improve them. This is probably essential for those applying via the panel system as you don’t have exhibition successes/failures to gauge whether your images will be successful. People who have recently earned higher photographic honours (MAPS or above) will have a better idea of current competition standards. "Likes" online is not a reliable source of feedback on your images.
A final note:
When considering which images that you will enter for a particular honours level you should of course include any that have received acceptances and awards but, most importantly, unless you have more than enough images that you consider worthy of entering you should reconsider whether it is better to wait another year when you do have enough images. My suggestion would be to have 50% more images than you are allowed to enter. If you have a mentor then listen to them. If they say that an image will probably fail then that is a good reason not to include it in your application.
A few reference books (light reading):
Basic Critical Theory for Photographers by Ashley la Grange
Criticizing Photographs – An Introduction to Understanding Images by Terry Barrett
First Light – A Landscape Photographer’s Art by Joe Cornish
Inner Game of Outdoor Photography by Galen Rowell
Mastering Landscape Photography by Alain Briot
Perception and Imaging – Photography – A Way of Seeing by Richard D. Zakia
Photography and the Art of Seeing by Freeman Patterson
Right Brain Left Brain Photography – The Art and Technique of 70 Modern Masters by Kathryn Marx
Susan Sontag On Photography
Creating Depth in Art and Photography - https://zevendesign.com/creating-depth-art-photography/#more-1655
Digital Photography School - https://digital-photography-school.com/
Digital Photography Tutorials - https://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials.htm
Guy Edwardes Photography - https://www.guyedwardes.com/
Oleg Novikov Photography - http://www.olegnovikov.com/technical/techindexpage.shtml
Photography Tutorials & Tips - https://www.geofflawrence.com/
If you search Google you will find more.