APS Honours is a recognition of members’ skills in photography.
It is comprised of two pathways, via an Exhibition or a Panel system. Each has its own merits and challenges and a member may change from one system to the other at any time.
The Exhibition system allows members to gain credits by entering their images in competitions that are recognised by APS. The credits can be an Acceptance and/or an award.
In most competitions, the top 20-35% of images submitted in each category will be given an “Acceptance”. From these “Acceptances” several awards are selected for the very best images.
Most people would understand what an award is. It could be a First, Second, or Third place, a gold, silver or bronze medal or it can be some type of merit or commendation. However, where does the term “Acceptance” come from? In all competitions, it is not logistically feasible to exhibit all submitted images. Some competitions may have thousands per category. So an “Acceptance” is an image that is elected for display at an exhibition which occurs after the judging has been completed. These days an “Acceptance” is decreed, by the governing bodies that oversee competitions, as 20-35% of all entries per category.
The Panel system allows members to submit a number of their best images to a panel of 6 APS judges. The judges, who are all highly qualified, decide whether they consider that firstly the images are of an “Acceptance” standard and secondly which images would attain an award in a competition.
Both systems have the same degree of difficulty up to the Fellowship (third) level. In both systems, judges will have varying opinions about the images presented. An image that has had previous success in an exhibition or panel is not guaranteed to be judged “acceptance” standard when presented to a different panel.
In the exhibition system, a member can progress through the next level (Masters) to the APS Exhibitor levels by demonstrating an increasing level of skill. This is shown by the candidate achieving more acceptances and awards, in more countries and with new images.
For the Panel system, at the Masters level, the member is required to produce a themed portfolio of images. To progress higher the member would need to change to the Exhibition system.
Entering exhibitions comes at a cost per category however the Panel system has the advantage that the member does not have to outlay any money except the honours entry fee. The exhibition system can be challenging in that one set of judges in one exhibition may view your images favourably but judges in another may not.
There is a learning experience with exhibitions in finding out which countries will like your style of images and even which particular exhibitions. Also, which exhibitions are more generous with acceptances and awards with respect to the cost of entering? Sometimes entering a prestigious exhibition will give you personal satisfaction but cost twice as much, not as many awards but a lovely exhibition catalogue which can be a great coffee-table book.
Last but not least, a member can submit still images (digital or prints) or audio-visual presentations for assessment whether by the exhibition or panel systems.
In conclusion, at the end of the day, it is about enjoying your interest and whether you wish to be recognised for your skills amongst your peers or just receive an intrinsic reward in knowing that you are improving your skills in your chosen photographic endeavours.