What I learned from my failed LRPS Panel / by Neil Alexander

Firstly, I have to preface this with the fact that I'd been so busy with marketing, networking and actually trying to build my photography business that my LRPS date had completely slipped my mind. It was only when I checked my diary and made a call that I realised I was too late to submit prints. If I wanted to be considered for this particular date it would have to be digital submissions, or wait for the next available slot in about 6 months.

So I figured what the heck. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right? Whilst trying to make my selections, I was already rueing a day's lost work making the 7 or 8 hour journey down to Bath and back, so I really needed to make a focussed, yet quick selection and get it over to them. On my initial application, I had selected that I was going to submit prints, and so it was my intention to print these myself and then get them mounted, but  I'd missed that window. The Royal Photographic Society highly recommend that you go on one of their Distinctions Advisory days, and get some advice on your proposed submissions, but this I didn't do because the only one in my area before my panel date was all booked up. I could have travelled to Newark, Bath or London I suppose, to go on one in another area had I got myself organised in time.

After great deliberation, and some extremely useful input from my fellow tweeters, the 10 images below ended up being my final selection.

[caption id="attachment_18832" align="aligncenter" width="590"]Neil Alexander LRPS Panel - layout Neil Alexander LRPS Panel - layout[/caption]

On the day of the assessment itself, I headed out the door just after 7am for the 3 hour drive down to Bath, only to get held up in roadworks outside Birmingham for over an hour. When I finally made it to the RPS office in Bath (which was incidentally a little of a disappointment - I was expecting a grandiose piece of architecture, not some mid 90's mews style bland, run of the mill type office), I was late, by around 45 minutes. I quietly tiptoed my way into the presentation room, only to learn from a fellow submitter that I had just missed mine, and that I had not been successful. I was gutted. I didn't have the heart nor the energy to simply up sticks, and jump back in the car so I stuck around and watched the other panels until lunchtime. There were only 4 digital submissions in total, none of which passed. Digital images are displayed on a screen a via a colour corrected projector at around 4 to 5 feet wide showing any potential flaws up to the judges. Prints on the other hand are obviously presented on a much smaller scale, and of the print submissions that I saw, I would estimate that the pass rate was around the 50% mark. Another advantage of prints over digital is that whilst the digital images are projected one at a time, the prints are all displayed on the wall together allowing the judges to get a bet overall impression of the photographer's ability.

And so to my image selection - why did I choose those images?

I poured over the successful panels on the RPS website and decided that whilst some photographers had successfully submitted images on a variety of different topics, I wanted to show a more cohesive body of work. As a result I specifically picked images that I felt represented my strongest area, landscape and travel photography. With hindsight image number 7 probably doesn't fit very well, and the judges highlighted this. The other reasons they gave were that there was a loss of highlight detail in the water on my waterfalls on images 3 and 8 and a loss in shadow detail on 6 and 9 which they also felt were over manipulated. Unfortunately there is no opportunity to enter a dialog with the judges, it's simply pass or fail. End of. This is the only arena in which I can get across my perspective, so I'm going to take full advantage of it! It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to...... In the images of the waterfall, there is no highlight clipping whatsoever - my histograms clip at neither end, and it was a conscious decision to make the water as silky smooth as I possibly could. That's just the way I like it, and pretty much every time I use a neutral density filter to shoot water I go the same way. In image 6 of the signpost in the snow, they are correct in their observation that there is some shadow clipping. In fact there is a lot, all along the wall. Again, this was a conscious decision, although this time in post processing. I like the way that the dark of the stones is at stark contrast with the sprinkling of snow. And as for number 9, well yes, I have leant on this quite heavily but again, it was a conscious decision. The scene was dramatic. The ruins were epic, and there was a storm rolling in over the back. It was just beginning to rain. The sky was very moody, and I wanted my processing to reflect all that.

So what did I learn?

Well quite simply that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that everyone's artistic take on things is slightly different, and that most probably my technique is a little at odds with what the Royal Photographic Society would deem perfect. And now that the dust has settled, am I overly concerned? Not particularly. The accreditation would have been nice, but quite frankly all the letters in the world after my name couldn't beat the feeling of providing another satisfied client with photographs they are over the moon with, happily handing over payment and then recommending me to others. Actually I want to scratch the first point of this paragraph, and use a Dean Collins-ism and replace it with "Beauty is in the eye of the cheque book holder". As a working photographer, my opinion is that never a truer word was spoken.