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Introduction, Overview and guide 


Welcome to the Distinctions of The Society of Professional Photographers International (SPPI).

Whatever stage you have reached in your photography, relative beginner or experienced professional, the Distinctions of The Society of Professional Photographers International offer, a focus and goal towards which you can work.

The one requirement for becoming a member of The Society of Professional Photographers International is an interest in photography. You may be amateur (SAPI) or professional (SPPI), starting out with your first camera, or already possess a wealth of experience, it doesn't matter, all are welcome.

However, to be awarded one of The Society's prestigious Distinctions - Licentiateship, Associateship and Fellowship - you need to prove your abilities as a photographer.

This guide is packed with information about how to apply, what the assessors are looking for and tips to guide you towards a successful submission. However, if you have any issues understanding the relevant information to your particular qualification submission we are only an email mail away info@photocyprus.com and will will advise you as necessary.

Everyone involved in the Distinctions wants you to be successful and it is hoped that this guide will help you to achieve that aim. Whatever the final outcome, we want you to feel that you have progressed in your photography and learned from the process. Our society is packed full with photographers from all levels and all countries around the world, all willing to share experiences and tips throughout our community.


Where to Start

The method is to progress through the levels of Distinction starting with the Licentiateship, moving on to the Associateship and finally to the Fellowship.


Types of Application


The Distinctions of The SPPI and SAPI cover all aspects of photography, so whatever your specific area of photographic experience or expertise, you can be confident that it will be assessed by a Panel of suitably qualified members with specialist knowledge who are recognized as experts in that field. Your application will normally be submitted by either CD or DVD through the postal service or using our FTP site Drop Box


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Levels of Distinction


  • Licentiateship (LSPPI, LSAPI): This is usually the starting point. You need to show that you have good technical skill as well as the visual ability to compose and control your work as a means of communication.
  • Associateship (ASPPI, ASAPI): At this level, you need to show evidence of creative ability, a high standard of technical competence and a complete expert comprehensive knowledge of your discipline. Your work should be consistent and also make a statement of a strong personal style. A high standard of presentation is expected.
  • Fellowship (FSPPI, FSAPI): The highest level of Distinction, the Fellowship is awarded for excellence and evidence of distinguished ability. Excellence of technical quality is essential, but if your work is interpretive, then the quality should be appropriate to the subject and intent. At this level, it is expected that you will show individuality, with a strong personal input and an element of originality or freshness in your approach.


When you are awarded a Distinction, you are entitled to use the letters LSPPI, LSAPI, ASPPI, ASAPI or FSPPI, FSAPI after your name and you will receive a certificate under the Seal of The Society and signed by the CEO.


Before Making your Application


In order to avoid disappointment, before you apply for a Distinction it is important that you understand the standard required and get an idea of where your own work fits in. There are several ways of doing this:

1.      The first and most important thing you should do is to read the relevant sections of this Guide which will give you all the requirements as well as tips and a great deal of useful information to guide you towards a successful submission.

N.B. Criteria at the earlier levels apply equally as one progresses.


2.      See examples of successful stills photography submissions published on the website (coming soon)

3.      Speak to successful members and share their experiences

4.      Look at other societies successful submissions and see the industry standard being produced


While Panel members are happy to give advice, you should not expect them to choose your portfolio for you. This must be your decision.

Note: Panel Members who give 'one to one' advice other than at an official advisory day, may not vote on the application at the adjudication. It follows that if you consult more than one Panel member, you could jeopardize the adjudication of your work.




You may make as many applications as you wish to the same or different categories, but each one must be accompanied by a completed application form and fee. A portfolio which has failed in one category must not be submitted to another category.

The evidence must be your own work (and you will, therefore, normally own the copyright) but you can have your work commercially processed. Remember, however, that you must accept total responsibility for the quality of the work submitted.

Your submission should be of a consistent standard throughout and you should be starting to develop your own personal style. The way you present your portfolio is equally important - the Panels expect a high standard of presentation.

It is essential that you submit your evidence in accordance with the requirements as set out in this guide. Submissions which do not conform to these requirements will be returned without being assessed. You must also ensure that your images are in the correct order for presentation - it is not the responsibility of the Distinction staff to check portfolios prior to assessment.

If you took any of your images as part of a group activity, such as during a course or on a travel expedition where guidance is provided, you must clearly show your own individual style and approach. If there is any doubt, you may be asked to provide additional evidence.

You must not approach any Assessment Panel member concerning your application for a Distinction, either directly or indirectly, from the time that your application has been submitted until after the recommendation has been made. To do otherwise will result in automatic disqualification.

N.B. Only members of The SPPI or SAPI are entitled to hold a Distinction; if, therefore, your membership lapses, you should stop using the letters after your name. It is usually possible, however, to rejoin and have your Distinction re-instated for a small additional administration fee.


How your work is Assessed

Submissions are assessed by a Panel of four or five Fellows of The Society and a Chairman (the minimum number required is three and Associate members may serve on the Licentiateship Panel). Applications are assessed one at a time, anonymously (only the Chairman has your application form) and the first time your evidence is seen by the Panel is when it is presented at the meeting.

Prints: (Fellowship Only) Print submissions are displayed in two rows and Panel members view them from their seats before getting up to have a closer look.

CDs or DVDs and Images uploaded to FTP site: All submissions suitable for projection are projected twice and in the case of digital applications the thumbnails are then displayed for reference.

  • LSPPI LSAPI: The Licentiateship Panel members each complete a marking sheet which is based on the criteria set out in this guide
  • ASPPI, ASAPI: For the Associateship the statement is read out and the assessment, again made using the criteria in this guide, is made on the basis of a vote.

LSPPI, LSAPI and ASSPI, ASAPI: In both cases the Chairman asks one or more Panel members to comment on each application and announces the result i.e. whether or not it is being recommended to Council for the Distinction. It is only following the formal ratification by Council that the result is official. If you are successful, then your name is announced - usually to a round of applause.

  • FSPPI, FSAPI: Assessments for the Fellowship are held without an audience, but follow exactly the same procedure as the Associateship except that the recommendations go to the Fellowship Board


Notification of results

  • Licencateship: All applicants will receive an email informing them of the Panel's recommendation. Applicants will receive a comment sheet giving the Panel's reasons for their decision.
  • Associateship: All applicants will receive an email informing them of the Panel's recommendation.
  • Unsuccessful applicants will be given the opportunity of seeking further advice and guidance from a Panel member.
  • Fellowship: All applicants will receive an email informing them of the Panel's recommendation. 
  • If applications are not successful, you will be encouraged to attend the Fellowship Showing where you will be given the reasons for the Board's decision; you will also have the opportunity to discuss your work in depth with a member of the Fellowship Board. This can either be done privately or, if you are willing to share the comments on your portfolio, it is very helpful if you are prepared for the discussion to take place in front of the other attendees.


Successful Applicants

Successful applicants will receive a formal letter awarding the Distinction, together with a lapel badge and a certificate under the Seal of The Society, signed by the CEO

Gaining a Distinction, at any level, is a significant achievement and new Licentiates and Associates are naturally keen to move on to the next stage. While The Society would wish to encourage this enthusiasm, a word of caution is necessary. The Associateship is a very big step up from the Licentiateship and the Fellowship an even bigger, more significant step up from the Associateship. Too often members rush to apply for the next level, only to be disappointed. It is far better to take your time, seek advice and work towards it, gradually developing not only your skills but also your own personal style.


Unsuccessful Applicants

Unfortunately not everyone is successful. If you do not succeed whenever possible you will be given the opportunity to receive help and advice from a member of the Panel who will explain the reasons for the decision. Everyone, particularly the Panel members, want you to succeed and will do all they can to help. However, you should remember that the final choice of work to be submitted should be your decision.

You may make one re-submission at Licentiateship or Associateship level for half the usual application fee; for the Fellowship you may re-submit to the same category for a reduced fee.

N.B. If you fail in one category of the Associateship or Fellowship, you may not submit the identical portfolio to another category.



Our qualification Guidelines are in accordance with the Royal Photographic's Society (est 1853) qualifications in order to achieve industry standards. The RPS is the first Society to introduce qualifications in this manner  

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