I first picked up a camera with serious intent in my early sixties, retired from my working life shortly after that and spent three years studying Photography at Nottingham Trent University. Studies completed, I joined Beeston Camera Club, where I was introduced to the idea of competing, at three levels – Club, National and International.
Club: Camera clubs are a great learning experience for fledgling photographers. As well as visiting speakers and practical evenings, Beeston Camera Club has a monthly competition, with four sections, where scores are awarded out of 20 and an overall winner declared at the end of the season. I stayed with BCC until 2017, when I become a member of The Print Project Group, specialising in monochrome print.
National: British Photographic Exhibitions is a collection of Camera Clubs who have elected to mount a yearly Salon, where photographers enter photographs to be assessed by a panel of Judges. These can be presented digitally, as prints, or sometimes as a combination of the two. The top photographs are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals, with Ribbons and Certificates for the runners-up. Acceptances into the exhibitions are converted into Distinctions. A full description of how the BPE works is here.
Internationally: There are several international organisations run on similar lines to the BPE, but the only one I enter is the Fédération Internationale de l’Art Photographique. There are probably something like 100 FIAP Salons worldwide, some of which are circuits, comprising of four or five different Salons.
“Many salons then hold real-world exhibitions in a public venue to display the images that have won awards for the everyone to view. Photos that have won awards, commendations or honourable mentions are then sent certificats, small trophies/medals and in rare cases a salon may offer cash prizes. The rest of the images are either accepted or declined and each photographer is given a report card showing how well they did”. (David Candish gives a brilliant explanation of Salons and how they work)
To date, I have accrued the following distinctions:
BA (Hons) Humanities 1983
BA (Hons) First Class in Photography 2009
ARPS (Associate of the Royal Photographic Society)
EFIAP/Silver Level (Excellence de la Fédération Internationale de l’Art Photographique)
DPAGB (Distinction of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain)
BPE5* (Level 5, British Photographic Exhibitions).