Photographic Achievement

Portfolio Distinctions

Director, Portfolio Distinctions

‚úČ John M. Davis, Jr., HonPSA, MPSA·

The Portfolio Distinction encourages photographers to produce a body of work that reflects their personal style and photographic interest and that, as they progress through the levels, will inspire them to demonstrate their increasing competence, originality and innovative skills. 

All applications are made online. 

Portfolios Recipients Portfolio Recipient Galleries


Session 2, 2019 has uploaded 30 portfolios and is now closed. The assessment will take place in early April.

The next PSA members to pay, upload and finalize their portfolios will be placed on the waiting list for Session 3, 2019 (first come, first served). Notice will be given when Session 3 is closed.

Portfolio limit: First 30 PSA members who complete their applications (pay, upload and finalize)  
Waiting list in order of receipt of completed applications after the first 30 are received

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  • Types of Portfolio Distinctions

    The first level is the BPSA – Bronze – and requires a submission of 10 images. 

    The second level is the SPSA – Silver – and requires a submission of 15 images. You may only apply for an SPSA if you already have a BPSA.  

    The third level is the GPSA - Gold - and requires a submission of 20 images.  You may only apply for a GPSA if you already have a SPSA. 

    Higher distinctions require higher standards of images in the application.

    You may only apply for an SPSA if you already have a BPSA  and you may only apply for GPSA if you already have an SPSA.

  • What images can be used for Portfolios?

    Digital Projected Images, Home/Commercially Processed Prints, or Digital 3D Images may be entered.   

    The Portfolio of images must have an evident theme.

    Portfolios which have been awarded distinctions by other societies may not be entered.

    Model Release for Portraits Required

    The entrant to this PSA activity must forward a signed Model Release to the portfolios chair with his/her entry for every portrait image, including all the recognizable likenesses of a human face, which were not taken in a public location. The entrant and model agree to hold PSA harmless against all claims and liabilities arising out of PSA’s publication, display, or other use of any portrait image submitted to PSA. Award images will be posted on the PSA website and selected images may be published in the PSA Journal and/or Division Newsletters. 

    For those who do not have a Model Release, a sample Model Release Form is linked here.

  • Portfolio Requirements
    Every Portfolio must have a title - up to five words.

    Every portfolio must be accompanied by a brief, concise (no more than 75 words) Statement of Intent that explains the purpose, objective, or intention of the author for the images presented in this work.  

    A Portfolio needs to be cohesive, consistent, balanced, and have symmetry. In addition to the 10/15/20 images it must include an Overview Image which provides the overall layout to view the Portfolio.  Images in a Print Overview Image must include any matting used.  

    The author’s name, camera or lens information, other personal information, logo, any identifying mark or the title of the Portfolio may not appear anywhere in the Statement of Intent, on the Overview Image or on any of the individual images. 

    See also: » How and What to Submit (doc) - Please consult this very important document with all the information you need to apply.


    Projected Digital Images - maximum of 1920px width x 1080px height.  Either the vertical height (1080px) or the horizontal width (1920px) must be exact. Maximum file size 2mb.

    Prints - The long dimension of the image area of any print submitted shall be no less than 11.5" (292 mm) and no prints shall be no larger than 16” (406 mm) x 20” (508 mm) including mount and any matting. Home or commercially processed images are acceptable. In either case, the quality of the print is your responsibility.

    Digital 3D Images - For individual 3D images, the stereo image should be created side-by-side, left-right, up to a combined size of 3840 x 1080 pixels.

    Prints and 3D Images

    » Instructions on how to submit prints (doc) (updated February 2019) - Please consult this very important document to find out all the requirements for submitting prints. - Please consult this very important document to find out all the requirements for submitting prints.

    » Instructions on how to submit digital 3D images - (Updated February 2019) - Please consult this very important document to find out all the requirements for submitting digital 3D images.


    While sensor-based calibration is essential for consistent evaluation of images, some systems are accurate with color, but not accurate with brightness. Calibration information and sample images can be downloaded from and used for adjusting the brightness of the device you will be using to prepare the images for your portfolio. 

  • Entry, Fees, and Online Application

    Entry may be made only during dates indicated in Important Updates and News (above). Entry is a two-step process. The following two steps are linked to the appropriate webpage:

    1. » Pay entry fees via PayPal  (no PayPal account required):  
      BPSA: $90, SPSA: $140, GPSA: $200 | Resubmit fee: $40.00

      Save receipt from PayPal. 

    2. Payment, via PayPal, must be made BEFORE you start the online application, since proof of payment must be attached to the online application

    3. » Submit online application -  ONLY WAITING LIST AT THIS TIME - SESSION 2, 2019 IS FULL - NEXT ASSESSMENT IN EARLY APRIL - Pre-registration is necessary on this site.  Select the option for PSA Portfolio Distinctions.  Look for Opening and Closing dates in the IMPORTANT UPDATES AND NEWS above.  Instructions on how to use the online application (updated October 2017) provide full details on how to submit your application online.

      » - Instructions on how to use the online application (updated December 2018) - full details on how to submit your application online

    All applications must be submitted online. In the case of Print and digital 3D applications these online images are for administrative purposes only and will not be used for assessment.

    In the case of prints the uploaded images must include matting used.

    By virtue of submitting a portfolio, the candidate certifies the work as his/her own and permits PSA to reproduce all or part of the entered material free of charge for publication and/or display in media related to the PSA Portfolio Distinctions Program. This may include (1) inclusion in an audio-visual program of successful portfolios to be shown at a PSA Conference; (2) hanging of successful print portfolios in the Photo Gallery at a PSA Conference; (3) including low resolution posting of successful portfolios in the Portfolios Galleries on the PSA web site; and (4) using the portfolio in training for potential assessors and future Portfolio Distinction Candidates. The PSA Print Collection Committee occasionally will request of the candidate a Committee review of a print portfolio for possible inclusion in the Print Collection. If approved, an additional permission/license would be requested of the candidate.


  • The Assessment Process

    The assessment process is meant as an educational one, not a “competition," and is completed by a panel of five rotating assessors, led by a non-voting chairperson.  

    Portfolios are judged anonymously.

    Each assessment begins with the viewing of the Overview Image while the Statement of Intent is read out. The individual images are then viewed.  

    The process is then repeated and the assessors start by determining whether or not the portfolio presented is cohesive and reflects the Statement of Intent. Assessment is done by individual scoring and by discussion.

    Each image is then assessed individually, once again by individual scoring and by discussion, for technical quality and visual awareness.  

    The Overview Image/Statement of Intent as well as the individual images are each scored as either in or out by the assessors and a percentage is given for each - a minimum of 60% i.e. an "in" score from the majority of the assessors for each is required for success. The Overview Image as well as all the individual images must all achieve 60% or higher in order for the portfolio to succeed.

    An email will be sent to each applicant approximately 1 month after the assessment session advising their results. 


  • Successful Applicants

    Successful Portfolios will be shown on the website and may also be showcased at the next PSA Conference. Those with more than one successful portfolio will only feature their most recent portfolio. Portfolios may also be included in training programs.  

    Certificates and pins will be mailed to the successful applicants after the assessment.  Successful applicants may also be listed in Conference program materials or in an insert, provided their information is received in time for publication.  

  • Unsuccessful Applicants

    In the case of applicants who were not successful details will be given as to which images the assessors felt were of the required standard and which were not. A brief comment will be given regarding each unsuccessful image. Applicants who wish to receive further feedback may contact the portfolio chair, who may refer the applicant to one of the assessors of that portfolio.

    Resubmits - for those with up to four failed images only

    Any applicant whose portfolio has up to four failed images (including the overview image) is entitled to a resubmit.  Applicants will be contacted immediately after the assessment session and asked to supply additional images for assessment if they wish to exercise their right to resubmit. 

    This resubmit will be done for a fee of $40, regardless of the Bronze, Silver or Gold level or the number of resubmitted images.  These applicants may resubmit that same portfolio replacing the image/s and providing a new Overview Image at the date of the assessment of the resubmit.  Usually, that will be within 30 to 35 days after the notice of the right to resubmit.  Application must once again be done online - in the section that is listed as "Resubmits Only" and only the additional images plus a new Overview Image will be able to be uploaded. 

    For those with five or more failed images

    Unsuccessful applicants who were not offered an official "resubmission" may try again during the next submission period. If they wish, they may submit the previously successful images as part of a reworked portfolio but there is no guarantee that their previously successful images will be accepted by a new panel of assessors.  

    These portfolios are not eligible for a discount when sent subsequent times.


  • Common Faults - Feedback from an Assessment

    Putting a Portfolio together in order to apply for a Portfolio Distinction is not just a matter of selecting your favorite images, however good they are.  The most successful portfolios were planned and photographed as a unit with a consistent style and this was evident right from the start  i.e from the moment the Overview Image was projected and the Statement of Intent read. 

    It was apparent during the assessment session that many applicants did not fully understand the concept of the Overview Image or the Statement of Intent.  A number of articles have been written and should be taken into consideration when preparing your application.  This brief article highlights those problems which were most apparent at this assessment session.

    It is important to understand that the Overview Image is the first image that the assessors see and at the same time they listen to your Statement of Intent so it is important that you make a good first impression.  Any of the problems described below can detract from that first impression.


    Composition: - Inadequate use of space  (Poor use of available/allowed space)
    Once you have created your Overview Image have a look at it as a whole – what do you see?  In the example below what is immediately apparent is that the background colour, even though it is a neutral grey, is far more dominant than the individual images.  


    The rule was that the horizontal axis should be 1400 px but no minimum size was required for the vertical axis – therefore a very simple solution in this overview Image would be to move the rows closer together and to crop both top and bottom, thus making a much better use of space.



    In this second example not only is there extra space that could be cropped out, as mentioned above, but the individual images are very small and could easily have been made larger thus using the available space more effectively.


    Background too bright
    The density of your background, or how dark or light it should be, depends on your images and should be selected to make them stand out from the background. This is why a white background could work well for one portfolio and a neutral grey might be considered too bright for another.  Whatever background you choose it should not overpower your images.

    Inconsistent Aspect Ratio 
    Each individual image in your Overview Image should be the same aspect ratio as it is in your actual portfolio.  In other words you should not change the shape of an image in your overview image to make it fit more pleasingly into the overview image.   

    If you want to change the shape then you should also do so with the actual image in your portfolio so that the aspect ratios remain the same.  You should consider this when creating your portfolio and choose a different image if it does not fit effectively in your portfolio.

    Inconsistent order
    The order of the images in your Overview Image should be the same as in your portfolio. Remember that when you upload your individual images you must check to make sure that they are in the correct order and resort them if necessary.

    Images flipped 
    You should also not flip i.e. turn your images around, to make them fit the overview image.  You can of course flip them (provided there is no writing on them) but if you do so the orientation must be the same in both the overview image and the portfolio.

    Consistency of mats and strokes
    While it is recommended that you use effects such as strokes and shadows in your overview image to make the images stand out from the background these should be done on the outside of your images and should not detract.  Furthermore any borders that you do want to use in your portfolio images should be consistent. If you have large mats or strokes on your actual images, be they prints or digital, this should be shown in your overview image.

    Lacking Colour and/or Visual Flow
    A portfolio is not just a selection of your favorite images, it is a body of work that has cohesion and each image must work together. Colours must flow from one to the next and should not stand out as being out of place.  

    The central vertical image at the bottom does not fit very well in the portfolio.  While it might have been taken in the same area no dune is showing and the Colour does not balance - however much you like that particular image you would be better off replacing it.



    The same is true of the subject matter within the image - pay attention to which direction the subject is moving and balance these within your overview image.  You should move the images around in your overview image, seeing which positioning is more effective visually.

    Statement of Intent
    Hand in hand with the Overview Image is the Statement of Intent. While we do allow for 75 words there is no need to use all 75 words.   If you can say what you want to say in fewer words, do so.   What the assessors want is a brief outline of your portfolio. Leave out all the extraneous information.  The assessors only need to know what is relevant to your images.   

    Be sure that your title and your statement of intent match each other and that the images in your portfolio match the title and statement of intent.  Your statement of intent sets the expectations of the assesssors.  If you tell the assessors in your title and Statement of Intent that they are going to see a certain subject, be sure that that is exactly what they are going to see.

    Applying for and achieving your Portfolio Distinction is something worth working for so do take care with your application.  Make sure borders are consistent, your images are clean and there are no dust spots.  

  • Resources and Articles on Assessments

    Educational Courses:
    PSA has developed two very helpful courses to instruct you on how to create a portfolio for assessment: "A Portfolio Experience" (takes you through the process of creating a portfolio); and "Creating Portfolios for Assessment," a more advanced course geared toward receiving a portfolio distinction from PSA. 

    Find this course at:

    Also, please read: The Portfolio Overview Image, by Jon Fishback, APSA, PSA Journal, March 2017
    and Common Portfolio Mistakes by Dan Charbonnet, HonPSA, EPSA, PSA Journal, January 2019

    Articles from the PSA Journal

    The Assessment Procedure:
    The First PSA Portfolio Assessment, by Joanne Stolte, FPSA, MPSA, EFIAP, PSA Journal, August 2016

    The Second PSA Portfolio Assessment, by Joanne Stolte, FPSA, MPSA, EFIAP, PSA Journal, April 2017

    An Assessor Looks at a Successful Portfolio, by William B. Barnett, APSA, GMPSA, PSA Journal, December 2017

    Portfolio Submission Experiences:
    The PSA Portfolio Project: A New Challenge by Marie Rakoczy, BPSA - Marie leads you through her experience in successfully applying for her BPSA.  This article offers excellent advice. "It was an exciting moment when I heard of the portfolio acceptance - it gave me a sense of accomplishment and affirmation. But it wasn’t just the end result that was satisfying: the experience of creating the portfolio entry and the learning processes that it involved were their own reward."

    Going for my BPSA, by Greg Duncan, EPSA, BPSA, EFIAP/b, PSA Journal, December 2016

    Creating Portfolios for Assessment for Portfolio Distinctions - An Important PSA Educational Program by Cyril Mazansky, PSA Journal, November 2016.

    PSA Portfolios - a Program Lifts Off by John Davis, Jr., HonPSA, MPSA, PSA Journal, July 2017

    Portfolio Pitfalls? by Jon Fishback, APSA, ARPSA, PSA Director, PSA Educational Services, PSA Journal, October 2017

    Portfolio Review - Success for Janet haines, GPSA, with Visions of Music by Anne Sutcliffe, PPSA, PSA Journal, October 2018