PSA Portfolio Distinction Program

Director, PSA Portfolio Distinction Program

‚úČ Ken Carlson, GPSA·

To earn a Portfolio Distinction, a photographer produces a body of work that reflects his/her personal styles and photographic interest and submits it for review. A photographer may earn three levels of Portfolio Distinctions, each requiring a higher degree of both creative talent and number of submitted images. 

See links on left side of this page for list of PSA Portfolio Distinction Recipients and PSA Portfolio Distinction Overview Images.

  • A PSA member may apply for a Portfolio Distinction starting with the BPSA, then the SPSA and finally the GPSA.
  • The PSA member must complete their portfolio and not use a portfolio that has been awarded distinctions by other societies. 
  • Follow the two-step entry process
    1. Pay entry fee via PayPal
    2. Submit online application 
  • Portfolios are reviewed during designated assessments. 
  • The Portfolio must be accepted by a panel of 5 assessors.
  • Note that the entry of a Portfolio does not guarantee a PSA distinction. 

  • The Portfolio Distinction Committee has noted that many candidates for Distinction struggle with the Statement of Intent and how it relates to the Overview Image. To reduce confusion, the Committee voted to highly recommend that portfolios submitted after September 30, 2021, make the intent of the portfolio very clear. Words such as “It is the intent of this portfolio…” or “This portfolio will show…” will help the candidates and the assessors.
  • On October 28, 2021, the Portfolio Committee voted to no longer include prints or 3-D entries for the Portfolio Distinction program.  All entrants will now be digital applications only.
  • Please see the two new articles in the Courses, Resources and Articles section below named "What is a Cohesive Image" and "The Statement of Intent"

Congratulations to our latest Portfolio Distinction recipients.  


Assessment Date Open for Submissions

Closing Date 
(Unless fills sooner)

Late January 2022 October 1, 2021 December 16, 2021 Early March 2022
Late June 2022 March 15, 2022 May 15, 2022 Early August 2022
Late October 2022 July 1, 2022 September 1, 2022 Early December 2022

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  • Levels of Distinctions and Requirements
    Level Must Include # images in Portfolio Other requirements
    BPSA - Bronze Title, Statement of Intent, Overview Image, and Images 10 PSA Individual Membership for next six months
    SPSA - Silver Title, Statement of Intent, Overview Image, and Images 15 BPSA + PSA Individual Membership for next six months
    GPSA - Gold Title, Statement of Intent, Overview Image, and Images 20 BPSA, SPSA + PSA Individual Membership for next six months

    IMPORTANT - no identifying mark should appear on any image, i.e. author's name, trademark, logo, etc.

    Overview Image - showing all images of the portfolio at once - should not include any text - for more descriptions of the Overview Image, see the section, below.

    Title - up to 5 words that describes the portfolio - this will only be used on the application and should not appear on any image in the Portfolio or on the Statement of Intent.

    Statement of Intent
    - Every portfolio must be accompanied by a statement that explains the purpose, objective, or intention of the author for the images presented in this work in a positive manner. Up to 75 words and must be in English - do not feel all 75 words are required - less is fine. Should not include technical or biographical information. Do not use statements which may raise expectations of assessors if those statements are irrelevant to or not supported in the portfolio images.

    Image Sizes:
    • DIGITAL: Either the vertical height should be 1080px or the horizontal width be 1920px - must be exact. Maximum file size is 2MB.
    • PRINT: The longest side must be 11.5" (292mm) to 20" (508mm). No print may be larger than 16 x 20" including mount and any matting. Home or commerical processed acceptable.
    • DIGITAL 3D: Stereo image should be created side-by-side, left-right, up to a combined size of 3840 x 1080 px
    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 http://www.photovaultonline.com/photovault/index.php?r=site/calibration and used for adjusting the brightness of the device you will be using to prepare the images for your portfolio. 

    Model Release for Portraits Required

    The entrant to this PSA activity must forward a signed Model Release to the portfolio 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.
  • Entry: Online Payment and Application

    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 website; 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.

    Entry may be made only during the dates listed in "Important Updates and News" (above). Entry is a two-step process requiring two different linked webpages:

    1. Online payment, via PayPal, must be made BEFORE you start the online application.  No PayPal account is required.  Proof of payment must be included with the online application.  Save your PayPal receipt. The link below must be used for your payment to be processed.
      Fees: BPSA: $90, SPSA: $140, GPSA: $200 | Resubmit fee: $40.00
       Pay entry fee via PayPal   
    2. Online application via Photo Vault.  Once you click on the Photo Vault link below, select the option for PSA Portfolio Distinctions.  For detailed instructions, refer to this pdf regarding how to use the online application.
      Submit online application via Photo Vault 

  • The Assessment Process

    The Portfolio Assessment is designed to be an educational process, not a competition, and is conducted by a panel of five rotating Assessors, led by a non-voting coordinator.  Portfolios are assessed anonymously.

    Each Assessment begins with the viewing of the Overview Image while the Title and Statement of Intent are read. The individual images are then viewed one at a time.  There is no discussion at this time as the Assessors are individually considering what they are seeing and have heard.

    The process is then repeated, and the Assessors begin by determining whether the overview image presented is cohesive and reflects the Title and Statement of Intent. Assessment is done by individual scoring “in” or “out,” followed by discussion, if needed, and an agreement regarding comments to be sent to the Portfolio’s marker.

    Each image is then assessed individually, once again by individual scoring and by discussion, to assess the technical quality and fit within the Portfolio.

    A minimum of three Assessors (the majority) must score an "in" for success. The Overview Image as well as all the individual images must all achieve 60% or higher for the portfolio to succeed.


  • Following the Assessment

    Successful Applicants

    An email will be sent to each successful applicant approximately one and a half months after the Assessment advising them of their results.  Certificates and pins will be mailed to the successful applicants after the email has been sent.  

    Successful Portfolio Overview Images with the portfolio Title, Statement of Intent, and the maker’s name will be posted on the PSA website.  Those members with more than one successful portfolio will be listed on the PSA web site under their most recent portfolio (i.e., Bronze, Silver, or Gold); however, their additional Portfolio Overview Images will be linked below their latest.  Portfolios and/or Overview Images may also be included in training programs and may be showcased at the next PSA Festival.  

    Unsuccessful Applicants

    Applicants who were not successful will be sent brief comments regarding the unsuccessful portfolio. It is recommended that unsuccessful Bronze Portfolio applicants sign up for the free PSA Education Online Course, “Creating a PSA Portfolio,” found under the link for Education.

    Resubmits: For those with up to Four Failed Images

    Any applicant whose portfolio has up to four failed images (including the Overview Image) is entitled to a resubmit of that portfolio.  Applicants will be contacted soon after the Assessment and asked to rework their Overview Image, Statement of Intent, and/or supply additional images for a re-Assessment, if they wish to resubmit. 

    The resubmit fee is $40, regardless of the Bronze, Silver, or Gold level or the number of resubmitted images. These applicants are to resubmit the same portfolio replacing the failed image(s) and providing a new Overview Image by the date given to them.  Usually, that will be within 30 to 35 days after the email regarding their opportunity to resubmit.  

    Resubmittal instructions will be provided in the email.  It is not necessary for the replacement images to be in the same position on the new Overview Image as in the original Overview Image; however, since the Overview Image needs to be balanced and cohesive and changing some images will throw off previous cohesiveness, some rearrangement may be necessary. Only the new images and the revised Overview Image need to be submitted.

    If this resubmit fails, the applicant may not rework the unsuccessful portfolio (theme/topic) and submit it as a new or reworked portfolio.

    For those with five or more failed images or those who failed a resubmit:

    Unsuccessful applicants who were not offered a "resubmission" may not rework the unsuccessful portfolio and submit it as a reworked portfolio. The applicant must work on an entirely new portfolio with a new theme/topic if the applicant wishes to apply again.

  • Course, Resources, and Articles Regarding the PSA Portfolio Distinction Program

    PSA members can access these webinars for free by logging into the Members Only area of the PSA website and choosing PSA Education > Webinar Recordings.

    Portfolio Distinctions Program with Dan Charbonnet, HonPSA, EPSA; May 28, 2020.

    Creating a PSA Portfolio with Joanne Stolte, HonPSA, MPSA, EFIAP, ESFIAP; July 9, 2020.

    PSA Journal Articles and Other Documents
    Suggestions for Creating a Portfolio: 

    What is a Cohesive Overview Image by Anne J. Sutcliffe, APSA, PPSA, FRPS, EFIAP - pdf

    The Statement of Intent by Ken Carlson, GPSA, Director Portfolio Distinction Program - pdf

    The Portfolio Overview Image, by Jon Fishback, APSA, PSA Journal, March 2017. - pdf

    Creating an Overview Image: pdf

    Common Portfolio Mistakes, by Dan Charbonnet, HonPSA, EPSA, PSA Journal, January 2019. - pdf

    Portfolio Submission Experiences:

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

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

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