Photographic Achievement

Portfolio Distinctions

Director, Portfolio Distinctions

‚úČ John M. Davis, Jr., HonPSA, MPSA·

PSA Portfolios Recipients

Portfolio distinctions are earned for a body of work, that reflects a photographer's personal style and photographic interest. All applications are made online. 

See the portfolios that earned PSA Portfolio Distinctions

View the most recent recipient lists available from the left pane on this page.

IMPORTANT UPDATES AND NEWS:Please always read ALL the current documentation as there are updated rules and requirements. Application may now also be made with digital 3D images.

PHOTOVAULTONLINE will be open for applications at a time to be announced this fall.
CLOSING DATEThe 3D and Print portfolios closing date will be at a time in the Summer of 2019 to be determined; the 2D portfolios closing dates will be announced as soon as the 2019 assessment dates are determined.  A remote assessment process is being prepared so that digital 2D assessments can be done by video conference.   

The Process
Members must complete the online Portfolio application for all applications and must upload all images, be they digital or print applications. Online applications only. 

Members must apply for BPSA (first level) unless they have already been successful at that level.  A BPSA distinction holder can then apply for SPSA (second level). After achieving the SPSA a member is then eligible to apply for the GPSA (third level). PSA members can use these acronyms after their names when their applications are approved.


Each Portfolio consists of:

  • A title - maximum 5 words
  • A Statement of Intent - maximum 75 words
  • An Overview Image - showing the sequence in which the images are to be viewed.  NEW: Must be either 1920px wide or 1080px high. Prints overviews may be up to 20" x 16" in either the landscape or portrait position, including matting and mounting.
  • 10, 15 or 20 images depending on whether the application is made for BPSA, SPSA or GPSA

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.

Entry and Fees

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), save receipt from PayPal. BPSA: $90, SPSA: $140, GPSA: $200
    Payment, via PayPal, must be made BEFORE you start the online application, since proof of payment must be attached to the online application
  2. » Submit online application - Pre-registration is necessary on this site, select the option for PSA Portfolio Distinctions - this option will only be visible two months prior to the closing date.
    » Instructions on how to use the online application (updated October 2017) - full details on how to submit your application online

Key Resources (additional resources may be seen from drop-down menu, below - select topic to reveal or hide its contents.)

» PSA Portfolio Distinctions - General Information - (updated November 2018) (doc) - brief guidelines

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

» Instructions on how to use the online application (updated October 2017) - full details on how to submit your application online full details on how to submit your application online.

» Instructions on how to submit prints (doc) (updated March 2018) - 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 - October 2017 - Please consult this very important document to find out all the requirements for submitting digital 3D images.

More Resources
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  • 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
  • Online Courses and How to Create a Portfolio
    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

  • 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
  • Common Faults - Feedback from the 2017 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.  

I encourage everyone to challenge yourself to the portfolio project for several reasons: it forces you to consider what your best work is; it helps you to confirm your identity as a photographer and to articulate it in words and images; it challenges you to consider your work not just as individual images, but as a true body of work; it helps you to become better at critiquing your work – its strengths and weaknesses – and improving it. And, ultimately, it’s fun!" ~Marie Rakoczy, BPSA