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 October session is now full and has been closed for the next assessment. It will reopen on or about October 1, 2021, for the January 2022 assessment and will stay open until all the slots are filled.
  • 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.

Congratulations to our latest Portfolio Distinction recipients.  

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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.
  • How to Submit Print & 3D Portfolios
    Updated July, 2021
    • Contact Ken Carlson, GPSA·: port-print@psa-photo.org for information prior to preparing a print Portfolio.
      Contact H. Lee Pratt, HonPSA·:: port-3D@psa-photo.org for information prior to preparing a 3D Portfolio.
      Print and 3D PSA Portfolio Assessments are conducted once a year during the annual PSA Photo Festival.

      Print Portfolio Preparation
      All print adjustments and optimization must be done by the applicant. Commercially prepared prints are eligible, but the commercial printer shall not be allowed to do any image editing or optimizing. The applicant is responsible for the quality of the printing whether done personally or commercially. 

      The long dimension of the image area of any print submitted shall be no less than 11.5 inches (292 mm) and prints shall be no larger than 16 inches (406 mm) x 20 inches (508 mm) including the mount and any matting.

      All prints are to be mounted using a lightweight mount.

      The following information should appear on a label applied on the back of each print:
      * The application number (which is automatically generated by Photo Vault Online) 
      * The print sequence number
      * The portfolio title
      * An arrow indicating orientation or the word TOP

      Apply the label to the back of the print so the arrow points to the top or the word TOP is at the top. The orientation of this label will determine how each print is shown to the assessors. No name or other identifying mark should appear either on the front or back of the print.





      The application number is part of the hyphenated number provided in the confirmation email. The number has four parts as in these examples: 18-1-21-00, 18-1-21-01. The first three numbers (18-1-21 in the examples) are the application number. The last number is the print number, with the 00 being the Overview Image and the rest being the numbers for each print. Be sure the print numbers agree with the position of the prints on the Overview Image.

      The Overview Image, both the printed and the digital versions, must show the prints in their final form as submitted and must include any matt used.

      In addition to uploading the digital files, the prints must be sent to an address which will be supplied. Usually, the prints will be shipped to PSA Headquarters, 8241 S. Walker Avenue, # 104, Oklahoma City, OK 73139 USA.

      If an entrant wishes to have their prints returned after the assessment, they must be packed using reusable packaging. If an entrant does not wish to have their prints returned, they must inform the print Portfolio Coordinator (listed above). The cost for shipping both to and from the assessment (held during the annual PSA Festival) is the responsibility of the entrant and arrangements including the method of payment must be made prior to the Assessment.

      3D Portfolio Preparation

      Equipment for Assessment
      The 3D portfolios will be viewed and assessed just like any other submissions of 2D images, except that a passive 1920 x 1080 3D television and/or 3D projection system will be used for assessment, with appropriate 3D software such as Stereoscopic Player, Stereo Photo Maker, or Stereo Slide Show. Using the 3D display, the assessors will see the proper 3D image while wearing passive glasses and will not see the side-by-side file format.

      Size of Images
      Maximum file size for each full-size 3D image is 4 MB.

      Individual 3D images should be created side-by-side, left-right, and consist of two (2) individual images submitted as a single digital jpeg file composed of a left image on the left and a right image on the right up to a combined size of 3840 x 1080 pixels. .jpeg images preferred. The maximum width (horizontal) shall not exceed 1920 pixels and the maximum height (vertical) shall not exceed 1080 pixels, resulting in a maximum combined image width (horizontal) of 3840 pixels and a maximum image height (vertical) of 1080 pixels. 

      Overview Image
      For 3D images, it is important that the Overview Image have a layout pattern that can be used separately having both the left set of images and the right set of images. The Overview Image will have the necessary 10, 15, or 20 left images on the left Overview Image and the corresponding 10, 15, or 20 right images on the right Overview Image.  The images on the left side and the images on the right side must be in the same order and must be precisely aligned.

      It is the responsibility of the entrant to align each 3D image pair precisely for the individual image side-by-side format. Then the left and right images will be separated to be placed for placement in the identical left and right Overview Image layout patterns. This task can be greatly simplified if all left and right images are precisely the same size (such as 1920 x 1080) to allow the entrant easily to rearrange the Overview Image layout for best presentation. Esthetically and artistically 3D Overview Images are subject to the same guidelines and criteria as two-dimensional digital Overview Images and two-dimensional print Overview Images.

      The entrant is not required to have equally sized images. If the entrant elects to add any frames, bars, or padding to adjust image sizes or aspect ratios, this should be accomplished in a manner that does not detract from the impact of the Overview Image. The left and right Overview Images are then combined for a side-by-side 3D image (up to 3840 by 1080 pixels in size). The assessors will see the Overview Image all in 3D, not in the side-by-side format. Proper alignment of the left and right Overview Images is the responsibility of the applicant.

      In order to ensure consistent presentation it is recommended that all of your images be padded with black borders to the full 1920 x 1080 pixel size so the center of each pair is constant.

      Online Application Considerations
      When submitting the online application, a smaller file image size is necessary to meet online software limitations. These reduced-size images are for administrative uses only and will not be shown to the assessors for evaluation of the portfolio. Once the entrant is satisfied with their portfolio, a separate copy version of the full-size 3D image pairs should be made, then reduced to half size (1920 x 540 pixels maximum size) for online submission of the Overview Image pairs and individual image pairs to Photo Vault Online.

      After making the online submission of the small images, the entrant must send an email to H. Lee Pratt, HonPSA·:port-3D@psa-photo.org to receive directions regarding how to submit the full-size images, on the internet preferably via Dropbox or WeTransfer. The assessors will evaluate only the full–size 3D images.

  • 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

    Education Course:
    "Creating a PSA Portfolio" is designed to provide an opportunity for learners to explore their potential to create a PSA portfolio and to benefit from working with a coach who will ask questions to guide the learner in their creative process.  PSA members can register for this free course at: https://psa-photo.org/index.php?education-online-courses


    PSA members can access these webinars for free by logging into the “MyPSA” area of the PSA web site.

    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
    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

    A Unique 3D Opportunity, by Joanne Stolte, HonPSA, MPSA, EFIAP, PSA Journal, March 2019

    Suggestions for Creating a Portfolio: 

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

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

    Portfolio Pitfalls? by Jon Fishback, APSA, ARPSA, PSA Journal, October 2017.

    Creating an Overview Image: The PSA Portfolio Overview Image (pdf)

    Feedback from an Assessment

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

    Portfolio Submission Experiences:

    The PSA Portfolio Project: A New Challenge, by Marie Rakoczy, BPSA, Windy City News, the newsletter of the Chicago Chapter of PSA, 2016.

    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.