PSA Portfolios Distinction Program

Director, PSA Portfolios Distinction Program

‚úČ Jill Sneesby, APSA, MFIAP, ESFIAP·

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 Portfolios Distinction Recipients and PSA Portfolios Distinction Overview Images.

A PSA member may apply for a Portfolio Distinction starting with the BPSA, then the SPSA and finally the GPSA.

To achieve a Portfolio Distinction, a PSA member must complete three steps and have his/her portfolio accepted by a panel of assessors:

  1. Prepare portfolio of digital, print, or digital 3D images following guidelines below. Portfolios which have been awarded distinctions by other societies may not be entered.
  2. Pay entry fee via PayPal
  3. Submit online application 

Portfolios are reviewed during designated sessions. 
Entry of a Portfolio does not guarantee a PSA distinction. 


April 26, 2021
Assessment is underway for the 2nd Session for 2021 and applicants can expect to hear news towards the end of May.
We will be opening for new applications at around the same time,  keep a watch here for updated news.  We are hoping to be able to accept 3D and Print applications as well and will provide updated information here as soon as it is available.

Choose the topic, below, to reveal or hide its contents. To see all topic information at once, choose Show All.

    Show All / Hide All
  • Levels of Distinctions and Requirements
    Level Must Include # images in Portfolio Other requirements
    BPSA - Bronze Overview Image, Title and Statement of Intent 10 Current PSA Individual Membership
    SPSA - Silver Overview Image, Title and Statement of Intent 15 BPSA + Current PSA Individual Membership
    GPSA - Gold Overview Image, Title and Statement of Intent 20 BPSA, SPSA + Current PSA Individual Membership

    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 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.
  • Overview Image

    The Overview Image is an additional, introductory image to your portfolio, which provides the overall layout to view the Portfolio.  Images in a Print Overview Image must include any matting used.  

    The Overview Image is not just a composite showing the layout of the images but is in fact the backbone of the entire portfolio and your images.

    The layout of your images is important - it should be cohesive, consistent, balanced and have symmetry. Consider elements such as tonal balance and color and think about how each image fits with the one before and after it in the sequence.

    Each image thumbnail in the Overview Image must have the same aspect ratio as the individual images themselves, must be in the same order as the individual images, and must have the same orientation as the individual images.

    The background should not overpower the images and therefore a neutral gray or subdued color is often more effective. Consider the use of a stroke or a shadow to further enhance your Overview Image. Strokes added to enhance the Overview Image are not required on the individual images but strokes on the individual images are required to be shown on the Overview Image.

    The Overview Image is the first image that the Portfolio Assessors see and it is what they will be viewing while listening to the Statement of Intent. It should showcase your portfolio effectively and support your Statement of Intent so that the immediate impression the assessors have is a good one.

    All your images have to fit on one "page", which must be either 1920 px wide or 1080 px high. The images should be as large as possible and make good use of the space available. The maximum file size is 2 MB or less. 

    It is your choice as to the number of rows you use.  The maximum vertical size is 1080 px high and if you do not use the full vertical it is advisable to crop away unnecessary space.

    Neatness and attention to detail help to present a pleasing image. 

    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 on the Overview Image.

    The Overview Image is the first image that the Portfolio Assessors see and it is what they will be viewing while listening to the Statement of Intent.  It stands to reason therefore that it should showcase your portfolio effectively so that the immediate impression the assessors have is a good one.   

    The example shown here by Claudia Xiaoli Lee SPSA shows effective use of space and a well structured Overview Image.

  • How to Submit Prints
    Updated February, 2019
    • Digital versions of all prints, including the Overview Panel, must be uploaded to Photo Vault Online. The digital versions may not exceed 1920 pixels wide or 1080 pixels high. It is not necessary to meet both dimensions.
      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 commercial printer shall not be allowed to do any image editing or optimizing.
    • The long dimension of the image area of any print submitted shall be no less than 11.5" (292 mm) and prints shall be no larger than 16” (406 mm) x 20” (508 mm) including mount and any matting.
    • All prints should be mounted - a lightweight mount may be used.
    • The following information should appear on a label applied on the back of each print:
      • the application number (which will be automatically generated from Photo Vault Online) 
      • the print 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 your 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 on your 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) is your application number. The last number is your print number, with the 00 being the number for your Overview Image and the rest being the print number. Be sure these print numbers agree with the positon of the prints on your 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 your digital files you will also need to have your prints delivered to an address which will be supplied. More than likely, your prints will need to be shipped to HQ PSA, 8241 S. Walker Ave, Suite 104, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73139 USA.

    If you wish to have them returned to you after the assessment they should be packed using reusable packaging. If you do not wish to have them returned please advise us accordingly.

    Cost for shipping both to and from the assessment/conference is for your own account. Please make contact prior to shipping your prints to discuss your requirements and method of payment.

    If your portfolio is successful it will be retained for exhibiting at the conference and will only be returned after the conference. Alternatively you may collect it at the conference.

  • How to Submit Digital 3D Images

    Updated February, 2019

    Equipment to Assess
    3D images 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, StereoPhoto Maker, or StereoSlide 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 images 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 for has 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 panel image and the corresponding 10, 15, or 20 right images on the right Overview panel 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.

    The responsibility of the entrant will be 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 layout for best presentation to the audience. 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 then see the Overview Images all in 3D, not in the side-by-side format. Proper alignment of the left and right Overview panels 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 centers of each pair is constant.

    Online Application Considerations
    When submitting the online application, a smaller
    file image size is necessary to meet on-line 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 you are satisfied with your portfolio a separate copy version of the your full-size 3D images 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 smaller images, the entrant should then send an email to ddrc3@msn.com to receive directions on 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, Fees, and Online 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 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  (this link must be used or your application may not be processed properly) (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 -  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. - 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.


  • 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 original 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 fee is $40, regardless of the Bronze, Silver or Gold level or the number of resubmitted images.  These applicants may resubmit that same portfolio replacing the failed 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.  

    Instructions will be provided in the notice of the right to resubmit. 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. Only the new images and the revised Overview image need to be provided.

    If this resubmit fails, the unsuccessful applicant may not rework the unsuccessful portfolio and submit it as a reworked portfolio.

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

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


  • 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.  

    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. Remember that one axis must use the full dimension so it can either be 1920 on the horizontal axis or 1080 on the vertical axis.



    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: https://psa-photo.org/index.php?education-online-courses

    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

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

    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