Success at MPAGB level – the Inside Story

by Neil Maughan ARPS EFIAP/s MPAGB

I thought that only bad news travelled fast so I was surprised to get a call from Tony “Blogmaster Supreme” Griffiths early on Sunday evening 24th April congratulating me on being awarded the Master Award from the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB). Surprised because I hadn’t been back in the house long after coming back from the NCPF sponsored PAGB APM adjudication in Gateshead and I was the only person from Durham PS there. However, it transpired that someone from Sunderland PA had telephoned Joe Grabham and Joe had told Tony….

As we have loads of new members who may not be too familiar with all of this, what are these awards all about? Well, a number of national and international photographic bodies such as the PAGB, Royal Photographic Society (The RPS), Federation Internationale d’Art (FIAP) and the Photographic Society of America (PSA) have their own distinctions schemes. Have a look at their websites for more details as the award programmes differ. There is also some interesting articles written by own members about going for various awards in the Articles section of the website.

So, briefly about the PAGB awards. Once you meet the qualifying criteria (again, check out the PAGB website to see what this is!) there are 3 levels, CREDIT, DISTINCTION and MASTER you can go for. To be awarded Credit you need to enter 10 pictures and score 200 or more to pass. Distinction requires 15 pictures and you need to score 300 or more to pass and finally Master requires 20 pictures and you need to score 450 or more to pass. Some of our members already hold these awards, for example Stephen Bell holds the Credit award, Don Bennett and Mavis Ord hold the Distinction award. Note that you can’t apply to enter Master unless you have held the Distinction award for at least a year.

For Master, the info I received before applying stated that the judges would be looking for the highest standard of photography and exceptional images. Hmmm, I was pretty sure I had some very good images that had done well in international exhibitions, but wasn’t too sure about the “exceptional” bit.

I decided that I needed to concentrate on those images that had won awards in international exhibitions that had “instant impact”. Have a read of Jed Wee’s article about when he judged the West Coast Print Circuit and this will give you a flavour of what it’s like to judge at these types of events. At the adjudication, all of my prints were mixed up with the prints of other Master applicants and the pictures come out in a random order. Whilst the title and score is announced, the photographers name isn’t, so throughout the whole time they are judging, the judges have no idea who the pictures belong to. There are 6 judges and they can mark between 2 and 5. So the lowest mark you can get is 12 and the most 30. For the Master category, I really needed each print to score 22½ or more points to get over the 450 point pass mark (in reality that’s 23 as there are no ½ marks). To get that, you really need nearly every judge to hit the 4 button and of course, that doesn’t always happen as one of my images scored only 19 which was well below the asking rate. Fortunately others scored well above that, for example “Stookie and Blackie” scored 27 so, thankfully, higher scoring images compensated for the ones that scored lower.

As the prints are only in front of the judges for a few seconds, as I said before, you need to use images that have instant impact and interest. It’s no good submitting pictures where you really need to study the image to fully appreciate it.  On that basis I decided I couldn’t use any of my recent urban exploring (URBEX) images as some of the story telling and fine detail in those images just wouldn’t be appreciated in the short time they would be in front of the judges. I also decided not to use any of my wildlife / nature images as whilst they were “ok” they are some distance away from the “exceptional” standard required…such as that reached by our own Michael Watson. I find Michael’s bird photography absolutory breath taking …but looking at his images helped me realise that mine are nowhere near that level…and the level the judges would be looking for….so out went my nature images. So, I was left with some of my environmental portraits, street pictures, landscapes and sport. I started with a pile of about 50 of my best images in these categories and eventually whittled them down to the required 20. I re-printed some images where I felt improvements could be made and also re-mounted all the prints in fresh mounts. It’s no good presenting sub-standard work into events like these: shoddy work and a lack of attention to detail are soon picked up by the very experienced judges.

On the day itself, before they started the adjudication the Master applicants were told to “prepare ourselves” as the pass rate was low….apparently the pass rate is about 1 in 5…gulp!  However my fears that my 20 prints wouldn’t be “exceptional” enough was ill founded as they acquired 471 points in total, well over the 450 points required.  I’ll bring the full 20 pictures with me down to the club and put them along the wall at some point when I get them all back…the PAGB have kept some to show at training events. But in the meantime here are a few to give you an idea. Hope you like them.


April 2016

Note: websites of all the photography organisations including PAGB are listed in Useful Links


Bath Time scored 25

   BathTime. Neil Maughan ARPS EFIAPs MPAGB  

   Stookie and Blackie scored 27

   Stookie and Blackie. Neil Maughan ARPS EFIAPs MPAGB

   Frozen Copse scored 25

   Frozen Copse. Neil Maughan ARPS EFIAPs MPAGB

   Lone Tree scored 25

   Lone Tree. Neil Maughan ARPS EFIAPs MPAGB

   Rush Hour scored 25

   Rush Hour. Neil Maughan ARPS EFIAPs MPAGB

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