Digital v Print

by | Qualifications


Digital v Print

Once you have decided to submit a body of work for critique at an Advisory day or for qualification on an Assessment day the next step is to think about how you’re going to present it.

As the organiser of the Advisory days on behalf of the Western Region of The Royal Photographic Society and a member of The Societies I have always enjoyed watching the advisory process and qualification panels being assessed and have picked up lots of useful snippets over the past few years, some glaringly obvious and some not so much. In Part II of this posts on qualifications I want to discuss the pros and cons of a digital submission versus a printed presentation. I will also look at success rates of each type of presentation, using figures provided by The Societies in 2014, to see if the results are more favourable for one form over the other or if there is no difference.

What are the submission options?

The two main options available to you at Licentiate level and Associate level are: a digital submission where the images are viewed on a large screen or a printed and mounted panel. If you are looking to attain your Fellowship then the panel, for both the RPS and The Societies, must be printed.

Each has their advantages and disadvantages so the choice is entirely yours:

Digital Submission: (RPS – USB stick, The Societies – online link)


Easy to put together by simply collating all the images together in one folder.

Very low cost to produce as there is no end product.

The completed files can be sent in the post on a USB stick or CD or uploaded to the internet via a link (depending on the organisation).


Images can look distorted on a screen as the size will be a lot bigger than the monitor you view the images on.

Over saturated or loss of colour, again due to the monitor and how it’s calibrated – and it’s the judges/advisors monitor that counts!

No overall view of the panel so potentially the WOW impact is lost.

Easy to submit without due care and attention to the small details.

Printed panel:


Instant visual impact of the whole panel.

The cohesiveness of the panel can be seen at a glance.

There is no going back and forth on a screen to look at images as it’s all there.


High presentation cost, the costs vary depending on whether you outsource your printing or if you print in-house. Mounts are reasonably priced and I would suggest having a backing board too as it helps the prints to stay rigid, I have seen them flop and crinkle under hot lights!

Sadly, a print can highlight poor print quality

It can be a pain to put together but a methodical approach is more satisfying and will reap the reward.

Making the most of your chosen form of presentation:

Judges also look at presentation as well as the images and marks are awarded accordingly. They can also be deducted for poor or sloppy presentation so it’s worth spending a little time and effort to make sure you get those marks, after all it could be the difference between a pass and a fail.

Listed are some simple practices to give you a good foundation to work from:

Hints and tips for a digital submission:

Present the images on a plain background mount.

Keep the background the same size and colour throughout.

It’s advisable to keep the images all the same size; if you do opt for the odd letterbox style crop try to balance the panel further along with another letterbox crop to maintain consistency.

Add a key-line to all the images so it ties the image to the border a bit like a mounted frame does; keep the key-line the same size and colour on all images; ensure the key-line is applied to all images, missing some out can make a panel look messy.

Hints and Tips for a printed panel:

When a judge walks into the judging room it will be the first time they will see your panel. As we all know first impressions count so the first thing to do is make sure your panel stands out. Make them want to know more about your images; make them want to go and have a closer look. Give it as much of the WOW factor as you can.

Unless you are a competent printer, use a professional print lab.

If you insist on printing your own use the same type of paper throughout; it is inadvisable to have a panel of mixed papers so keep it either gloss, satin or matt.

Avoid marks on the prints from dust or banding.

The same as a digital submission it’s advisable to keep the images all the same size; if you do opt for the odd letterbox style crop try to balance the panel further along with another letterbox crop to maintain consistency.

Go for quality over size, larger prints may show faults in either the printing or the image that may not be so obvious in a smaller print.

Use properly matted mounts to show off your images and not a single print stuck on foam-board.

Use a backing board too for added quality. It’s all about showing off your images to the highest standard and making that little extra effort to the small details speaks volumes about the creator.

Digital v Print?

I guess the next question is ‘Is there a significant difference in the way panels are presented and the pass rates for each type?’ I think the following figures will show the answer is most definitely YES.

FACT: The number of printed panels submitted is a lot less than digital submissions but the success rate is far superior.

These figures are for 2012 & 2013, courtesy of Colin Jones at The Societies.

These figures are for 2012 & 2013, courtesy of Colin Jones at The Societies.

When I first saw these figures I was a little surprised that there had been no printed submissions at the Licentiate level but then it dawned on me that perhaps because there is an assumption that the digital submission is an easy option as it was online. Perhaps not as much preparation and attention to detail was given to the finished panel, or whether it was due to lack of information on how to present a panel, or simply lack of confidence and inexperience. Whatever the reasons, digital submissions result in a lower pass rate; it’s worth noting that this is common with the other associations too, not just The Societies. (As yet I do not have figures for the RPS for comparison but will amend the article when I do.)

My choice

Speaking from experience, I have presented qualifications using both methods. For me the digital submission was a lot less hassle but also left me lacking something and in some ways a little bit empty. However, putting a printed panel together is a labour of love and can result in blood, sweat and tears but the level of satisfaction and sense of achievement when you see them all hanging as one body of work is overwhelming.

A printed panel wins hands down every time – just my view 🙂

I hope this article has provided an insight into a number of ways to improve your panel and gain those extra presentation points. I personally think the pass rate figures speak for themselves but I’ll leave it for you to decide on how you present your qualification panel – good luck x

In the next blog I will be taking a look at preparing your qualification panel with some useful tips on layout and mounting.

** Disclaimer Notice: Please note that the views and observations in this series of posts are purely my own and are not in any way, shape, or form sanctioned by the Royal Photographic Society, The Societies or any of the other photographic organisations or associations. So please check the criteria of your chosen organisation before submitting for your qualification – Good Luck.


error: Content is protected !!