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The pursuit of distinctions is undoubtedly an effective way of improving and developing photographic skills and technique. Creative endeavour is arguably provides the surest route to fulfilment, but photographers striving to produce images of the highest quality often say that they are less than satisfied with their work. However, it is this element of dissatisfaction which drives them on to greater achievements. It is one of the fascinations of photography, and indeed most artistic endeavour, that perfection is rarely achieved. The path of development therefore leads onwards and upwards to infinity, and following it is a lifetime's journey,

By setting out to achieve a distinction, a photographer takes a key step along the road to improvement. The willingness to have one's own work tested against standards set by an independent panel of experts is in itself a recognition that it might be improved. Most importantly, however, it causes a photographer to take a long and hard look at the nature and quality of his or her images. It is important to listen to the advice of those who are qualified to provide it. The essential point here is difference between hearing and listening. Many people hear constructive criticism and then walk away muttering under their breath and complaining to their friends about negative comments and the differences between one set of advice and another. Wiser souls listen to the advice of others, take it in and spend an evening or two considering whether the criticism offered may be justified. Different advice from various equally-qualified sources can be confusing, but with time and patience the elements of truth emerge and ultimately gel into soundly-based action points for the future.

Failing to achieve a distinction can be a disappointing and painful process. However, failure to reach a particular standard does not mean that the process has not been beneficial. Once again, listen to the comments made, which may be minimal, and take further expert advice where appropriate. Create some more images to replace the weaker ones in a failed distinction application, and have another try. Those who succeed only after three or four attempts have probably learnt more from the distinction process than those who satisfy the requirements at their first attempt.

Although is naturally satisfying to acquire the relevant badge of honour, it is important to remember that the real gain is in the learning rather than the award of a certificate. Finally, once a particular distinction has been achieved, there is always the next one! The higher levels inevitably look less remote once a photographer begins to climb the rungs of the ladder.

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