Smethwick Photographic Society

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About us

Smethwick Photographic Society is one of the leading photographic societies in Great Britain. We are a Non-Profit charity registered in England & Wales No. 702550.


For over thirty years SPS has enjoyed unparalleled success in the world of club photography. It has been winner or runner-up no less than 18 times in the annual "Top Club" slide competition run by the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain. It has also won the equivalent PAGB print competition for its first three years. In 1997 it won outright the first photographic 'World Cup' organised by the Austrian 'Super Circuit'. 2013 saw SPS win the PAGB Print championships.


Recently, amongst many other accolades, we have won the prestigious FIAP Clubs' World Cup two years running. You can see our entries on these links FIAP Clubs' World Cup 2015  -  FIAP Clubs' World Cup 2016


Within our membership we can boast more than 20 Associate and Fellows of the Royal Photographic Society and many more with prestigious international honours. Our current membership is in excess of 200 covering all abilities and age profiles. It is an ideal platform for the newcomer to photography, as our more experienced members relish the opportunity to pass on their knowledge and expertise.


If you are looking for inspiration, look no further, as you will have the opportunity to view work of the very highest standards. The work on show at our members' annual exhibition is equivalent to that seen at many International Exhibitions. Members' work is regularly sent worldwide to foreign exhibitions, gaining medals, trophies and international recognition.


SPS at the Old Schoolhouse is a UK official FIAP (Fédération Internationale de l'Art Photographique) Exhibition Centre  and is used by the Royal Photographic Society for many of its group meetings. The Society also plays host to many other important local and national visiting exhibitions throughout the year.


One of the highlights of the Society is our main programme, which takes place every Thursday at 8pm (except Christmas week). Top lecturers travel from all parts of the UK, and occasionally from abroad, to present the best in club and professional photography. Competition nights include helpful critique from qualified assessors in Colour, Monochrome prints and projected images at various levels of photographic skill. Other evenings are devoted to help you master digital photography, studio lighting, we run small special interest groups and support for gaining RPS and PAGB distinctions.


For over 30 years the Society has organised the Smethwick International Exhibition of Photography, one of the UK’s most prestigious exhibitions. Our exhibition attracts thousands of entries from photographers across the globe, and is presented during the first half of January each year as an exhibition of colour and monochrome prints, an audio-visual of pictorial projected photography with informative presentations of natural history images.


The social side of the Society is not neglected, with day trips, nature photography excursions and weekend trips across the UK and Europe. Members meet in our lounge socially before and after the evening's programme, where there is a free interchange of ideas and knowledge.


Our History

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Smethwick Photographic Society has been in existence since the mid 1920s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the society came into prominence. The very successful 1st Smethwick International Exhibition of Photography in 1974 promoted SPS around the world as extremely good organisers of a prestigious International.


As a result membership grew fast, to a point where it could no longer be accommodated in our rented room at the back of St. Mary's Church in Bearwood. The Society set up a "Future Facilities Fund" whilst we looked for larger accommodation. The Fund was given a boost when the club won the first two Slide Championships organised by the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain, each of which carried a sizeable cash prize.


In 1981 SPS took on the lease of a derelict wooden building in Coopers Lane, Smethwick, and, using the ‘Future Facilities Fund’ money, coupled with a great deal of work from the members, restored it into a purpose-built clubhouse with lecture room, kitchen, studio and licensed bar.


The Society and its International Exhibition enjoyed great success in the 1980s and 90s, until a fateful day in July 1998, when the roof of our ageing structure caved in. The building was irreparable and the club was forced to meet in local pubs whilst searching for suitable new premises.


Within 12 months a disused 100-year-old primary school building was found.


It would be ideal for our new headquarters, but the cost of purchase and restoration was daunting. However, a number of members decided to invest in the purchase of the building and the Society would purchase shares. The goodwill from friends of the Society throughout Britain was astounding and donations came flooding in.


The roof leaked, the walls were sopping wet, paint peeled off everywhere, toilets were broken and the floors were covered in junk. Planning permission also had to be obtained for the building’s new use. There were only a few months to the next exhibition. However, inspired leadership would not be put off. Old walls came down, new ones went up, electrics and plumbing were replaced, most of the work being carried out by the members themselves.


The vision of the few and the sweat of the many brought the project in on time for the opening of the 25th Smethwick International Exhibition of Photography in January 2000.


Our Facilities

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We have a medium size studio with a choice of several backdrops. A comprehensive range of lighting systems offer limitless possibilities for both model and still life photography.



A well-stocked library covers virtually every photographic topic. Lots of full colour guides will be of great benefit to the newcomer, whilst other books, that are guaranteed to inspire, illustrate the work of the great masters through to the modern impressionists.



Our computers run a number of different imaging and audio-visual type software. We also have the ability to project digital images using the latest technology.



Members can submit entries to major exhibitions throughout the world through our External Exhibitions Secretary. Our members exhibit as far away as Hong Kong, Australia, the USA as well as the local club around the corner.



If you want to take part in AV, the Society has a complete 35mm AV dissolve system with amplifiers/speakers. For digital AV workers we have computers, digital projectors, amplifier etc.



Members are able to purchase printing paper, film, chemicals, lighting systems, tripods and certain makes of camera and lenses at preferential rates.



Members can use our fully equipped darkroom.


Our Premises

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The Old School House was built in Victorian times and served the Borough of Oldbury as a primary school. When we discovered the school in 1999, it was disused and in a very poor state of repair. We realised that this building had great potential to become our new headquarters but the costs of purchase and restoration appeared daunting.


A number of members invested in its purchase, with the Society purchasing shares. Donations from friends from around the UK helped complete the restoration work.


Externally we maintained the character of our Victorian school for future generations to appreciate, whilst inside we created the rooms and facilities we all enjoy today.


The main room is our lecture theatre, with comfortable seating for in excess of 100 members, most chairs having a writing table for the taking of notes. The surrounding walls are covered with exhibition boards that continuingly display some of the best UK photography.


A large stage makes sure that all members can see the visiting speaker. To enable people at the rear of the room to see a print lecture, we film the prints and beam them onto a large screen. We also have the facility to digitally project audio-visuals, as well as digital exhibition acceptances using the latest digital technology. For the film user we have a full slide AV and sound system installed.


Alongside the air-conditioned lecture theatre is a large lounge with licensed bar, where members meet socially before and after the evening’s event. The lounge is also fitted out with exhibition boards that showcase visiting exhibitions, such as those from the Royal Photographic Society, the London Salon, Midphot and Mirage.


We have a fully equipped studio for portrait and still life work. This room is also fitted with exhibition boards, in order to double up as an additional exhibition room.


Our fully fitted dark room houses several enlargers. Here members can produce prints under instruction or use the facilities to work independently.


Our kitchens and catering team are very experienced in providing cooked lunches for those attending weekend workshops or seminars.


All our facilities and rooms can be accessed with ease by those with impeded mobility.