Photography Discipline
Foundation Levels 1-9

Apprentice’s Guide

The Foundation Levels describe what happens to the Apprentice from Level 1 to Level 9. All Apprentices start at Level 1 upon accepting their invitation from a Master into The Arcanum. The Master’s job is to help their Apprentice Level Up through Level 10 and into realms beyond.

The overall purpose of these Foundation Levels, for you, the Apprentice, are manifold:

  • Begin making progress down your own personal artistic path
  • Show you how The Arcanum works from the inside
  • Introduce you to your fellow Apprentices inside your Mastery Cohort
  • Encourage the group to cooperate and learn together rather than apart

The Levels below are simply the bare minimum, a framework, so to speak. You may in fact do a great deal more with your Master, and they may extend to you special challenges. Also, the Master may have many live and recorded events that they will do in addition to what is below.

Other resources you may find valuable are the Expectations of an Apprentice and the Expectations of a Master. Lastly, you can find the answers to a great many questions on the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Time Frame

It is expected that the Apprentice who has 1) an average amount of “Free Time” and 2) is interested in improving their craft will be able to “zoom” through Levels 1-20 in 3 to 6 months. The first 20 levels are considered the “Foundation Levels” where you will grow in the basics, learn the culture and traditions of the Arcanum, and then prepare for the “Focus Levels” which begin in the expansion packs that begin after level 20.


The purpose of this level is for the Apprentice to begin to learn to use the community to share their works with their Master and fellow Apprentices.

Apprentice’s goals at Level 1

  • Submit 5 of examples of your photography to your Master inside the private community. These 5 photos do not have to be the same photos that are currently in your application.
  • Go to “The Grand Library Arcanum Stacks” community and click “Ask to Join”! Once the admins let you through (they will!) then you can see what is going on in other parts of The Arcanum as well! This is also a great place to discover and share great finds in the Grand Library!
  • It is encouraged that you comment, ask questions, and give feedback to other Apprentices in your cohort. Remember to watch the video below to see the best way to comment so that new posts are not accidentally created.
  • If you have trouble finding your local community, it is linked from inside your dashboard after you log into

How It Works Video

Tip: Keeping Your Cohort Communities Organized

You may notice that if you comment on a photo, sometimes the photo gets “repeated” and shown again in a community. This causes a bit of chaos! The best way to do it is to click on the album name and then comment inside of there. Watch this video for a full explanation!


The purpose of this level is to get Apprentices digging around the Grand Library and share their discoveries with the rest of their cohort.

Apprentice’s goals at Level 2

The Apprentice must find a favorite video from the Grand Library and share it with their fellow Apprentices. This task is expected to take at least several days, as there is a lot of material in the Grand Library.

  • After watching the video, get the URL of the YouTube video in your browser by clicking the little “link icon” below the video, then paste that into the Level 2 section of your very own community.
  • Also post that same video “The Grand Library Arcanum Stacks” community.
  • When posting to the community, include a description of the video and what you learned!
  • Comment on other videos that your fellow Apprentices have published and get a discussion going… engage! 🙂
  • Last, +mention your Master in your description so that your Master knows you have completed this task. This is a gentle reminder to you, kind Apprentice that your over-worked Master has to watch many moving parts around his cohort, so a little reminder that you have completed your tasks will keep things moving along swimmingly.

Note that you are always welcome to share more than one video that you found to be interesting in this area, even after you have already achieved this level.

How It Works Video


The Critique Preparation Level

The purpose of this level is to prepare for your critique by submitting a handful of photos to the community and talk about your goals for each work. You’ll pick 3 of the 5 photos to take into the critique at Level 4, when you have your first one-on-one with your Master.

Apprentice’s goals at Level 3

This is the level in which the Apprentice must prepare for the upcoming Level 4 critique with their Master where they will have 3 images critiqued. To prepare, the Apprentice must spend time inside the community inside of the category, “Level 3 – Critique Preparation.” If you’d like to know more about the importance of critiques as well as some helpful hints and guidance, watch this nice video from Varina Patel inside the Grand Library.

In addition, they will need substantial peer review time which includes the following activities:

  • Submit at least 5 photos to the community. All of these photos can be older, pre-Arcanum photos.
  • For each photo, don’t only describe the photo, but also talk a bit about the goals for your image. What are you trying to achieve? What is the feeling you were going for? What are you trying to communicate with this image? What choices did you make to create the image? (you don’t have to answer all these, just mindvitamins for thought.)
  • Give and seek feedback to other Apprentices to help build relationships and give support.
  • Schedule a hangout with at least one other fellow Apprentice and share these photos with one another. This will give you a chance to get to understand how Hangouts work and allow you to get to know your fellow Apprentices in a more personal way. If you have never done a hangout before, watch the video to the right.

How It Works Video


The Critique Level

Every five levels is a major critique session, and this is the first one. The next will be at Level 9. These one-on-one discussions will be an invaluable resource for the Apprentice as they are continuing down their own artistic path.

Apprentice’s goals at Level 4

The Apprentice should be fully prepared for this session.

  • Your Master will send you a calendar invite for the critique hangout session.
  • Submit 3 photos during the critique via a screen share and listen to feedback. All photos can be older, pre-Arcanum photos. (Ignore what the video says.. hehe)
  • To pass the critique you must achieve at least 3 points in the evaluation. See the Evaluation Guide below for more info.

Note that the critique will be recorded. This will be a valuable resource to the other Apprentices who will be able to learn a lot from watching their fellow Apprentices in their critique sessions. It will also be valuable for the Apprentice to go back and watch the feedback once again.

How It Works Video

Evaluation Guide

Masters will perform an evaluation of the photos during the critique and keep track of the score. The Apprentice will have to pass a certain threshold of score to “pass” the critique. This threshold varies from level to level.

  • Below Average – 0 points – There are zero redeeming features of the photo. In fact, the Master is unable to find even one part of the photo that is interesting enough that might “Show Promise.” It’s generally counted as a miss, but there may be many elements of the photo that will enable the Master to give the Apprentice constructive feedback.
  • Shows Promise – 1 point – There is at least one redeeming feature of the photo. Perhaps it has one area that is interesting or maybe they are getting close to a good shot. Maybe it is well-composed but the subject matter is boring. Or perhaps the colors are nice but the composition is way off. There just has to be some small element in the photo that could get a positive comment.
  • Commendable – 2 points – A good effort that is average or above average. It would not make the portfolio of a professional, but it is a serviceable shot.
  • Exemplary – 3 points – These photos would be welcome in the portfolio of any professional.

Critique Length

It is of course up to the Master to decide how long the critique should be. An ideal time, however, is 20-30 minutes. This helps the Master quickly to get to the point, saves time, and makes the critiques in the Grand Library more watchable for other Apprentices.


The purpose of this level is to ensure that the Master – Apprentice loop is beginning to make another turn in its never-ending cycle.

Apprentice’s goals at Level 5

  • Apprentice is to create 5 new works (note that as the Master’s discretion these can also be created from photos that have been previously taken but not yet processed) that reflect the feedback based on the critique. These are to be submitted to the Mastery Cohort community under the category “Level 5 – New Works” for peer feedback.
  • Apprentice to include in their post areas where they are trying to grow and/or new things learned during the critique
  • Apprentice will spend time giving feedback to fellow Apprentices.
  • When the above has been accomplished, Apprentice will contact their Master with a +mention in the comments for their post.

How It Works Video

Note: The video says that 10 photos are required, but this has been updated to only 5. Bonus for you! 🙂


Challenge Level

The purpose of this level is for the Master to exercise some fun teaching through challenges. Because every master is different, this is where there can be some fun challenges that help to push the Apprentice into an area of discomfort.

Apprentice’s goals at Level 6

Apprentice must complete the challenge given to them by their Master and post their results in the Mastery Cohort community. The challenge will be detailed by the Master in the community.

How It Works Video


Challenge Level

The purpose of this level is to continue to stretch the domain of the Apprentice. When this Level is complete, it should be clear that the Apprentice has looked at a variety of works and has given a new sort of consideration to the effort required to produce them.

Apprentice’s goals at Level 7

Apprentice is to find 10 photos from at least three different photographers they admire and share them with the community specifically in the “Level 7 – Challenge” category. Additionally, they should talk about why they find the photographers and/or photos interesting or inspirational. Once the analysis is complete, the Apprentice will +mention their Master so they know the work is complete.

How It Works Video


The Critique Preparation Level

At this point, Apprentices will have begun to become much more familiar with their Mastery Cohort, and hopefully some real bonds have been formed. Apprentices now know they are in this together, and they are all getting valuable feedback from their peers.

Apprentice’s goals at Level 8

  • Prepare for your Level 9 Critique session by submitting at least 15 images to your Mastery Cohort and get feedback.
  • Give feedback to other members of the cohort.

How It Works Video

Note this is the exact same process as Level 3, so we will put that video below to remind you if necessary.


The Critique Level

The purpose of this level is to make sure that the Apprentice is moving down the path of excellence.

Apprentice’s goals at Level 9

The Apprentice should be fully prepared for this session. Whereas Level 4 is a more basic level of progress, Level 9 is where things become more serious. There should be an objective improvement of the photos submitted at Level 9 for the critique compared to the photos submitted for Level 4.

    • Your Master will send you a calendar invite for the critique hangout session.
    • Submit 3 photos during the critique via a screen share and listen to feedback. All 3 Photos must be new photos created since the previous critique at Level 4.
    • To pass the critique you must achieve at least 4 points in the evaluation. See the Evaluation Guide above for more info.

Note that the critique will be recorded. This will be a valuable resource to the other Apprentices who will be able to learn a lot from watching their fellow Apprentices in their critique sessions. It will also be valuable for the Apprentice to go back and watch the feedback once again.

  • If you complete this level, you will become Level 10 and your Master may be sending you a special invitation to Sphere 1, which will take you on new adventures up through level 20. You will have completed the Foundation Levels, and you’re now ready for new challenges, tasks, critiques, fun, progress, and more! If you receive the special invitation email, you’ll go through an Accept/Decline process like you did when you were first invited into The Arcanum.

How It Works

Note that this is the exact same as Level 4, except the score must be a little higher! Good luck to you… if everything goes well, you’ll be invited into Sphere 1 where fantastic mysteries abound!

Sphere 1

The Photography Discipline

Sphere 1 is levels 11-19. The details of these levels will be revealed to Apprentices that pass their Level 9 Critique and are invited into Sphere 1, where new challenges, growth, and mystery await!

Sphere 2, not surprisingly, is levels 21-29. These are what we call the “Focus Levels,” where your growth will become even more personal and challenging. But that can wait; let’s not get ahead of ourselves! 🙂

Speaking of not getting ahead of ourselves, who knows how high the levels go? Well, we do, but let’s not think about it all yet. Think of this as the World’s Most Awesome RL Game with endless Expansion Packs!