Photography is a subject that is ideal for students who want to develop their practical photographic skills and enjoy exploring ideas. Students will learn how to analyse and respond to the work of traditional and contemporary photographers whilst learning how to express their own ideas with confidence.

It is largely a practical subject with students taking photographs in lessons and in their free time. It is however important to recognise that quite a lot of time is spent documenting and analysing their research as well as the work they produce. Students learn both digital and analogue photography and within the first part of the course (most of the first year) they will divide their time equally between digital and darkroom.

We have excellent specialist photographic facilities including a studio and darkroom.

Looking at work first hand is an integral part of the course, there will be trips to galleries and in the second year, there is a residential trip to a foreign city such as New York or Barcelona. We also invite guest photographers and ex-students to run workshops throughout the year.

We have very good links with the course leader of the foundation diploma at Colchester Institute and have many visiting speakers from other universities to give you information about applications and careers.



The focus of the first year is on developing students’ technical skills (cameras, darkroom, Photoshop and studio) as well as their understanding of the assessment criteria. Students will keep a sketchbook where they document their work and research and there will be a number of deadlines where they present boards of final images.

The A Level consists of two components (Personal Investigation – coursework worth 60% of the overall grade and the Externally Set Assignment worth 40%).

Students will start their “Personal Investigation” before the Easter holiday in the first year and complete the body of work by the end of January in the second year. The Externally set assignment takes place from the start of February in the second year with the students doing a 15-hour practical exam over a number of days at the start of the summer term.


Progression will be dependent on having made satisfactory progress in the first year, including achieving at least an E grade in a formal late spring assessment, as well as the maintenance of a good level of attendance and commitment throughout the year.

The Year 2 Photography course consists of two components – a coursework and exam project. There is a written element to the coursework of between 1000-3000 words.

In the second year you will be further developing your skills and exploring your ideas to a high standard. You will produce a portfolio of high-level photographic work to show at interviews.


Coursework is due in at the end of January. From the 1st February you will start your exam project. At the end of the exam project in May you will be completing a final piece during a 15hour exam – spread across a number of days. The coursework is worth 60% of your A Level mark and the exam project is 40%.




Standard College entry requirements and a minimum of:

Grade required Subject required

Grade 4

GCSE Art & Design or Photography or Textiles  (Art Validated) or Graphics (Art Validated)



BTEC Level 2 Art & Design

For those who have not previously studied a GCSE in Art and Design or Textiles (Art Validated) or Graphics (Art Validated), or a Level 2 BTEC course, it is still possible to be considered for this A Level Photography course. You will need to complete an exercise set by the Art and Design Department, details of which you can request by emailing the College Admissions Department, once you have had your college interview. The exercise will need to be emailed to the Admissions Department by 31st May. It is not college policy to enrol on three Art & Design A levels except in very exceptional cases.


Photography can lead to many careers in the Art and Design area: Possible careers include: commercial photography, fashion photography, fine art photography, graphic design, architecture, product design, and web design. Most universities offer courses in these subjects.

If you are not sure about which art and design degree course to do at university you can do a foundation diploma after A Levels. This diagnostic course will help you choose your art and design pathway at degree level. Many of our students progress on to either foundation diplomas, photography or other art and design degree related courses across the country.


At the start of your course we ask for a £60 payment to cover the “First Year Photography Pack” which covers most of the materials needed for the first year. It is also very advisable to have your own SLR or DSLR camera. We will tell you more about this at Induction.