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BA (Hons) Commercial Photography

  • Duration: 3 or 4 years full-time
  • Placement year: Optional 1 year
  • Course code: W644 (UCAS)
  • Institution code: A66 (UCAS)

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Overview

The media relies on creative imagery to communicate messages. This course gives you the opportunity to develop a specialist career, working within fashion and beauty, advertising, documentary, editorial and portraiture.

Commercial Photography course information

This course gives you the opportunity to develop a specialist career, working within fashion/beauty, advertising, documentary/editorial and portrait photography. Through the combination of creative and technical skill, our students aspire to challenge perceptions, and push boundaries, through making imagery that's at the forefront of contemporary photographic practice.

This course gives you the opportunity to develop a specialist career, working within fashion/beauty, advertising, documentary/editorial and portrait photography. Through the combination of creativity and technical skill, our students aspire to challenge perceptions, and push boundaries, through making imagery that’s at the forefront of contemporary photographic practice.

Graduates from this course have gone on to create images for clients including Louis Vuitton, Stella McCartney, Chanel, The Times Fashion Supplement, Love Magazine, Dazed and Confused, Huck, Kit Magazine, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Vogue (UK, India and Italy), Nike, Adidas, Lacoste, Wall Street Journal and the BBC.

If you want the opportunity to set the future agenda for commercial photography, and have the commitment and drive to make the most of every opportunity the course can give you, then we would love you to join.

We’ll help you to gain a broad understanding of photographic practice and theory, so that you graduate confidently with the creative and critical visual language needed to work in the industry as an individual and within a creative team. As part of this course, at all levels, you’ll attend guest lectures by visiting photographers and industry professionals.

Employment prospects are good, even before you graduate. In recent years, many students have been commissioned and published while still on the course and have had success through prestigious competitions.

Career options are varied too. As well as setting up freelance businesses, many graduates go on to work in a variety of roles within studio management, retouching, assisting, styling, and advertising.

Over the three years of study, you can choose to focus your specialism within one of the three award titles:

  • BA (Hons) Commercial Photography (Advertising)
  • BA (Hons) Commercial Photography (Fashion)
  • BA (Hons) Commercial Photography (Documentary/Editorial)

Course duration

3 or 4 years (full-time)

Placement

Option of a 1-year placement

UCAS course code

W644

UCAS institution code

A66

Placement year

All undergraduate courses at AUB offer an optional placement year, to be taken between your second and third years of study.

If you’re unsure about this optional placement, you don’t need to decide now. Once you’re here and studying with us, the course team will discuss the placement options with you, so when the time comes, you can make a decision that’s right for you.

If you’re required to have a Student Visa to study in the UK, it won’t be possible to undertake the one-year placement option; there’ll be other opportunities for you to engage with industry during your study at AUB.

Level 4 (first year)

In your first year, you’ll learn the creative, practical and theoretical skills that you’ll build upon during your degree. We’ll introduce you to a variety of traditional and digital photographic techniques and processes, giving you a strong technical foundation in location and studio lighting, analogue and digital capture, as well as moving image and digital postproduction techniques. This year also covers key historical and theoretical themes through written assignments, used to reinforce learning and development.

Level 5 (second year)

During second year, you’ll continue to develop your creative skills through enhanced ability within moving image, digital skills and promotional awareness, building upon your first-year experience and developing your genre-specific interests, during two practical units.

Your industry understanding will be consolidated by undertaking a work placement, allowing you to gain hands-on experience, working alongside industry professionals, while also building your own professional profile.

Our ‘Critical Analyses’ unit explores some of the themes and approaches used in the exploration of photographic meaning and semiotics, developing research and written communication skills, providing you with the academic ability to better understand your practice in broader socio/ political contexts, while preparing you for the third year major written assignment.

Between second and third year, you'll also have the option to take a placement year.

Level 6 (third year)

Your third year allows you to build on your platform of skills and knowledge, with an extremely focused approach to your career ambitions, working in genre-specific study groups.

Two major practical units provide the opportunity to create the work that will become your professional portfolio, and the unit ‘Research Paper’ will allow you to engage with a critically informed analysis of a subject-related topic.

Graduating from the course, you’ll have the opportunity to produce an accomplished commercial portfolio and the critical skills with which to enter the creative industries.

If you wish to continue your studies, you'll have the option to progress to postgraduate study with our MA Photography course.

Many of our students are commissioned and published while studying on the course and win prestigious and high profile awards.

Here are some student and graduate awards:

  • British Photography Awards 2023 – Portrait – Winner – April Ironside
  • British Photography Awards 2023 – Fashion – Shortlisted – Emily Hazlerigg
  • Association of Photographers 2023 Student Awards – People – Gold – Nick Teo
  • Association of Photographers 2023 – Food and Drink – Gold – Frankie Turner
  • Eizo – Student of the Year 2023 – Honor West (see clips below)
  • Fresh Meet Award 2020
  • Eizo Awards 2020
  • Association of Photographers Student of the Year (Best of Show) 2019
  • The Photographers Gallery ‘New Talent’ Award/Fresh Faced & Wild Eyed: 8 most exciting new photographers 2008, 2011 and 2019
  • Portrait of Britain Awards 2019
  • Yatzer – A Shade of Pale: Ten Evocative Narratives Exhibition 2018
  • EIZO award for fashion film 2017
  • British Journal of Photography, three students chosen as the Ones to Watch Graduates 2017
  • Hunger Magazine, 2017 graduate nominated for the feature Five Emerging Fashion Photographers to Watch Right Now

Watch Honor West's commercial, PARADE, which was awarded Ezio Student of the Year 2023:

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Course team

Our lecturers and technicians are specialists in their fields. You can read more about their experience by browsing their staff profiles below.

Headshot for Prof. P Wenham-Clarke
Professor Paul Wenham-Clarke Postgraduate Course Leader – MA Photography

PhD, MA, FBIPP, FHEA

Lee Harper Technician Demonstrator

MSc

Creating imaginative images that meet the high commercial standards demanded by clients within the creative industries has to be a collaborative venture. We're perfectly placed to make this happen, with all of the key disciplines physically located only minutes from each other. Therefore, the creative collaborations that happen on the course replicate that of our industry, helping our students to create images that push the limits of expectation at undergraduate level, giving the opportunity to truly prepare our students for employment, as they become the next wave of creatively focused photographers, within fashion and beauty, advertising and documentary/editorial photography.

Conrad Tracy, Course Leader

Watch our course videos

Course leader Conrad Tracy talks about what to expect from studying BA (Hons) Commercial Photography here at AUB. He also unpacks what makes a great photographer.

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Chat to a student

Our student ambassadors are here to answer any questions you might have on university life, our courses and all things AUB.

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Application process

Once you've found the perfect Undergraduate course, you can apply to study via UCAS, including direct entry applications to second and third year.

When applying through UCAS, use the institution code A66 for courses taught at Arts University Bournemouth. For courses based at Bournemouth and Poole College, use code B49. We'll then use your completed UCAS form to make decisions about your application. You can find out more on entry requirements in our apply section.

When you apply to one of our courses, it's important that you help us get a good picture of both you and your work – so you'll need a great personal statement. We want to know more about why you're interested in the course, your key influences, and what you hope to do after your studies.

If you're invited for an interview, many of our courses will ask to see a portfolio of your work so we can get more insight into your ideas and abilities. To help you, we've created guidelines outlining what we expect from your portfolio for each course.

The fee that you pay the Arts University Bournemouth provides the necessary equipment and training for you to complete your course.

You may also choose to buy some items of personal equipment such as a laptop or tablet computer, but this is not required; desktop and laptop computers are available for you to use in common study areas, including a loan system in the Library.

If you decide to undertake an optional placement year, the tuition fee is £1,850. This is subject to inflationary increases based on government policy, and providing you progress through the course in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

For the majority of our courses, we'll ask you to digitally submit a portfolio as part of the application process.

Portfolios should show examples of your work – both finished and work in progress – that demonstrate your interests and skills. We expect to see around 10 slides/images in your portfolio that shows your identity as an artist.

If we ask for a digital portfolio then we'll give you 30 days to submit it. Sometimes we'll need a portfolio submitted quickly if there's a UCAS set deadline approaching, but if you need more time, just let us know and we'll try to help.

We've created specific portfolio guidelines for each of our courses, you can take a look at these below.

If you've applied to study an online postgraduate (MA) degree, please refer to the AUB Online portfolio guidelines.

None of our courses currently require an interview.

The only course requiring an audition is BA (Hons) Acting and if you're invited to one you'll have at least 10 days notice.

Studios and Resources

The photography facilities at AUB recently underwent a multi-million-pound development and refurbishment, which saw the creation of brand-new digital suites, a collaborative specialist photography hub and brand-new colour printing facilities.

You’ll have access to seven dedicated photographic studios and specialist photographic equipment.

Lighting equipment in a Photography studio

Photography Studios

Photography and Commercial Photography students will have access to our seven photographic studios.

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Photography Resources

In addition to our well-equipped photography studios, you'll also have access to industry-standard...

Photography camera equipment on a shelf

Digital SLRs

Digital SLRs are available to book out on location and to use within studios, including full-frame Nikon and Canon...

Four banks of desks in a computer suite with monitors on them.

Digital Suites

Our Digital Suites offer a digital post-production facility and digital teaching space.

Dark Room

Print Bureaux

Print Bureaux allows students to print work to commercial, and exhibition standards, through the support of...

A member of AUB staff talking about a camera with a student at the Central Media Store counter.

Central Media Store

The Central Media store houses a diverse array of equipment, offering students the means to craft and capture...

Student wearing safety goggles using a machine in a workshop.

3D Workshop

Our 3D workshops with manual and digital manufacturing equipment and computers

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Drawing Studio

Our iconic, blue Drawing Studio is used by student from all courses and was designed by Alumnus, Sir Peter Cook​

Students working at computers in a library. A set of stairs leads up to a second landing with a balcony running along.

The Library

The Library at AUB holds an excellent range of print and online collections

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Lecture Theatres and Seminar Rooms

We have a number of lecture theatres and seminar room scattered around campus to assist students with their studies.

Innovation Studio, photographed by Richard Bryant. Photo of an exterior wall with two reverse-L shaped windows and three semi-circle panels visible. A person walks past towards the right.

Innovation Studio

The Innovation Studio operates as a lab for creative technologies, a nucleus for start-ups and enterprises and an industry engagement hub.

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Printroom

Our printmaking facilities are a hub of creativity on campus and have been inspiring students since 1964.

Three people working on projects in a print room.

Letterpress and Bindery

The Letterpress and Bindery studio is a central resource, where students can learn and explore bookbinding and letterpress printing.

Teaching, learning and assessment

The course outcomes will be met by deploying a wide variety of teaching and learning methods including workshop projects, studio projects, lectures, seminars, group critiques, guided reading and tutorials.

Each unit is assessed separately, and the assessment forms part of the unit. Assessment both provides a measure of your achievement, and also gives you regular feedback on how your learning is developing.

The integration of theory and practice is promoted and reinforced through a team-teaching approach. Lectures, seminars and tutorials may be delivered by team members, as appropriate, in the creative environment of the studio.

The methods employed will, wherever possible, induct students in the disciplines required of a creative practitioner in commercial photography along with transferable skills (managing self, professional skills and team working), and value and credit any relevant previous experience. A key method will be the promotion of work-related learning, including work placements, visits to the workshops or studios of relevant practitioners or organisations, guest lectures or workshops led by visiting practitioners and ‘live’ or simulated project briefs. Learning and career planning will be consolidated through the encouragement of skills in personal planning, reflection and development.

Teaching is directed at supporting individual engagement in learning, although there will be opportunities for students to work in teams to enable them to learn the value of peer cooperation. Also, it's anticipated that due to the vocational and professional orientation of the course, and to enable students to benefit from the range of resources and disciplines within the University, opportunities will exist for students to collaborate in teams with peers in, for example, Make-up, Textiles, Fashion or Modelmaking. It is also envisaged that live project work may benefit from the collaboration of students from all levels of the course.

The study time allocated to each unit in the course incorporates a balance of teaching support and learning. The progressive promotion of student-centred learning reflects the anticipated maturity of students and allows them to direct their learning towards individual goals. For example, the teaching in Level 4 is directed at providing students with the knowledge, concepts and skills necessary to take increasing responsibility for the management of their own learning as they progress through to Level 5. Level 6 of the course allows the student to confirm their particular creative concerns and to extend the scope and depth of their enquiry, taking the major responsibility for their study. Teaching support reflects these expectations, as mature learners, through tutorial support that complements the autonomous nature of their study.

Negotiated Learning Agreements are the principle means of defining learning goals and monitoring progress and achievements, providing the opportunity for student to extend their interests and abilities, and demonstrate their capacity for sustained independent and professional work.

Guidance and counselling to help students in realising their learning potential will be provided continuously throughout each academic year.

The methods employed will, whenever possible, lead you, ‘the student’, into the disciplines required of a creative practitioner and promote the transferable skills of self-management and self-reliance.

The course is structured progressively to provide increased opportunities for autonomous learning.

The progressive promotion of student-centred learning reflects your developing maturity, as a student, and supports your individual learning towards your aims and goals.

Contact hours include all scheduled teaching sessions, but also supervised time in the workshop or studio. In line with national guidance, we include in our calculation of contact hours all the time which is scheduled in the studio for independent study which is also supported by staff (either academic staff, or technicians).

The information provided below gives the proportion of your study time which constitutes contact hours. Where there are optional routes through the course, we've used the figures for the most popular option.

Year 1 (% time) Year 2 (% time) Year 3 (% time)

68

68

68

For every unit of your course, we'll inform you of what you are expected to learn, what you have to submit, how your work will be assessed, and the deadline for presenting your work for assessment. This is made available through Unit Information, which is on your course blog.

You'll receive a final mark for each unit in the form of a percentage, which will be recorded on your formal record of achievement (transcript). Each component of assessment is graded using a notched marking scale, whereby only certain marks are used within each grade. The only marks available within any ten-point band are *2, *5 and *8 (e.g. 62, 65, 68). These marks correspond to a low, mid, and high level of achievement within each grade band.

All learning outcomes must be passed to successfully complete the unit.

On successful completion of your Honours degree course, you'll be awarded a degree classification based on your unit marks. The final classification is determined using all unit marks at Levels 5 and 6 using two different algorithms, which are detailed in the HE Student Regulations. If the two algorithms produce different results, you will be awarded the higher class of degree.

If you've joined Level 6 through either the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) route or having completed a Foundation Degree (FdA), the final classification is determined using only your unit marks at Level 6.

For further information on assessment, progression, awards and classifications, please visit https://viewpoint.aub.ac.uk

What our graduates are doing

Students studying this course achieve great things and have won prestigious and high-profile awards.

Graduates from this course have gone on to create images for clients including The Times fashion supplement, Kit Magazine, Huck, Vogue, The Telegraph, The Guardian, and BBC. Other roles include:

  • Wessex Photographic – Branch Manager
  • Double Exposure Photographic – Retoucher
  • Burton Menswear – Photoshoot Coordinator
  • Momento Studios and Promotions – Bookings Co-ordinator
  • Harvey Nichols, Surfdome and Laura Ashley – Photographer
  • Magine TV – Marketing Consultant
  • Popcorn Learning Media – Digital Learning Designer
  • The Economist – Picture Editor
  • Salvatore Ferragamo, Pitti Uomo/Bimbo, New York Fashion Week, Guess by Marciano – Photographer
  • NOW TV – Design Creative
  • ASOS – Retoucher, Senior Retoucher
  • Closer Magazine – Junior Picture Researcher, Picture Desk Assistant
  • Hut Group – Junior Food Photographer
  • Automotive Magazine – Staff Photographer
  • Grazia Magazine – Picture Researcher
  • Condé Nast India – Junior Photo Editor
  • Show Studio – Photography Technician
  • Sunbeam Studios London – Studio Assistant
  • Holland Publishing – Assistant photographer
  • Dreamer Productions – In-house Photographer
  • Photographic Freelance – Various
  • Photographic Agent – Visual Artists

Our students go on to create images for international magazines and newspapers, picture desks, ad agencies, fashion houses, and more.

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Rhea Thierstein – BA (Hons) Commercial Photography

Since graduating, Rhea has had a varied and extensive career...

A woman wearing a gold dress with a group of people sat on steps by a river.

Mattia Holm – BA (Hons) Commercial Photography

Mattia found AUB to be an amazing experience, both for personal...

Mitch Payne taking a photo of the camera's perspective, in front of an urban background.

Mitch Payne – BA (Hons) Commercial Photography

After graduating, I knew it was still life photography I wanted to pursue...

Gabriel Bush during a photoshoot.

Gabriel Bush – BA (Hons) Commercial Photography

Gabriel Bush has been widely recognised for his highly successful final year...

A digitally-edited image of a person reflected.

James Stopforth – BA (Hons) Commercial Photography

I've done a lot of work assisting British fashion photographer, Nick Knight...

Amy Maidment, BA (Hons) Commercial Photography

Amy Maidment – BA (Hons) Commercial Photography

I have been a big football fan since my dad took me to my first game when I was five...

Trips and visits

As part of your course you may also get the opportunity to take part in course trips. Previous trips have included:

  • New York
  • Berlin
  • London
  • Paris
  • Brighton

*These trips are optional and some may incur additional costs

Latest from BA (Hons) Commercial Photography


See more of our student work

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