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Commercial Photography

The commercial world relies on powerful imagery to give news stories and brand messages impact.

We’re looking for people who want to push creative boundaries, challenge perceptions and set the agenda for commercial photography.

Course Information

During the course, you'll build an appropriate portfolio of skills, which supports the development of individual practice, and informs your decision regarding the selection of a specialist named award.

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 the BBC. If you want to push boundaries, challenge perceptions and set the future agenda for commercial photography, we want you. We’ll help you to gain a broad understanding of photographic practice and theory, so that you graduate confidently in the creative and critical visual language needed to work in the industry as an individual and with a creative team.

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, assisting, styling, and advertising, which gives them an edge.

Over the three years of study, you can choose to focus your studies and specialise in one of the 4 award-titled BA(Hons) pathways we offer:

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

Course duration

3-years (full-time)

UCAS course code


UCAS institution code


Level 4 (first year)

In your first year, you’ll learn the creative and practical skills that you’ll build upon during your degree.

We’ll introduce you to a variety of traditional and digital photographic techniques and processes through the units ‘Principles and Practice’ and ‘Digital Imaging and Production’, giving you a strong technical foundation in location and studio lighting, analogue and digital capture and digital post-production techniques.

Our ‘Historical and Theoretical Studies in Photography’ unit covers key themes and theories. Photography projects and written assignments are used to reinforce learning and enable you to exercise your developing knowledge and practical skills in the unit ‘Creative Photographic Practice’, where additional workshops will also introduce you to moving image.

As part of these units, you’ll attend guest lectures by visiting photographers and industry professionals to underpin your holistic knowledge of contemporary commercial photographic practice.

Level 5 (second year)

Your second year builds on the skills and knowledge that you gained during your first year and provides opportunities for you to develop your genre-specific interests.

At Level 5, you’ll continue to develop your digital skills and promotional awareness through the unit ‘Professional Futures’.

Your industry understanding will be consolidated towards the end of the unit when you undertake a period of work experience in the form of a placement, which will be overseen by the unit leader, allowing you to gain hands-on experience working alongside industry professionals.

In the past few years, students have gained placements at:

  • GQ Magazine
  • Wonderland Magazine
  • Another Magazine
  • Getty Images
  • Tim Walker (Photographer)
  • Wolfgang Tillmans (Photographer)
  • Platon (Photographer, New York)
  • Frederike Helwig (Photographer)
  • TANK Magazine
  • Skinny Dip (Agency)
  • Sunbeam Studios (Studio)
  • Phil Toledano (Photographer)
  • Diver & Aguilar (Photographers)
  • Sølve Sundsbø

Our ‘Critical Analyses’ unit gives you an overview of some of the approaches used in the analysis of commercial photography, together with the development of research and written communication skills, allowing for a more intellectual engagement with photographic practice, and preparing you for the major written assignment at Level 6.

During Level 5, you'll be offered an opportunity to consider the three named awards, although there is no obligation for you to opt for a named award.

Level 6 (third year)

Your third year allows you to build on the platform of skills and knowledge gained during Levels 4 and 5. Level 6 adopts an extremely focused approach to your career ambitions, developing specific creative and conceptual skills in order to gain a more complex understanding of the particular discourse with which you wish to be professionally engaged.

Gaining a BA (Hons) award in this discipline equips graduates to compete at the highest level of professional practice as well as providing a platform for potential post-graduate study. This is evidenced through an accomplished and developed commercial portfolio and the critical skills with which to locate this work within an ever more complex visual culture.

Two major units, ‘Specialist Practice’ and ‘Major Project’, provide the opportunity for two bodies of work that will become your professional portfolio and the content relates directly to the named award title that you've chosen.

The unit ‘Research Paper’, for which a critically informed analysis of a subject related topic will be produced, will help to inform your practical work, while supporting your aspirations for future study at postgraduate level.

All students are registered for the award of BA (Hons); however, exit awards are available if you leave the course early, having successfully completed one or two levels. If you successfully complete a level of the course, you will automatically be entitled to progress to the next level.

For the award of a Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE), you must have achieved a minimum of 120 credits at Level 4. This qualification may be awarded if you leave the University following successful completion of the first year of your course.

For the award of a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), you must have achieved a minimum of 240 credits of which a minimum of 120 must be at Level 5. This qualification may be awarded if you leave the University following successful completion of the second year of your course.

For the award of a BA (Hons) you must have achieved a minimum of 360 credits of which a minimum of 240 must be at Level 5 or above, of which a minimum of 120 credits must be at Level 6. This qualification will be awarded upon successful completion of your course.

A BA without Honours may be awarded if you have achieved 300 credits, at least 180 of which are at Level 5 or above, and at least 60 of which are at Level 6.

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

Photo of Conrad Tracy

Conrad Tracy

As Course Leader Conrad has written and developed one of the most exciting and successful photography degree’s in the country. Conrad is...

Prof. Paul Wenham-Clarke

Prof. Paul Wenham-Clarke

MA Photography Course Leader and winner of The Association of Photographers Lecturer of the Year Award 2020...

Tree with a black background

Richard Lloyd Lewis

With over 10 years experience working as a photographer and art director, Richard has worked for clients in the Advertising...

Photo of Martin Coyne

Martin Coyne

Martin is a regularly commissioned filmmaker and published photographer specialising in documentary work and portraiture. He is able to...

Image of Dr David Ellison

Dr. David Ellison

David Ellison began his photography career as an assistant to Brian Griffin and Craig McDean...

Black and white image of a lady in a mirror

Sian Gouldstone

Sian is a photographer and sociologist and is currently researching her PhD at Goldsmiths College, London, from where she also received...

Photo of Andrew Cope

Andrew Cope

Andy has undertaken photographic commissions since 1985, working alongside other professionals to broaden his knowledge...

Photo of Anne Edwardes

Anne Edwardes

MA Photography, BA (Hons) Visual Art, PGCE and Cert Ed. Anne joined AUB in 2001 as a Technician Tutor...

Chris Moles taking a photo

Chris Moles

BA (Hons). After a career in engineering, Chris studied photography at AUB. He has contributed to a number of exhibitions...

Image of Lucy Veale

Lucy Veale

Lucy is a multimedia artist, working primarily with photography and moving image. She is currently working at AUB as Technician...

Lee Harper's profile picture

Lee Harper

Lee is a fine art photographic digital printmaker - working across BA Photography and Commercial Photography, and MA Photography...

Rhiannon Evans's profile picture

Rhiannon Evans

Rhiannon is the Senior Technician for MA Commercial Photography, BA (Hons) Commercial Photography and BA (Hons) Photography at AUB...

Libby Billings Profile Picture

Libby Billings

Before joining the team as technician, Libby worked as a visiting tutor...

What makes a great Photographer?

How to apply

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. All of our courses take place on one site, so we don't have a campus code. 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.

Interview And Portfolio Requirements

We look for students who have clear focus and ambition, who have an interest in photography and wish to study on a course that will give them the opportunity to realise their potential as commercial photographers.

Top tips on how to prepare your portfolio:

Due to Covid-19 and the need for social distance, we will not be able to offer on campus interviews to applicants this cycle. For courses that require a portfolio review or an audition, the Admissions team will be in touch with you and request a digital portfolio or audition.

We will hold Offer Holder days in Spring and invite applicants to visit the campus and meet the course team, or if you are unable to visit us you will be able to attend a virtual Offer Holder Day.

The nature and level of the course means that students are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds with a variety of talents, aspirations and experiences. This may include students from the industry, who are looking for opportunities to change direction, or returners to education who may or may not have studied at this level previously. Students who have worked or studied to a high level will have the opportunity of having work and/or experience (AP(e)I) credited.

We look for creative potential through the medium of photography and an indication of your personal ideas, interests and aspirations, so bring with you any journals, idea/sketch books together with your finished work.

The qualities we look for are reflected in the course structure; a commitment to the medium, sensitivity towards its infinite capacities for making visual statements and an awareness of the importance of its history and current applications within contemporary, commercial and arts based practice.

We're looking for an engaged attitude and a personality that's able to cope with the realities of the profession at a high level.

Above all, applicants must be able to evidence the ability to generate ideas and work in a self-motivated way. The ability to contextualise and articulate work in relation to styles, genres and influences is of particular importance for this course.

Students who have recently completed A Levels or are presently taking a Foundation Diploma, BTEC course or other level 3 course – it would help assess your ability to engage with critical photographic discourse if you're able to bring and leave a copy of a recent relevant essay from your current course.

Universities interviewing for creative courses will expect to be presented with a portfolio to help them understand your ability and range of work. Your portfolio could be your golden ticket into receiving an offer so making sure it’s presentable, well-organised and accessible is essential.

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

Fees and Funding

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.

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 dedicated photographic studios.

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 systems.

Computer digital suite with

Digital Suites

Our Digital Suites offer a dedicated 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 dedicated technical team.

Teaching and Learning

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.

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)




Assessment and Feedback

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.

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.

The University has agreed that, during 2019/20, it will run a pilot project. This will mean that on some courses, one unit at Level 4 will be assessed on a Pass / Fail basis only, with written feedback but no numerical grade. If your course has been selected for the pilot, your Course Leader will tell you this, and the details will be clearly expressed on the Unit Information Sheet.

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


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

Studying on this course, you’ll benefit from these state-of-the-art facilities and industry-standard equipment, designed to support all photography practices from analogue through to high-end digital production.

You’ll be able to make use of the following professional-standard facilities:

  • Photographic studios
  • Automated film processing
  • Colour darkrooms
  • 30inch AUTOPAN RA4 paper processor
  • Black and white darkrooms, processing area and deep tank room
  • Digital darkroom with colour managed workflow
  • Professional print bureau
  • Epson SC-P9000 A0 large format printer and proofer
  • Chromira 30inch RA4 Digital Printer
  • Frame-making equipment and workshop area for producing high-quality bespoke exhibition-ready work

Equipment store

We provide an extensive range of professional analogue and digital cameras and ancillary equipment that you can access for use in the studio or out on location, including:

  • Film cameras 35mm, medium format, large format field/monorail cameras up to 10x8
  • Pinhole cameras, 35mm, medium format and large format
  • Full frame DSLR cameras
  • Digital medium format cameras, including Hasselblad and PhaseOne
  • Location lighting equipment
  • Broncolor Parabolic
  • Specialist video, sound, image stabilisation and continuous lighting equipment for moving image
  • Wind machine, reflectors, gels, clamps, portable backdrops, data projectors, developing tanks, Wacom tablets, and more…

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 the BBC. Other roles include:

  • Wessex Photographic – Branch Manager
  • Double Exposure Photographic – Retoucher
  • Burton Menswear – Photoshoot Coordinator
  • Momento Studio’s and Promotions – Bookings Coordinator
  • Harvey Nichols – 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 Marcinao – Photographer
  • NOW TV – Design Creative
  • – Senior Retoucher
  • Closer Magazine – Junior Picture Researcher
  • Hut Group – Junior Food Photographer

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

James Stopforth

I do a lot of work assisting British fashion photographer, Nick Knight...

Amy Maidment

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

Many of our students are commissioned and published while still on the course and win prestigious and high profile awards, such as:

  • 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
  • Association of Photographers Student of the Year’ 2005 (shortlisted from 2002-19)
  • Association of Photographers ‘runner up’ 2007
  • Association of Photographers 3 judges choice awards including fashion series 2011
  • 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 & 2019
  • Portrait of Britain Awards 2019
  • Yatzer-A Shade of Pale: Ten Evocative Narratives Exhibition 2018
  • Freshmeet Award 2020
  • Eizo Awards 2020

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

Due to the current travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines, it is unlikely that any trips will be planned in the first half of the new academic year. We will follow Government advice as soon as it is available for the remainder of the year.

Commercial Photography news

See more of our student work

The commercial world relies on powerful imagery to give news stories and brand messages impact.