BA (Hons) Photography - University of Portsmouth
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BA (Hons)


UCAS codeW640

full time3yrs

placement option1yr

An innovative study of this rapidly developing and lens-based medium

Course Overview

Why take this course?

Photographs are encountered everywhere, everyday, by everyone – from galleries and museums to magazines, billboards, books and online. Photography is both a unique art form and a mass medium.

This course covers the wide breadth of photographic practice, with opportunities to do projects in documentary, editorial and fine art photography. Throughout the degree there is a strong focus on professional practice, focusing on how you can publicise yourself and your work outside the University and gain the key graduate skills needed to work in the creative sector.

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

  • Go on study visits to galleries and photography festivals in London, Paris, Berlin and Brighton
  • Undertake real-life commissions and enter your work into competitions
  • Create a portfolio of your work and work with your peers to organise exhibitions of your photography in Portsmouth and London
  • Visit our course blog to find out more

What opportunities might it lead to?

On this course you will develop strong creative and technical abilities. As a result, you will have the skills to work in photography or as part of the wider creative industries, from writers to curators, picture editors to educators.

Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

  • photography
  • working in galleries
  • setting up photography businesses
  • digital editing
  • film making
  • further study and research


Thomas Needham, BA (Hons) Photography student 2013

We did an exhibition last term. It was really, really successful. Having people turn up to see your work is just such a good feeling.

Thomas Needham, BA (Hons) Photography student 2013


Art and Design

Find out what our students say about studying at Portsmouth, including:

  • The creative atmosphere that encourages students to explore their own interests and ideas
  • The excellent facilities which you will have access to
  • Exhibiting, curating and promoting your work, preparing you for future employment

Browse all courses in Art and Design

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Structure & Teaching

Year one

The first year introduces you to the key technical, creative and theoretical elements of working with photography. Professional practice units start exploring the range of photographic careers available.

Core units in this year include:

  • City Spaces
  • Storytelling and the Photobook
  • Introduction to Professional Practice
  • Introduction to Practice Research
  • Creative Digital Photography
  • Introduction to Visual Culture

Year two

By the second year you’ll have learnt the key technical skills and be regularly putting them into practice. You will also explore the historical and contemporary debates about photography, which will give you the ability to think, talk and write about your work and that of others. You will get the chance to exhibit outside of the University, as well as take an editorial unit to create work for a magazine of your choice, learning design and layout skills to add to your photographic knowledge.

Core units in this year include:

  • Documentary Practices
  • Body and Text
  • Commissioned Briefs and Professional Practice
  • Practice Research

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Professional Experience
  • Public Exhibition and Professional Promotion
  • Student Enterprise
  • Visual Culture: Visions of the Body
  • Visual Culture: Cult Films and Postmodernism
  • Visual Culture: Design, Style and Identity
  • Visual Culture: Issues of Representation
  • Visual Culture: Technology and the Image

Year three*

In your final year you will have the chance to specialise and write your own briefs that relate to an area of photography you are interested in. Your research skills that have been learnt throughout the course are applied to develop this work conceptually. The professional practice unit focuses on preparing your online and/or print based portfolio for graduation and the year ends with exhibitions of students' work in both Portsmouth and London.

Core units in this year include:

  • Advanced Practice Research
  • Major Projects in Photography
  • Photography and Professional Writing
  • Professional Practice

Options to choose from in this year currently include:

  • Visual Culture: Extended Research Project
  • Visual Culture: Dissertation
  • Visual Culture: Research Paper

We use the best and most current research and professional practice, alongside feedback from our students, to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.

*This course is also available as a 4-year sandwich (work placement).

Placement year

Between the second and third years of study you will have the option to undertake a work placement year. There are two exciting options for the placement year:

We offer a range of salaried professional placements as part of your degree.  You can gain invaluable work experience to help you prepare for your graduate employment.  The University can provide you with advice on how to secure a work placement that matches both the needs of your degree and your future career plans, as well as giving you useful links and contacts.

Interested in running your own business instead? We also offer students the chance to start-up and run their own company for a year as an alternative to the traditional work-based placement. Students who choose this option often start-up their companies with fellow, like-minded students, working together, as a bona fide operation, in an attempt to build a successful venture. The Faculty and University provide mentoring and support throughout the year.

To find out more visit our Employability and Enterprise page.


We offer a variety of engaging teaching methods from workshops, lectures, projects and seminars, to individual tutorials. There is a strong emphasis on hands-on practical sessions and you’ll also benefit from being taught by practising professionals with expertise in exhibiting, publishing, curating and writing about photography.

The time you spend in teaching activities may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year typically spent their time as follows:

  • Year one students: 23% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 77% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year two students: 17% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 83% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year three students: 14% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 86% studying independently and 0% on work placement


You will mostly be assessed by a mix of written and practical coursework. Learning becomes more independent as the course progresses. Here’s how we assess your work:

  • practical photography projects (many listed below)
  • exhibition prints
  • artists books
  • magazine layouts
  • screen based work and moving image
  • real-life exhibition projects
  • portfolios

The way you’re assessed may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year were typically assessed as follows:

  • Year one students: 0% by written exams, 13% by practical exams and 87% by coursework
  • Year two students: 0% by written exams, 23% by practical exams and 77% by coursework
  • Year three students: 0% by written exams, 7% by practical exams and 93% by coursework

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Facilities & Features

Studios and Darkrooms

We have excellent photographic studios with flash and tungsten lighting set ups. You can work with digital and traditional cameras, from 35mm to medium and large format. Lighting and cameras are also available to borrow for shooting on location.

Our digital darkroom is equipped with Mac computers, high end neg scanners and ink jet printers. We also have both black and white and colour darkrooms.


Guest Speakers

We organise a lively programme of visiting speakers in order to encourage a vibrant culture of debate and industry contact. Recent speakers on the course have included the world-renowned photographers Martin Parr, Jason Evans, Paul Seawright, Adam Broomberg, Anna Fox and Eric Kessels.

Showcase Opportunities

As part of the Professional Practice & Promotions unit, 2nd Year Photography students organise small group exhibitions across venues in Portsmouth, including pubs, shop windows, restaurants and pop-up galleries. Final year Photography students set up their own Graduat​e​ Show, which highlights and celebrates three years of hard work.

​S​tudents form a London Show Committee, where they initiate, fundraise, organise and curate a Graduat​e​ Show in London. ​T​his has been held at The Ditch, in Shoreditch Town Hall, right in the heart of the creative industry. Gallery directors, curators, magazine editors and advertising agency directors are invited to view the work of the latest generation of talented photographers.

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Budgeting for your studies

There are extra costs associated with studying, which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Recommended texts:
If you wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow from the University Library, the average price is £50-£60. You may be studying up to 6 units a year, each with a standard recommended text.

General costs:
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for costs of photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.

Final year project:
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose to develop.

Other costs to consider


You will incur extra printing costs on portfolio work of around £100 - £600. Material and production costs vary from around £100 - £500 per year.

Any study trips are optional and you will be expected to pay full cost. Optional study trips abroad will cost in the region of £200 - £800. UK trips, where offered, will be £50 - £150.

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Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Career prospects
Where next?

We will equip you with the knowledge of emerging technology in photography and the professional practice elements of the course are in line with current and future industry trends. Not only will this give you a competitive edge in the job market, but it will help you to develop your own individual style, enhancing your future employment prospects.

Our recent graduates have gained a wide variety of jobs and some have set up small businesses. We also have a number of previous students who currently teach photography or are pursuing postgraduate education. Each year we run Alumni days were six recent graduates come back to talk to our current students about routes into the industry.

Roles our graduates have taken on include:

  • assistant, commercial, editorial and studio photographers
  • exhibiting photographers
  • film-makers
  • picture editors
  • retouchers
  • lecturer in photography

Work experience

Work experience
Employment boosting opportunities

Here at the CCI’s Creative Careers Centre we are committed to improving your employability. Whether it’s placements, self-employed placements, internships, short-term work experiences, freelancing opportunities and volunteering, we will help you find valuable and relevant work experience to complement your degree. The experienced team is always on hand to offer advice on everything from producing high-quality applications through to preparation for a company assessment day.

Career planning

Career planning

To make sure you take the right steps on your career path, we’re here to give you help, support and advice throughout your study. Even after you’ve graduated, we continue to give you support for up to five years.

Employers tell us that they want graduates to be able to demonstrate certain skills when they come out of university. Our courses take account of this. We make sure we prepare you for employment through work-related learning, projects, placements and working in simulated environments that are designed to prepare you for the working world.

Alecsandra Raluca Dragoi's success story

Alecsandra Raluca Dragoi from Romania, a photography student at the University of Portsmouth, won first prize in the culture category of the prestigious 2013 Sony World Photography Awards Youth Award. The Youth Award is open to photographers aged 19 and under.

Alecsandra has a passion for documentary photography and says: “Something drew me into documentary and portraiture. I think it was the fact that people and their stories have always fascinated me.”

Alecsandra’s winning photograph will feature in a month-long exhibition of the winners and finalists at Somerset House in London, and will be published in the Sony World Photography Awards book. The image was taken on New Year’s Eve in the city of Botosani, in the Moldavia region of Romania, and features a mask-dance called the ‘Dance of the Bear’, a tradition still practised in rural areas.

Click here to view her winning photograph.


Alecsandra Raluca Dragoi

Alecsandra Raluca Dragoi
BA (Hons) Photography student 2013

I applied for photography because I wanted to transform my passion into something real and to create a culture. So this is only the beginning, I have many plans for my future. I want to make my voice heard by all people around the world, by using photography as an instrument. I would like to use my photography as a means to get to understand the world and the people around me. This University has really made me think positively about my future career.

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Apply now or visit us

Apply for 2018 entry

To apply, you'll need this course's UCAS code, which is at the top of this page, and the University of Portsmouth institution code – P80.

Apply now

After you apply, we'll invite you to an Applicant Experience Day where you’ll get to speak to lecturers and meet your future classmates.

Open Days for courses starting in 2019

Come to an Open Day and explore our course facilities, tour the campus and have a look around our halls of residence.

Book your Open Day

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.

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