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Why Choose Photography?

Photography is increasingly popular as an A level choice. It provides the perfect opportunity to learn to produce work at a professional standard, at the same time as encouraging the exploration of photography as an artistic medium. It combines well with more traditional subjects, providing an outlet for creativity. Photography can be a useful addition to a student’s portfolio of qualifications and can also help to secure admission to art college or university.

Although there is no formal requirement to have studied Photography before embarking on an A level course, it helps to have an informed interest in the subject.

A DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera is required to undertake the course. Lessons take place in a purpose-built photo lab, which includes a fully-equipped darkroom, computers running the latest photography and graphics software, with inkjet and laser printing. Upstairs we have a fully functioning studio with complete lighting and backdrop support.   

The Course

A-level qualification: Two year course* comprising an Initial Portfolio followed by two assessed components:

Personal Investigation with written Personal Study (1000 word minimum)  - 60% of qualification total,

Externally Set Assignment - 40% of qualification total.

AS qualification: One year course comprising two assessed components:

Personal Investigation - 50% of qualification total,

Externally Set Assignment - 50% of qualification total.

We aim to teach all students the knowledge and techniques, including darkroom practice, relevant specialist vocabulary, and some photographic and visual theory, to produce work to a professional standard. Digital photography forms a foundation in terms of getting to know the camera, but we regard traditional wet-chemistry photographic techniques and their application in the course as key to a deeper understanding of image making, as well as good preparation for degree-level courses where the use of analogue film and printing techniques are still prevalent. 35mm film-based cameras are freely available for use on college premises. 

For both courses the first component, or “Personal Investigation”  allows students opportunities to generate and develop ideas, research primary and contextual sources, record practical and written observations, experiment with media and processes, and refine ideas towards producing personal resolved outcomes. The second component, or “Externally Set Assignment” builds on the investigative techniques honed during the first component while responding to an externally set theme. All coursework comes to a close with a period of sustained focus (10 hours AS, 15 hours A-level) where work is produced under exam conditions at college over a weekend towards the end of the summer term. Tutors then mark all coursework before submission to the scrutiny of a visiting external moderator nominated by Edexcel.

As part of their course, and for the bulk of their homework, students are expected to take photographs in a variety of settings, including open-air locations. Visits to Photographic exhibitions, galleries and museums are arranged on a regular basis by tutors for the benefit of students. Their experience of other peoples’ work allows students to explore the historical, social and technical aspects of photography, forming an important research basis from which students develop their own photographic practice. 

Preferred Board: Edexcel

*The A-level may be undertaken in one year, however due to the rigour of the course it is strongly recommended that those applying are already familiar and confident with the use of a camera, digital editing techniques, and written photo-analysis and research methods. These areas are covered in depth during production of the Initial Portfolio on the two year course.     

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