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Photography A Level                     



 5+ in art or portfolio of visual work


Photography is a creative subject studied as a branch of art and design. It includes traditional photography, darkroom room and alternative processes; digital photography, post-production, studio and location work, film and video. Photography as a medium is explored in all its many forms as a lens and light based art medium. We explore photography as a fine art as well as explore its relationship with the documentary and commercial world. Students research the work of artists and photographers, analyse images and look into the cultural, social and historical influences that inspire them. Students need to be willing to experiment with a wide range of materials and ideas but also personalise, develop and refine their own ideas to create a final outcome. You need to work hard, be independent and have a desire to look at and make images, as well as visit galleries, exhibitions and go on location. Gallery, exhibition, events and location visits all play an important part in the course but students are expected to take initiative and plan their own visits independently. This course is a 2 year course.

The course starts with Component 1: Coursework, Personal Investigation (60% of the A-level) 

Component 1: Coursework, Personal Investigation (60%)

Autumn term: Foundation skills centred on the theme ‘Memory and Time’

Spring term: Personalised project centred on the theme ‘Memory and Time’

Students learn core foundation skills in photography and then start to narrow down what they are interested in. Students learn how to manually work a camera, experiment with a wide variety of processes including traditional photography, analyse images, research artists and are introduced to different themes such as portraiture, landscape, still life, street photography, architecture and experimental imagery.

In both terms students show evidence of:

  • Generating a range of ideas
  • Appropriate research into sources and contexts
  • Primary recording and analysis of sources and contexts
  • Sensitive selection and exploration of media and processes
  • Development of ideas, review and refinement
  • Synthesis of ideas and outcome(s), which connect with appropriate contexts. 

This is evidenced in a sketch book/digital portfolio as well as an external final piece.


Component 1 continued: Coursework, Personal Investigation (60% of the A-level) which started in Y12. Students now have to focus on a very specific theme of their own negotiated with the teacher.

The year incorporates three major elements: supporting studies & practical work, as well as a personal study.

  1. a) Supporting studies and practical work based around a ‘Personal Investigation’ of choice negotiated with the teacher documented in a sketch book/digital portfolio.
  2. b) Personal study – a critical and analytical essay/investigation of 1000 – 3000 words. (12% of the coursework unit and is marked out of 18). The study makes links to the student’s own practical investigations, is supported by contextual research and demonstrates relevant social, cultural or historical contexts.

Component 2: Externally set assignment 40%.

Incorporates two major elements: preparatory studies and a 15 hour period of sustained focus.

  1. a) Preparatory studies will comprise a portfolio of practical and written development work documented in a sketch book/digital portfolio based on the externally set assignment.

Students have from 1 February until the commencement of the final 15–hour

period of sustained focus to develop preparatory studies.

  1. b) During the 15–hour period of sustained focus under examination conditions,

Students will produce final outcome(s) extending from their preparatory studies

in response to the externally set assignment.


You will learn how to work a camera manually, work with traditional processes such as using the darkroom, how to use the studio lighting, Adobe Photoshop and other post production resources, as well as explore experimental alternative processes. You will also develop analytical, critical and research skills and visual literacy, as well as learn about art/photography history, planning and development of projects. The first year is very busy and you need to be committed.

The photography specification allows a lot of flexibility. There are 4 ‘specialisms’: lens-based photography; experimental photography; film and video and multi-media. We want to explore ways of opening up the possibilities to include all the specialisms, but realistically students cannot cover everything at once. Current teacher specialism lies in traditional, digital, fine art and experimental photography but students are always encouraged to explore, research and experiment with their own interests. The teachers are happy to facilitate.

Course costs

It is advised that you have your own SLR camera (recommended: Canon EOS 1300D or Nikon D3300 DSLR) but it is not a requirement. Students can borrow digital and analogue cameras or use their smart phones. We charge a one off cost of £40 at the start of Year 12 which can be paid in instalments to cover the costs of darkroom use, an A3 folio, a box of photographic paper, roll of film and maintenance of studio facilities.







Component 1


16 months


Component 2

Externally set assessment

4 months



Students may build a portfolio suitable for art college, media-related placements and IT routes. Photography builds many personal skills that are required by employers and universities such as independence, critical thinking skills, teamwork, initiative, communication, leadership and time management.

Student Quote:

This course at LaSWAP is fantastic, and has enabled me to become a better person.