A Level Photography


What is it about at sixth form level?

The course covers a broad and changing area of study with light-based imagery spanning almost two centuries. You will engage with early light-based images and rudimentary technology, such as a pinhole camera, as well as the most contemporary, which may include the use of digital cameras, photocopiers, scanners and mobile phones. You may also work with film based or digital technology or with both. Outcomes can be screen or print based, comprise still or moving images and might be particular to the subject area or combined with other art forms. Possible areas of study include: photographing people, photographing places, still-life photography, documentary photography, photojournalism, experimental imagery, photographic installation, fashion photography and digital imaging.

Lower sixth

You will begin with instruction in the various techniques of camera use, printing and Adobe Photoshop. You will learn about the language of photography and how to ‘read’ and to analyse photographs. You will begin to photograph a variety of themes including landscape, portrait, architecture, photojournalism and abstract. You will learn how to develop your ideas through sustained and focused investigations informed by contextual and other sources, demonstrating analytical and critical understanding. You will explore and select appropriate resources, media, materials, techniques and processes, and review and refine your ideas as your work develops. You will record your ideas, observations and insights relevant to your intentions, reflecting critically on your work and progress. As a student in the heart of London, you will have access to some of the world’s best museums, galleries and exhibitions. This will result in a personal and meaningful response which, where appropriate, makes connections between visual and other elements.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will develop your skills and understanding to a higher standard. You will continue to be given close technical instruction and supervision, but you will be required to adopt a much more independent and student-led approach. You will be working on your personal investigation, which is the first of the two components of your final assessment. This component consists firstly of a major, in-depth, practical, critical and theoretical investigative project or theme-based portfolio and outcomes. It is accompanied by an integrated and extended written piece of critical and contextual analysis (1000 words minimum).

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

An A level in Photography is an excellent basis on which to apply to study the subject further at art college or university as, along with the skills, it will provide you with the portfolio you will need for your application. It is also very useful if you wish to work or study in areas relating to design, fashion and architecture. More generally, it will teach you the skill of ‘reading images’. You will also become adept in the use of Adobe Photoshop.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You will need some experience in art that has been formally assessed, such as an (I)GCSE in Art. Although not essential, it is beneficial to have some experience in photo-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

The AS is a one-year course and is entirely assessed by coursework, this being the results of your thematic approach to an internally-set theme.

A level

The A level is a two-year course and all assessment takes place at the end of the second year. There are two components. Component 1 is your personal investigation, which is the coursework component. Component 2 is the externally set assignment. You will be required to develop independently a personal response to one of a varied range of stimuli within specified time constraints. The assignment consists of a series of visual (including moving image) and written stimuli set by the exam board. You will develop your response over a preparatory study period. Following the preparatory study period, learners will be allocated a period of 15 hours sustained focus study to realise their response unaided and under supervised conditions. Component 1 is worth 60% of the A level and Component 2 is worth 40% of the A level.


The Photograph
By G. Clarke
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-0192842008

Art and Photography
By A. Scharf
Published by Penguin, ISBN 978-0140131321

Photography: A Critical Introduction
By L. Wells
Published by Routledge, ISBN 978-0415460873

20th Century Photography
By S. Klotz
Published by Tashen, ISBN 978-3822886489

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: WJEC Art and Design B656QSL, A level: WJEC Art and Design A656QSL 


Greg Ioannou
Head of Department