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Photography AS & A Level at St Brendan's Sixth Form College

Course description

The Photography A-level course is largely digitally based but students are given the opportunity to produce some work in the darkroom and are encouraged to experiment with mixed media processes. This is the new specification studied through OCR Art & Design: Photography. It may be taken alongside Textile Design Fine Art: Graphic Communication, Fashion and/or D&T Graphics if students wish to create a creative arts-focused timetable. 

Course content

First Year

During the first year of the A-level you will have the opportunity to explore and experiment which several different methods of image making. These vary from 160 year old processes of traditional photography, to contemporary digital photography. This year is about building up your skills and being able to truly enjoy and understand the magic of photography. There are internal deadlines and assessments but there are no exams in the first year. Progression onto the second year is based on students performance in the first year.

Second Year

This year is where you use the skills and areas of interest developed in the first year, and apply them to 2 units to meet the exam board criteria / marking:

Unit 1 - Personal investigation 
Learners should produce two elements:

  • Portfolio of Practical Work showing their personal response to either a starting point, brief, scenario or stimulus, devised and provided by the learner or teacher. This means that you can choose the topic that you want to do.
  • Related Written Study: a minimum of 1000 words response to your chosen topic.

Unit 2 - Externally set task
The exam board will release the Exam papers on the 1st February and will provide learners with a number of themes, each with a range of written and visual starting points, briefs and stimuli. Learners will then produce a project based on one of these that they choose. In preparation for the exam they will produce back-up work and the exam is simply a practical session to produce their final pieces.

  • Unit One: Personal Investigation
    60% of A Level
  • Unit Two: Externally Set Task
    40% of A Level

Entry requirements

  • A minimum of 5 GCSE’s at Grades A*-C or at point 4-9 (including English Language). Level 2 vocational qualifications (e.g. BTEC/OCR) must be a merit grade or above and will count as 1 GCSE equivalent.
  • GCSE Photography or Art is desirable but NOT essential. If you have not done a creative subject before, we will invite you to join one of our workshops to enhance you skills.
  • You will be asked to do a small assignment before starting the course. This must be completed before enrolment. Plenty of advice will be available at our preparation day or online.
  • DSLR Cameras are required for this course. Further Information is available.


All units will be marked internally by the Creative Arts team and will be moderated by the exam board.

Financial information

All students are required to have a digital SLR camera.  A studio fee of approximately £35 is charged at the start of the first year. The cost of all trips, printing and materials is the responsibility of the student.

Students are encouraged to do first hand research and a number of trips are organised throughout the year to galleries and exhibitions.

Future opportunities

The full Advanced Level in Photography provides a sound basis for students who wish to proceed to Higher Education as well as being a useful background to any career within the photographic field.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact St Brendan's Sixth Form College directly.

Last updated date: 24 October 2016

Key information