Accessibility links

Photography A Level at Sheffield College

Course description

About the course

 A level photography at Hillsborough College is an exciting digital based, practical course which challenges you to apply technical understanding to conceptual photo-based project work.  You will learn to use professional digital camera technologies and industry standard software to produce a creative portfolio. In addition to this you will be trained to use professional studio lighting in our purpose built photography studios, where you will learn to shoot fashion, portraits, still life and advertising/editorial work.

You will gain experience in visual communication through a range of challenging projects, these projects require you to develop your practice through research, analysis, experimentation and development. Sketchbooks play an integral role in your development and it is expected that you document the creative process to show how your skill and knowledge has progressed throughout the programme.

In the first year you will study two units, Unit 1 comprises of a coursework portfolio which accounts for 60% of your final grade. During this initial study period you will be given creative assignments and experience an introduction to the darkroom, DSLR cameras, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom post production techniques and studio lighting. Unit 2 is entitled Controlled Assignment and 40% of your final grade derives from this project. The topic of this section of the course changes each year with the exam board issuing an exam paper which challenges you to respond to a specific theme i.e. Growth and Evolution or Covert and Obscured. You will have a number of weeks to explore the theme and build a creative project before the final practical exam.

In the second year you will study a further two units, Unit 3 (60%) comprises of a Personal Investigation, you will be expected to propose and develop a project which is specific to your interests and strengths. Unit 4 (40%) is entitled Controlled Assignment and once again you will be expected to respond to a theme or topic set by the exam board. 

Visits to Paris, London and local exhibitions are arranged during the course and you will be expected to spend between 3 and 5 hours a week on private study and on location. You will be required to pay for printing of sketchbooks and portfolios before final submission, this can cost between £50 and £80 depending on quality of output selected. Those in financial hardship can apply for help from the college’s Learner Support Fund.

Will this subject suit me?

An ideal student for this course is someone who is motivated, has a desire to learn and wants to express their ideas visually. You will want to explore and research different topics and themes and will need to show your increasing acquisition of techniques and skills.

Qualification title

A Level Art and Design (Photography)

What students say about this subject.

A really enjoyable course, non-stop but fantastic.

A challenging course, however, with a positive attitude and desire you can accomplish great things, with an inspiring team and teacher.

Gruelling at times, very hard work … but in the end very rewarding.


Entry requirements

To study 3  A Levels: 5 GCSEs at Grade 4 or above including English Language and Maths

To study 4 A Levels: 5 GCSEs at Grade 5 or above, including English Language and Maths

Additional requirements: GCSE grade 5-9 in an art related subject


You will be expected to produce portfolios of work on topics and themes determined by the centre.  The course is assessed by coursework which is internally assessed and externally moderated.  You will do a personal investigation of between 1,000 and 3,000 words.

There is an externally set timed examination (controlled assignment) which is given on an early release question paper.  This gives you time to plan and prepare before the controlled assignment time to develop your idea and realise a final outcome.   You will need to have good time management skills and be able to work to targets and deadlines.

Financial information


At The Sheffield College we will always do our best to support you through your studies, to make them as stress free as possible. We have a specialist support team who can give you all the advice you need on all things financial, including what might be available to you, so that you don’t go short and you can concentrate all your efforts into your studies.

Free meals

If you meet the eligibility criteria we’ll be able to support you with free meals. You’ll get an amount of money that you can use within the college shops and diners per day. This will be added to your student ID card which you will just swipe to purchase items.

Travel passes

Students (including Apprentices) of The Sheffield College who live in South Yorkshire are eligible for a 16–18 Student Pass which entitles pass holders to cheaper travel on buses and trams in South Yorkshire. Pass holders are also entitled to half fare on Northern train services in South Yorkshire.

Learner Support Fund

If you are enrolled with us, you may receive support towards the cost of:

  • Travel

  • Books and materials

  • Uniform and equipment

  • Essential course trips

  • NUS extra

  • DBS checks needed for your course (previously known as CRB)
  • UCAS registration fee and travel to interviews when applying for university

Future opportunities

Where can it lead?

The next step could be to our own Foundation Degree in Photography at Hillsborough College or other Higher Education course in this field.

Career opportunities include advertising, photo journalism and freelance. Many of our students experience live projects whilst studying; taking on commission for local industry and personal clients.

Please note that on our A level programme preference is given to 16-18 year olds wanting to study a full time package of 3 or 4 subjects. Mature part time students will be considered after full time students have been placed, if places remain available.


Further information

Open Days

Why not come and see for yourself. Visit us on one of our open evenings and meet the people who will be teaching you, have a chat about what the course involves and look round our fantastic facilities where you’ll be learning.

Our City, Hillsborough, Peaks and Olive Grove campuses will be open on the following days:

Thursday 25th October 2018 4pm -7pm

Wednesday 21st November 2018 4pm-7pm

Tuesday 29th January 2019 4pm-7pm

Monday 4th March 2019 4pm-7pm

How to apply

You can apply for this course through UCAS Progress. Add this course to your favourites so you can start making an application.

Last updated date: 18 September 2018
Provider logo

Key information

  • Start date: Next September
  • Duration: Two years
  • Course code: HRENA1