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Photography A level at Sharnbrook Academy

Course description

To seek an expressive and/or interpretative artistic response to the visual world, which is produced with the aid of lens-based media and may be manipulated by digital technology.

The course is for all creative students interested in lens-based media in particular, and the visual arts in general.

Course content

This is a two year course with an emphasis in Year one on technical skills, alongside risk taking and creativity. There are a number of practical projects concentrating on visual literacy in various forms of the photographic medium which includes: pin-hole cameras, black and white darkroom processes, studio lighting and digital imaging. Students are required to develop a critical understanding of the works of significant photographic artists through research and referencing, as well as developing practical and technical knowledge. It is hoped that a number of exciting and beautiful images will be made during the course.

Year two starts in the summer term with a series of illustrated lectures on the history of photography. Students are required to write up their notes to be displayed in their sketchbooks, and eventually to choose a topic for further personal research and study. This culminates in a 3000 word illustrated essay called the ‘Personal Investigation’. The first draft of this essay must be presented at the start of year 13 as a requirement of rejoining the course. The final, professionally printed Personal Investigation must be completed by half term in October, along with a personal practical project that in some way links to the written study. For the remainder of the course, students are then expected to initiate ideas around their own personal interests and, liaise with staff, manage their time well and fully research and back up their ideas outside of the lessons. At this level the teacher’s role switches from ‘instructor’ to ‘adviser’ and ‘facilitator’.  At the end of the course, students should have produced a high quality visual portfolio of photographic images.

Entry requirements

All students must meet the minimum entry requirements which are:

  • a minimum of five GCSE passes at A* to C, plus mathematics and English language at level 4 or above.
  • ECDL or an equivalent IT course where studied. Please note that, where a student wishes to take at least one A level course and has level 2 BTEC qualifications, those level 2 BTEC qualifications can only count for up to a maximum of two of the required GCSE passes at A* to C, or mathematics and English language at level 4 or above.

In addition to the general entrance requirements, the department requires grade C or above for a visual art or design based subject OR, on an individual basis, an interview with art staff.


Year One is not assessed, but each project is internally marked to create a profile of student achievement. There may be opportunity for a mock exam in the summer term as a test of learning strengths, ready for selecting areas of study in Year two.

Year Two is assessed in 2 parts:

  • Personal Investigation: students produce a portfolio of work that evolves from their own interests, critical influences and skills. It includes a 2000 - 3000 word illustrated essay and gallery notebook to support their coursework, worth 60% of the final grade.
  • Externally set task is 15 hours and worth 40% of the final grade

Financial information

Students must provide their own SLR film camera with fully manual settings. (This is a course requirement)

Students may also provide their own digital cameras, either compact or SLR. (It is worth noting at this point that in recent years the most exciting student work has often been produced by students who have learned the craft of traditional film and darkroom techniques.)

Students are also required to provide their own film, black and white photographic paper, and to pay for some colour digital printing. 

In addition, students must provide an A3 sketchbook, and a glue stick.

As part of critical studies in photography, we arrange two trips to major London galleries. 

Future opportunities

Most students interested in a possible career in some aspect of art and design and the creative industries follow a Foundation course in art and design prior to applying for specialist courses at a higher level.  However, in recent years we have seen a rise in students gaining direct entry to degree courses in a wide variety of art disciplines, especially those relating to photography, film-making, digital arts, graphics, architecture, and new media.

There are many ways a photographer can make a living including in such fields as press and photojournalism, fashion and celebrity, weddings and studio portraits, sports, music, landscape and travel, and food.  Studio based advertising photography can be particularly lucrative.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Sharnbrook Academy directly.

Last updated date: 27 October 2017

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