Undergraduate course

Photography BA (Hons)

Develop your professional identity as a storyteller in the world of visual language.

Study Photography with us to build your professional skills and explore and challenge contemporary ideas of image making today. Engage with studio practice through traditional and contemporary approaches to image creation and discover your individual photographic interests through practical and conceptual experimentation.

  • Available in Clearing

100% of Photography students said that the course provided them with opportunities to explore ideas or concepts in depth (NSS 2019)

  • UCAS Code – W64W
  • Location – York campus
  • Duration – 3 years full-time | 6 years part-time
  • Start date – September 2019, September 2020
  • School – Art, Design & Computer Science

Minimum Entry Requirements

    96 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2019-20 £9,250 per year

    International 2019-20 £12,750 per year

The York St John Experience

Course overview

On this course we give you the freedom to explore your artistic interests and to understand the impact of your photography within society.

You will identify a professional direction completely unique to you and your work, guided by experts in the field. Developing your skills in industry-standard studio spaces and photographic facilities, you will have access to invaluable technical support that will inform your photography practice.

Course Structure

Level 1

Your first year of studying Photography BA (Hons) aims to provide an induction to the processes, materials and practices of Photography. You will centre your learning on the core techniques of both digital and darkroom photography, creating images under both studio controlled lighting conditions and also outside the studio, working with a range of cameras and technologies. The teaching will then progress to look at the fundamental genres of photography such as documentary, art, editorial and fashion photography, giving you the opportunity to apply and understand your practice within these contexts.

All through this process you will contextualise and critique your own work, the work of your peers and the work of professionals. You will begin to understand photography as storytelling through constructing and sequencing images, and contextualising your work with professional examples. Through this progressive development you will have an emerging sense of your personal approach as a reflective photographer. Alongside the studio modules, the Critical Contexts module provides a foundational knowledge in the key theories and histories of Photography, alongside other art forms. You will investigate topics and create essays and research projects which illuminate your understanding of these practices and contexts.

Also within Critical Contexts, you will begin to construct a personal reflective portfolio in which you will consider all your work, both practical and theoretical, and consider the connections, meanings and implications of this work for your future practice. This portfolio will be regularly reviewed with your academic tutor and tutor group and you will start to make judgements about the future direction of your studies.

Modules include:

  • Critical Contexts 1 & 2: A series of lectures, seminars and studio-based sessions will introduce you to the history and theory of photography and unfold key critical debates that define Photography as a distinctive area of practice. The study of these fundamental theories, histories and practices debated within the evolving context of visual art culture, will lay a good foundation for the Critical Enquiry module during the second year of study. (20 credits each)
  • Photography Fundamentals: This module provides the key induction into the conceptual, technical and material practices of Photography at York St John University. You will experiment, learn and apply technical skills that constitute fundamental principles and practices in their subject.  This will centre on both analogue and digital processes, studio and location photography, digital imaging and darkroom skills, using a range of processes of image creation. Ongoing critique will deconstruct and contextualise the processes and images produced in relation to your creative, conceptual, technical and practice-led development. (40 credits)
  • Photography Explorations: Photography Exploration enables you to achieve a deeper understanding of the diverse techniques and approaches to photography. The exploratory process takes the technical foundations established in the photography fundamentals module and applies them within more focused projects engaging with concepts, genres and audiences in contexts such as social documentary, editorial, narrative and performance photography. (40 credits)

Level 2

Level 2 is intended to help you develop a more detailed knowledge and understanding of Photography through theory and practice building upon the work you have undertaken in Level 1. You will refine your practice in both studio and real world contexts, exploring the relationship to people, places and social narratives in more depth. Reflecting on your work using the lens of the different genres of photography will be key to furthering your understanding of your own practice. This will be developed through tutor led projects, live projects with external partners and the opportunity to initiate and develop your own projects.

Alongside the studio modules you will continue to build your skills and research and enquiry through the Critical Enquiry module which will enable you to learn diverse approaches to research and develop your own voice as a researcher. You will also continue to develop and review your reflective portfolio making connections between theory, practice and also external professional practice considering the impact of work related learning opportunities undertaken through the year. Students who wish to study away for a semester during Level 2 will undertake (at York St John University, in the semester preceding or following their time away) 20 credits of Critical Enquiry (1 or 2) which still provides a holistic overview of the learning through the level, including the experience of studying away, but appropriately adjusts the submission requirements accordingly. Students studying away will also normally only undertake either Photography Practice & Development or Photography Exposition.

Modules include:

  • Critical Enquiry 1 & 2: This module explores the role of photography as a creative activity, process and method of enquiry. This quest is not limited to one practice but spans across a wide range of research methodologies relating to photography, performance, moving image, installation and also pedagogic research.  This wide context of influences is designed to encourage you to think about creative practice as a form of practice-led research, which has the potential to develop a range of creative outcomes. As a result of this engagement your understanding of photographic practice will be challenged beyond the form of still photographic image to include a range of kinaesthetic and audio-visual derivatives. (20 credits each)
  • Photography Practice & Development: Photography Practice and Development takes the learning and practice established in your first year modules and begins the process of orientating and situating this practice in a wider professional context. A programme of projects will be offered which enables you to deepen and apply your photographic practice in specialised industry placements and advanced studio based, cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary contexts. Project possibilities will include live projects with external partners and tutor led projects, all of which are intended to enable you to develop a deeper understanding of industry standards according to which you will respond and situate your practice through a cycle of action and reflection, which will be documented in your portfolio. (40 credits)
  • Photography Exposition: Photography Exposition aims to position your practice as a photographer through an extended engagement with the emergent specialised focus you have identified through previous studio modules. This sense of specialisation is set in an emerging professional context and the photographic industry, which enables you to test out applications of your practice through engaging an audience with your work. Through this engagement you will achieve a greater refinement of your practice and an enhanced focus for the direction that you wish to pursue as part of your final year. (40 credits)

Level 3

In your final year you will be operating as an independent and autonomous thinking Photography practitioner, demonstrating increasing sophistication and critical judgements through practice, critique and reflection. You will also encounter ideas and debates at the leading edge of research which situate Photography as an interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary practice. You will further develop your skills and knowledge through undertaking an independent piece of research to explore innovative ideas through a variety of both practical and theoretical based methods of your choice. You will refine your Photography practice in an interdisciplinary context through advanced studio practice. The Situated Professional Practice module will enable you to situate and direct your ambitions into a professional future after graduation.


Modules include:

  • Independent Research Project: The independent research project enables you to devise, direct, develop and conclude a piece of sustained and rigorous research.  The beginnings of this investigation are to be found in the encounters with both practice and/or theory that have shaped your studies. Their research ‘question’ will emerge through a prolonged and nuanced engagement with the practices and discursive debates that surround their chosen area of enquiry. (30 credits)
  • Advanced Studio Practice: This module enables and requires you to operate as an autonomous practitioner to direct a body of work that builds on the skills, knowledge and expertise.  Through experimentation, critique and reflection, you will find your own personal voice as a practitioner in your chosen specialism. Crucially this work will be developed into a portfolio of work and at least one public exhibition. (60 credits)
  • Situated Propfessional Practice: This Professional Orientation Module enables you to apply your skills, knowledge and experience to a professional direction and accelerate their exit velocity into graduate professional practice. Crucially this module requires you to form professional relationships with external practitioners to research within the specific professional situations. (30 credits)

Teaching & assessment


Your practice based learning will take place within the University, in studios and workshops (both practical and critical); externally through live projects, work based learning placements, internships; and virtually through digital engagement on the web, in online archives, social media and through University digital platforms such as Moodle (Virtual Learning Environment) and forms which you will author such as your online portfolio. All these sites of learning integrate to stimulate and support your development as a reflective Photography practitioner.

Teaching methods


Teaching activities are focused on an interactive engagement with you and your work. You will have regular informal tutorials in studio as well as regular formal portfolio review tutorials. Seminars and reading groups will engage you in critical debates, and workshops will engage you in skills development. Skilled technicians and technical tutors will also support your work through workshops and informal tutoring. A programme of visiting speakers, including international speakers through remote link up will connect you to current thinking, research and practice in Photography and related disciplines.



A key interactive mode of learning is the critique or “crit” where a group of peers, tutors or professionals will engage in a collective discussion about your work. You will participate in many crits of others works and also experience others critiquing your work. This is an important focus for development as it allows multiple voices to give a rounded view of your practice.

Portfolio & assessment

One of the crucial ways that you develop as an independent practitioner is through assessment and evaluation. During the programme you will experience a range of approaches to assessment. You will experience assessment of your work by tutors, peers and also your own self assessments which ultimately are the most important as they demonstrate your own understanding of your practice. Assessment should be an ongoing dialogue which is centred on your work whether practical or theoretical; this dialogue is captured in your reflective portfolio.

Formative assessment is always focused on identifying your strengths and areas for development in order to focus your personal, academic and professional development. You will initiate and maintain a reflective portfolio which captures all your learning and enables you to make connections on your work within the curriculum and also externally to give a holistic perspective on your practice and direction. You will have regular one-to-one or small group tutorials centred on your portfolio with your academic tutor; this will collate formative assessment responses from all projects and activities happening in the review period as well as your self-evaluations of these activities in order to discuss and agree feedforward actions for you to develop your practice. Assessments will use the University assessment matrix which accounts for a range of assessment criteria in order to make it clear where your strengths and areas for development are.

Summative assessments usually take place at the end of the module and reflect the cumulative body of work that you have undertaken during the module and which is reflected in a numerical mark. This cumulative approach is intended to enable you to respond to feedback and develop your work.. It is also intended to encourage you to take risks with your work in the knowledge that you can reflect, refine and redirect your practice following formative feedback. For this reason, modules will formally end with some form of collection, exhibition or portfolio review which enables the work to be summarised and assessed. This will usually provide an opportunity to discuss and clarify your work to an audience of tutors and/or peers.


Entry Requirements


The minimum entry requirements for this course are:

96 UCAS Tariff points

3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language

Personal statement

Essential criteria

As well as a strong standard of written English, we also look for the ability to demonstrate knowledge and commitment to the subject. This can be done in a variety of ways, for example, through previous study or wider reading.

Valued criteria

Candidates can demonstrate a real enthusiasm for the subject that goes beyond achieving good grades in exams. Examples of this include further study, career plans and transferrable skills such as time management.

Portfolio interview

A portfolio must include a selection of up to 20 images that you feel best illustrate your skills and most importantly, your passion for photography. Although you are welcome to present a digital portfolio, it is best practice that you present a portfolio of large photographic prints A4 or A3 size. You are also welcome to bring a sketchbook and a written piece of work.

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. These can be accessed through our Admissions webpages.


Fees and funding

To study for an undergraduate degree with us, you will need to pay tuition fees for your course. How much you pay will depend on whether you're a UK & EU student or an international (non-EU) student. Tuition fees are charged for each year of your course.

Find out more about funding for Foundation Year and/or Placement Year by visiting the Funding Advice pages of our website. York St John offer special reductions to students graduating from York St John University Undergraduate degrees in 2019 and continuing directly onto Postgraduate study. Find out more about discounts and scholarships. There may also be some additional costs to take into account throughout your studies, including the cost of accommodation

Tuition fees

Home / EU students

The York St John University tuition fee for the 2019 entry to Foundation Degree, BA and BSc, PGCE Primary and Secondary and UG Health Programme degrees is £9,250 per year for UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

Overseas students

The York St John University tuition fee for the 2019 entry to Foundation Degree, BA and BSc, PGCE degrees is £12,750 per year for international students.

Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

Funding your course

Additional costs and financial support


Whilst studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.


For more information on tuition fee reductions and additional costs for studying abroad, please visit our study abroad webpages.



View our accommodation webpages for detailed information on accommodation and living costs.


Help and advice on funding your studies at York St John is available through our Money Advice service.

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