A level Photography

What is the A level about?

Photography is about looking, learning, thinking and exploring ideas and using the camera to capture the world as you see it. Our course offers pupils the freedom to explore a wide range of ideas through the development of camera skills, photographic techniques, media and processes. As well as learning to use digital editing software (particularly Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop) pupils will also be expected to develop a personal sketchbook or digital presentations to document their work. Pupils will explore relevant images, artefacts and other contextual resources to develop critical and analytical skills to broaden their knowledge and understanding of the different photographic styles, genres and traditions. Teaching and learning takes place within small groups, supported by one-to one guidance. This allows pupils to discover their own strengths and explore and develop ideas of particular personal interest.


Lower Sixth

  • Introduction to basic camera skills
  • Introduction to the Visual Elements
  • Introduction to Adobe Suite Software
  • Responding to the Photographic Genres 
  • Responding to the Assessment Objectives through own practice 
  • Contextual studies and response. Written analysis.
  • Introduction to the Personal Investigation. Pupils begin A level course

Upper Sixth

  • Component 1: Personal Investigation supported by 3,000 word essay (60%)
  • Component 2: Externally Set Assignment (40%)


  • AO1: Develop ideas through investigations, demonstrating critical understanding of sources.
  • AO2: Refine work by exploring ideas, selecting and experimenting with appropriate media, materials, techniques and processes.
  • AO3: Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to intentions as work progresses.
  • AO4: Present a personal and meaningful response that realises intentions and demonstrates understanding of visual language. 


We organise at least one visit to London per year to visit the major galleries and current exhibitions as well as inviting practising artists to give one-off workshops. We visit local galleries where relevant.


We would recommend that all pupils purchase the publication below at the start of the course: The Beginner’s Photography Guide DK (Dorling Kindersley) £14.99 Amazon

Also useful: Read this if you want to take great photos. Carroll, H. (2014)
The Short Story of Photography-A Pocket Guide to Genres Ian Haydn-Smith (Laurence King Publishing)

The following books are recommendations for further reading from AQA:

  • Understanding a Photograph, Berger, J (2013)
  • New Fashion Photography, Blanks, T (2013) Sloman, P
  • The Photograph: A Visual and Cultural History, Clarke, G (1997)
  • A Complete Guide to Digital Photography, Farrell, I (2011)
  • 20th Century Photography: A complete guide to the greatest artists of the photographic age, Golden, R (2001)
  • Image Makers Image Takers, Jaeger, A - C
  • The Photography Book, Jeffrey, I & Phaidon (2000)
  • Photo 2 (Icons), Koetzle, H M (2002)
  • Story of Photography - For technical skills see Michael Longford’s series of books, Langford, M (1998 edition)
  • The Oxford Companion to Photography, Lenman, R (editor) (2005)
  • Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice, Modrak, Rebekah (2010)
  • A History of Photography from: 1839 to present, Mulligan, T and Wooters, D (2005)
  • The Photo Book History V2, Parr, M and Badger, G (2006)
  • Twentieth Century Colour Photographs, Pénichon, S (2013)
  • Video Art, Rush, M (2003)
  • On Photography, Sontag, S (1979)

Exam Board


Entry Criteria

Grade 6 or above in GCSE Art, DT or ICT. An enthusiasm for the visual arts, independence, resilience, curiosity and imagination. The ability to think critically and analyse images. IT literacy.

For American Program pupils: at least two years of Studio Art or Design courses, maintaining at least a B+ average.

Career Pathways

  • Photographer
  • Film and Digital Media
  • Game Design
  • Fashion Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration
  • Marketing and Media
  • Architecture
  • Publishing
  • Art History
  • Conservation