A Level Photography


Show us the world as you experience it. By studying photography, you’ll learn how other photographers communicate their world – exploring their ideas and feelings, in contrast to your own. As you build your skills in a range of darkroom, film-based and digital techniques, you will develop your ideas to create work that connects with others.

Why St Mary’s

Enjoy creating in your own personal workspace in our Sixth Form Studio, part of our dedicated Art and Photography Centre @ No.47 Bateman Street, with access to exceptional facilities including:

  • Digital art suite with Adobe Professional Creative Suite
  • Professional cameras and lenses (Nikon-D series DSLR, Polaroid and Analogue Film)
  • Professional lighting studio
  • Photographic darkroom

Our enriched learning opportunities include:

  • Portfolio and careers advice from Norwich University of the Arts
  • Photographer's workshops with professionals such as Cat Goryn
  • Visit to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and Fitzwilliam Museum.
  • Prestigious competitions such as Beyond the Frame, Rotary Club Young Photographer and Cambridge University Sociology Photography
  • University of Cambridge events and lectures
  • Regular additional teacher surgeries to support your progress
  • Photography and Digital Art Club

Enabling your transition from GCSE

Your course will begin with a theme-based curriculum, which builds technical skills and explores different concepts. We also run a series of tutorials on developing digital editing techniques.

Throughout your course, you will have access to teacher support sessions at lunchtime (four days a week), plus evening sessions (two days a week).

Course overview

A Level Photography

Component 1 - Personal investigation

The component incorporates three major elements: supporting studies, practical work, and a written personal study.

Supporting studies and practical work will comprise a portfolio of development work and outcomes based on themes and ideas developed from personal starting points. For the purposes of this qualification, photography is sub-divided into the following three disciplines:

  • film-based photography
  • digital photography
  • film and video

Your personal investigation will be evidenced and supported by a critical essay, involving contextual research and a visual analysis. This must be a minimum of 1000 words of continuous prose, which can contain integrated images.

Component 2 - Externally set assignment

In addition to completing a 15-hour examination piece, you will produce and submit preparatory studies which show the development of your final piece/s as part of their photographic submission. You may choose to produce work in one or more disciplines.


You will be assessed on two core elements:

  • Personal investigation (60% of the A Level grade)
  • Externally set assignment (40% of the A Level grade)

For A Level Photography, Component 1 and Component 2 are internally assessed. External moderation takes place at the end of the course when all units of work are presented in the form of an exhibition.

Visit our Sixth Form

A Level Photography Exhibition 2022

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At a glance
  • Syllabus: Edexcel (9PY0)
  • Portfolio assessment
  • Externally set assessment
  • Small class sizes
  • Award-winning department
  • Exceptional facilities
  • Unique enrichment opportunities

Entry requirements

GCSE grades (or equivalent)

  • Subject 1: English Language: 6+ (CEFR B2.2) or Art-endorsed subject e.g. Textiles: 6+ (iGCSE B)
  • Or portfolio submission (essential for international students)
You will enjoy this course if you ...
  • Have a creative, enquiring mind
  • Enjoy exploring and communicating new ideas
  • Appreciate the visual world
  • Are keen to develop your skills and techniques
  • Enjoy using technology
  • Like working with others
  • Have a problem-solving approach

What our teachers say...

“Photography is not only a beautiful art form, it is also an extremely valuable form of recording history, culture and society; it is a form of communication that has become the most widely used in the world and is universally recognisable.”

“You don’t have to sort of enhance reality. There is nothing stranger than truth.” Annie Leibovitz

We are bombarded with images in daily life. It is easy to think we have become so de-sensitised to visuals that nothing can move us into action. At St Mary’s we believe photography can bring a better understanding of the world.

Photography offers a window into worlds we cannot witness first-hand. It promotes change by communicating and documenting events. Some photographers turn their lens towards the disenfranchised, raising awareness of inequality, whilst others capture moments of unbridled beauty. Both artists inform us about the world and its communities.

Past St Mary’s students have gone on to study at leading further education institutions including UCL, Leeds Arts University, Norwich University for the Arts, London College of Communication and Southampton University.

Beyond that, our students have embarked on careers in diverse related fields including: graphic design, communications and advertising, web design, animation and photography.

Leaver destinations

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Our results

Achieve the results you need to fulfil your dreams.

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