Art & Design – Photography Pathway

Graphics & 3D and Photography pathways may be delivered together in Year 12 and/or Year 13
Why study Photography?

This course allows students to develop their photography skills in a number of diverse and experimental ways. This is a creative course, with the emphasis on practical project work, supported by analytical and written elements throughout. You will learn digital photography techniques, digital editing skills in programmes such as Photoshop, learn how to use the photography studio as well as a range of experimental image making techniques.

Why study Photography at Solihull Sixth Form College?
  • Students have gone on to study Marine and Natural History Photography at Falmouth University, Photography at Birmingham City University & University of West of England, Bristol and Graphic Design at Nottingham Trent University.
  • You will have the opportunity to collaborate on a live brief with a client from the commercial industry, working with a professional photographer, gaining invaluable vocational experience. Recent briefs have come from Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe and Fleur de Lis florists.
  • Gallery visits will help inform your contextual investigation and support your idea generation. In previous years, students have visited places such as Tate Modern and The Photographer’s Gallery. An overseas trip to visit galleries and museums in a major European city is also open to all Visual Arts students – in 2016 this trip was to Paris, in 2017 it was to Barcelona and Rome in 2018.
  • Several internal and international competitions will give you the chance to showcase your work throughout the course. Your end of Year 12 and Year 13 final outcomes will be exhibited in the department’s end of year exhibition. You will be supported in developing a portfolio of your work throughout the year which will aid your progression in to both HE and/or employment.
Course Outline

Year 12
The specification allows for an introductory, skills based period where students’ work will not be externally assessed. This is a time for experiencing the opportunity of working with a wide and exciting range of materials, media and processes. You will develop a foundation of skills such as use of a DSLR camera (shutter speed, aperture, DoF, ISO etc.), use of Photoshop (layers, image manipulation techniques etc.) as well as industry based programmes such as Lightroom. You will be supported by your teachers, who will be preparing you for the challenge of the personal investigation project, which you will start later on in the year and continue with in Year 13. You will be introduced to a range of contextual inspirations and will develop skills in research and analysis in order to support your practical investigation.

Year 13
The second year is split into two components; the personal investigation project that will be completed by January, and the externally-set assignment, which runs from the start of February to the handing-in day in the middle of May. Both of these projects will be an opportunity for you to follow a personal direction, building on your individual strengths, interests and future progression goals.

Personal Investigation: The personal investigation project, which is practical by nature, leads to a final piece(s) and is supported by a compulsory written element that links the work of other practitioners to the project. In this component you are in charge and with our support you will produce a portfolio of work that reflects your strengths and interests. You will be encouraged to work in a variety of ways, exploring fully the subject you have chosen. This component will require you to work within 2 areas of study e.g. Photography with Graphics or Photography with Textiles.

The Externally Set Assignment: Similar to the last component, but working from a series of starting points set by AQA, you will produce a portfolio of work that leads to a final piece(s), produced in exam conditions. This work will be personal to you and can be produced using techniques and materials that you have chosen. Students, by this stage, are independent learners who work alongside the teachers in the department to realise their ambitions and be given support with their chosen progression pathway.
You will be expected to develop your work both during formal lessons and in your own time. The department operates an open door policy, encouraging students to return during private study time and work independently in the studios. This course can be tailored to your needs and aspirations, providing a first rate grounding for progression to university and/or employment. You will work within just areas of study for this component (Photography).


The Personal Investigation (Coursework) – 60%
Externally-set Assignment (Exam) – 40%
Examining Board – AQA.

Special Entry Requirements

A GCSE or equivalent qualification at grade 4 or above in Art, Graphics, Textiles, Design and Technology or Media is essential. However, it is not essential to have studied Photography before. Students must be prepared to work hard and have a passion for this subject. A personal approach is encouraged throughout the course and it is expected that students will work in their own time to independently develop their projects. In addition, standard A level entry requirements apply.

Prohibited Options

Students can only study on one pathway (Graphics & 3D Design, Photography or Fine Art). For this reason, students interested in 2 or more pathways would be best suited to the BTEC Art & Design course.

What do our students go on to do?

Students wishing to go onto an Art or Design career, can progress straight on to specialist degree level courses or in some cases take an Art Foundation course for one year. We are very successful at placing our students on these courses. We also aim to provide students with relevant employability skills to support progression in the work place. Through the year, ex-students visit to share their experiences of progression both at HE and in employment. We also host a wide range of talks from universities and professionals.

Cost Implications

The College supplies most materials that you will need during your lessons, including DSLR cameras that can also be borrowed outside of lesson time. However, students will need to buy their own quality inkjet paper, specialist pens and sketchbooks. Please note, this course requires students to purchase electronic storage devices (such as an external hard drive) to save and store large files and an SD card for use in the DSLR cameras. A Photography Starter Pack is available to buy from the technician which will include some of the items above at cost price. Students will not be able to save large files onto the College IT network so we advise that students also back up these files via online Cloud storage such as Microsoft OneDrive to ensure their files are secure. In both Y12 and Y13, students are required to attend a compulsory local visit. This ensures all students are able to experience a gallery/museum setting to develop their practical and contextual understanding. Trips and visits usually cost between £20 and £30. An optional overseas trip to visit galleries and museums in a major European city is also open to all Visual Arts students and this usually cost about £650.

This information is correct for September 2020 entry.

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