BA (Hons) Commercial Photography


Program Description

Applying to study with us in September 2021?

Our BA (Hons) Commercial Photography course will help you succeed in today's dynamic and competitive photographic industry. From lighting and framing a dramtic fashion shot to visualising concepts for advertising campaigns, commericial photography has the power to influence and inspire. This course will help you succeed in today's dynamic and competitive photohraphic industry, providing you with the knowledge and skills to succeed, combining visual awareness and innovation with technical exellence, professional understanding and business skills.

This course will equip you with advanced technical skills in studio and lovation lighting, digital capture and post-production techniques. This is an intergrated prgramme of study with industry-oriented assignments, hands-on workshops and expert tution using sophisticated camera and lighting equipment. You will also develop your industry inkowledge and professional skills to enable you to find work in high-end commericial photographic practice. 

This programme has been designed for the next generation of visually expressive commercial photographers.

Practical industry-oriented assignments, supported with expert tuition and hands-on workshops using sophisticated camera and lighting equipment, will also develop your technical skills.

You’ll be working with and alongside our expert teaching and technical team, as well as practitioners from the industry who’ll help you to develop the confidence to respond to client briefs while demonstrating excellent creative and professional skills.

In your second year, you’ll work with real clients to build up a strong, professional portfolio.

Our strong international connections also allow our students to take a semester of study with one of our partner institutions within Europe and North America, and in turn, we welcome overseas students from those institutions to join us in our studios, creating an exciting cultural exchange.

We create an environment in which commercial photographers can develop their professional practice and gain a wide range of skills and knowledge, enabling them to shape their futures and make a positive impact in the photographic industries – photographers who are visually sophisticated and professionally astute as well as technically proficient, who understand trends in the industry and how to pitch for business, and who graduate with a broad range of transferable skills that enable them to succeed within the world of work.

What will I achieve?

We provide a distinctive and contemporary programme of study in a learning environment where students with a range of aspirations can flourish creatively, academically and professionally.

Our curriculum is geared to employability and enterprise. We provide opportunities for professional engagement and vocational work-based learning, giving students the specialist knowledge and skills to pursue their career ambitions in a range of commercial photographic contexts.

We help students to acquire a broad range of entrepreneurial abilities in marketing, self- promotion and business development, enabling them to develop financially sustainable practices, and the ability to thrive in the industry.

We also help students acquire the skills, attitudes and behaviours that enable them to apply their learning confidently in different situations, both within the field of photographic practice and in wider creative, professional and collaborative contexts.

We develop photographers who are technically proficient, visually sophisticated and professionally astute – who understand trends in the industry, how to pitch for business, and who graduate with a broad range of transferable skills that enable them to succeed in the creative industries.

Thinking & making

Study with us and you’ll expand your critical approach alongside developing skills in research and analysis. Our academically robust and intellectually stimulating degree programmes are delivered by our team of academics, technical demonstrators and invited experts who together deliver excellence in learning, teaching and assessment. Our programmes encourage diversity in thinking and making - from practical applications through to reflective, analytical writing.

We provide a dynamic, stimulating learning environment from which to test new models of practice while investing in the rich relationship between practice and theory - based on the potential in material and visual exploration, collaborative working, cross-fertilisation of ideas, and the exploration of histories and contemporary contexts.

Opportunities for studying abroad are available at our partner institutions.

BA (Hons) Commercial Photography

  • Acquire a range of technical, intellectual, creative and professional skills appropriate to the commercial photographic industry.
  • Learn how to generate ideas, concepts, and creative solutions to client briefs using the visual language, techniques and processes of photography.
  • Apply appropriate subject knowledge, tools, and working methods with a high level of confidence, creativity and technical skills.
  • Operate professionally in a range of commercial photographic contexts, maintaining high standards in professional practice and ethical conduct.
  • Develop a broad range of personal, professional and transferable skills that will maximise your potential for employment and/or successful commercial enterprise in the creative industries.
  • Through our affiliation with the prestigious Association of Photographers (AOP), students can apply for free student membership.


Year 1

  • Unit 1: Method & Materials
  • Unit 2: Encountering Place
  • Unit 3: Exploring Subject
  • Unit 4: Platforms of Exhcange 

Year 2

  • Unit 1: Speculative Strategies
  • Unit 2: Global Challenges
  • Unit 3: Ideas & Audience
  • Unit 4: Emergent Practice

Year 3

  • Unit 1: Research & Development
  • Unit 2: Publication
  • Unit 3: Positioning Practice
  • Unit 4: Final Project

Module details listed above are indicative content only.

All modules listed are compulsory.

Careers & alumni

Connecting you with industry

The commercial focus of our programme includes excellent business and professional practice sessions and the opportunity to work on live briefs, and work placements with a wide range of businesses.

Our curriculum includes a rich schedule of visiting lecturers and photographers, many of whom also take an active role in running practical workshops, contributing to group critiques and seminar discussions, and providing portfolio review sessions. And we are regularly visited by talented photography alumni, with graduates including Harry Borden, Suki Dhanda, Tom Oldham and Candice Farmer. Some also provide work placement and assisting opportunities.

Students also have the opportunity to attend the annual Visual Culture Symposium in London, where previous speakers have included picture editors from the Telegraph and the Guardian, and acclaimed photographers such as Julia Fullerton-Batten, Scarlet Paige and Seamus Ryan.

From the day you start on this programme, you will automatically become a member of the prestigious Association of Photographers (AOP) through the college.

Recent graduates:

  • Andy Ford: – Freelance photographer for NME, Kerrang, Converse, SoccerBible
  • Grace Elizabeth Clarke:
  • Irina Iljina:
  • Taylor Harford:
  • Codie Hobbs: – Fashion photographer
  • Tony Cobley: – Commercial photographer

Graduates become:

  • Commercial Photographers
  • Fashion Photographers
  • Advertising Photographers
  • Editorial Photographers
  • Digital Retouchers
  • Digital Editors
  • Photographic Assistants
  • Picture Editors
  • Publishers
  • Lecturers/Teachers

‘Careers & Enterprise in the Curriculum’ at Plymouth College of Art 

Professional practice is embedded within all of our programmes.  Throughout your studies, you will have the opportunity to develop the key professional, transferable skills for employability in the creative industries and potentially work in partnership with other sectors locally, regionally, nationally or internationally.

From writing and making the most of your CV to gaining industry experience, the acquisition of professional skills has been written into the programmes of study by our staff teams, who have ‘real world’ experience. They are also supported by our Industry Liaison Groups, who help inform the development of the higher education curriculum.

Our students say

Andy Ford – BA (Hons) Photography graduate

"I think studying has really changed the way I think about my work. I think in terms of projects now, rather than singular images. And I’m more questioning of why I make work in the first place.

"One of my first major projects was shooting the South West’s punk and hardcore scene. I came to it when there was a lot of energy around it, and studying my degree made me think about the significance of the scene as an interesting cultural thing, rather than an opportunity to take fun photos of my friends jumping off a speaker unit.

"Being able to place ideas in a wider historical context of photography has influenced my work. You see a lot of really superficial ideas or things that have been done a million times from people who think they're being really original. A lot of these people haven't really studied photography. Having an academic understanding of your work gives it a lot more depth. It influences the way you think and speak about it."

Heather Cleese – BA (Hons) Commercial Photography

"When I first came to the college I felt a little unprepared, but I got over that very quickly because the teachers are so great. They really help you, and always allocate time for you if you need a tutorial.

"All of the students are really friendly. I guess we’re all in the same position as each other – wanting to learn as much as we can.

"The course allows you to work collaboratively with other students and we often assist each other on shoots, and through that, you make great relationships and friendships."

Last updated Nov 2020

About the School

Founded in 1856, Plymouth College of Art is an art school run by artists and designers for artists and designers. We are home to a dynamic, cross-disciplinary community of makers and thinkers for whom ... Read More

Founded in 1856, Plymouth College of Art is an art school run by artists and designers for artists and designers. We are home to a dynamic, cross-disciplinary community of makers and thinkers for whom making is as important as reading and writing, and where the purpose of learning is inseparable from that of living your life. A place for making things, and making things happen. For making a difference. Read less