Photography Degrees | Top Universities

If you’re fascinated by the idea of capturing and editing images and want to develop both your technical skills and your creative, social and cultural understanding, a photography degree could be for you, allowing you to develop your portfolio and stand out when applying for photography jobs.

Read on for information on typical photography course structures, specializations, careers and key skills. 

Typically offered as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Photography, undergraduate photography courses will encourage you to broaden your awareness and take new approaches in photography. You will be encouraged to create a portfolio that reflects your own unique style, and will develop your understanding of light, space, composition, colour, technique and context. 

Photography degrees


Your first year will introduce you to fundamental technologies and techniques in digital and analogue photography, moving on in the second year to more independent work, as you increase your awareness of key themes, ideas and theories in contemporary practice. Your final year is likely to involve a range of independent projects, a stronger emphasis on research, and perhaps a work placement or exhibition.

Many universities offer industry-standard studios and equipment to help students gain practical experience. Courses usually include a mix of practical inductions, tutorials, seminars, lectures, workshops, group work and independent projects. You may also participate in organized field trips or exhibition visits.

Many photography degrees also cover skills such as promotional copy and artist statements, to help you succeed when applying for photography jobs.

Photography courses are not typically assessed with exams, so you’ll instead be assessed using presentations, portfolio reviews, essays and projects. Most BA Photography degrees culminate in a dissertation or final project – a research-intensive piece of work which should bring together the skills and understanding you’ve developed during the course.

Entry requirements

You won’t typically need to have previously studied photography, but it would be useful to have some background knowledge, and/or have previously studied relevant creative subjects such as art or design.

Many universities will require you to submit a portfolio of work as part of your application, usually in digital form. Universities will state their exact requirements, but generally you should be able to explain (perhaps at an admissions interview) what has inspired and influenced you, and outline your artistic and photographic interests. Don’t worry if your technique is still at a basic level – admissions officers will be looking for potential, not just expertise.

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Here are some examples of specialized photography courses you might like to consider:



Merging photography with film studies, this specialization is concerned with the art of photography and camerawork in film-making. In a cinematography course, you’ll be encouraged to pursue independent thinking and new media technologies whilst gaining the relevant technical knowledge in managing light, composition, focus and camera to tell a story in a motion picture. You’ll also improve your creative proficiency in developing the final product in sync with a director’s vision.

Commercial photography 

Commercial photography

This specialization draws on other common photography specializations such as fashion photography, architectural photography and product photography, focusing on the use of photography in marketing materials such as advertisements, websites, brochures and catalogs.  In this course, you’ll gain an understanding of how to create powerful imagery to make an impact for brands and campaigns, and how to find relevant photography jobs in the industry of your choice.



If you like keeping up with current affairs and would like to use your photography skills to help tell news stories and highlight social issues, this specialization could be for you. You’ll develop your understanding of the historical, cultural and professional contexts behind photojournalism and documentary photography. You’ll also be introduced to the techniques of photo-essays, the combination of image and text, and the creation of visual narratives with moving images and multimedia.

Nature photography 

Nature photography

Nature photography, offered in courses such as Marine & Natural History Photography and Wildlife Media, is ideal for students who are fascinated by animals and landscapes, and keen to capture stunning natural images. You’ll be taught through a combination of field trips, technical workshops, photography and scientific excursions, lectures, seminars and tutorials, combining theoretical knowledge with practical skills.

Other specializations you could choose for your BA in Photography degree include: fine art photography, documentary photography, travel photography, photographic sciences and portrait photography.

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On graduating with your BA in Photography degree, you will have gained a range of strong technical and theoretical skills that can be put to good use in photography careers.

To increase your employment prospects, it’s important to have a strong portfolio of work to show employers, which you can enhance by completing work experience or volunteer work. Working as an assistant is a common way to break into the industry – as a photographer’s assistant, or in a related field such as graphic design or art direction.

Here are some possible photography careers you could pursue following your degree:



If you’ve studied a photography degree it’s a fair bet to say you’re interested in becoming a professional photographer! In this role you’ll use a range of photographic equipment to capture images to the brief provided by your client or employer, for artistic, commercial, technical, documentary or personal uses. The majority of photographers are self-employed and specialize in one area, such as advertising, corporate, fashion, social photography (such as weddings or family photos) or fine art.

Your tasks will vary depending on the type of photography you choose to specialize in, but generally you will work with clients to discuss their requirements; seek appropriate photographic subjects and opportunities; carry out research and planning for shoots; work in different situations and locations to get the right image; direct photographic subjects; and develop your expertise in editing software to digitally enhance your work. If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to market yourself through your website and other promotional materials.

To become a professional photographer, it’s essential to demonstrate commitment, perseverance and significant work experience in the form of an impressive portfolio, which you can use to highlight your abilities and recent work. Many photography jobs receive little advertising, so it’s also essential to make contacts in the industry and take advantage of any opportunity to have your work published.

Other possible photography careers

Graphic designer 

Graphic designer


Your BA in Photography degree would also be useful for a role as a graphic designer, in which you’ll help to give organizations a visual brand. You’ll work from established design briefs to develop ideas and concepts to convey the visual impact and message required by the client for use in media products such as magazines, labels, advertising and signage, and work as part of a team of other professionals, such as copywriters and illustrators. To become a graphic designer, you should again have a strong portfolio to show employers, and have knowledge of design software such as Photoshop and InDesign.

Photography careers in media and publishing 

Camera operator


If you’ve got a passion for current affairs you could seek work as a press photographer or photojournalist, using your creative flair and technical abilities to capture news, current events and lifestyle stories. If you’re interested in working on the set of a film or television show, you might like to work as a camera operator, in which you’ll combine the use of complex technology with creative visual skills to produce the shots required by the director. Your skills would also be valued in a range of marketing and publishing roles, including photography, picture editing, design and art direction.

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Key Skills

Typical skills gained from BA in Photography courses include:

  • Critical, analytical and practical problem-solving
  • Creative flair
  • Ability to find the best settings and placement for images
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong technical skills in lighting, editing software and camera equipment
  • Ability to critically reflect on and evaluate your work
  • Organization, planning and time management skills
  • Ability to work both independently and in a team
  • Presentation skills
  • Literary communication skills, including technical descriptions, reports, essays and research projects
  • Ability to communicate concepts, narratives and moods through photographs
  • Contextual awareness
  • Self-marketing skills