Course details

Study options

Full-time: 3 Years, Part-time: 6 Years

UK/EU fee

£9,250 per year (2019/20)

International fee

£13,250 per year (2019/20)

UCAS points

112 (September 2019 entry)

UCAS code


Course level



BA (Hons)

Start date



Markeaton Street, Derby Campus

If you do not achieve the typical entry points required, you may want to consider studying this course with foundation year.

View with foundation year optionView with foundation year option

Course description

100%overall satisfaction - BA (Hons) Commercial Photography**National Student Survey 2018
100%graduates in work or further study within 6 months of completing course**HESA 2016

We specialise in two very different courses, BA (Hons) Commercial Photography and BA (Hons) Photography

BA (Hons) Commercial Photography

This course gives you a head start if you’re looking for a job in the image industry or planning to work on a freelance basis.  Our graduates pursue career paths in fashion, advertising, documentary, editorial, and landscape photography, or picture re-touching and manipulation.

Focus on the creative, technical and business expertise you need to succeed as a commercial photographer – on one of the only specialist degrees of its kind in the country. This distinctive course gives you the chance to work commercially from the outset while developing a unique creative vision.

Contemporary commercial photographers are setting the pace for change not only in the way images are captured but also in the way they are used. This course will help you to deliver images of outstanding quality while gaining the skills, vision and confidence to meet the changing demands of the client-based economy. You’ll learn how to deliver creative solutions for an exciting and fluid industry.

This course is centered upon your development as a well-informed and highly creative photographer. You will be encouraged to challenge conventions, break moulds and create your own photographic identity. Our graduates have gone on to be artists, academics, teachers and curators.  


Recent years have seen significant developments in the imaging sector, thanks to the growth and speed of digital technologies. At Derby, you’ll be equipped to harness both new and existing technologies in our high-specification facilities. You’ll hone your skills in an excellent learning environment featuring extensive photographic studios, black and white and colour darkrooms, film processing facilities, dedicated digital suites, and Mac suites offering industry-standard software. We also have a bureau for professional printing of high-quality colour-accurate images and a well-stocked equipment centre from which you can loan an array of specialist resources.

Specialist Equipment

BA (Hons) Photography

Our BA Photography will help you become a highly creative, technically experienced professional. You’ll develop imaginative approaches to image making which will set you apart within the creative, media and arts industries. This Photography course is centred upon your development as a well-informed and highly creative photographer. You will be encouraged to challenge conventions, break moulds and create your own photographic identity.

A student developing photographs in the photography lab.

Photography lab

The Photography lab at Markeaton Street has outstanding facilities that are the envy of many experienced professional photographers.

Take a look at the labTake a look at the lab

What you will study

You will study modules such as:

In the introductory stage of the course, you’ll gain fundamental practical skills in traditional processes, digital imaging and composition, while exploring the potential of the image and the notion of what commercial photography is. You’ll also gain an introduction to Personal Development Planning (PDP) to support your direction as a creative practitioner.  

You'll study modules such as: 

  • Photographic Histories and Theory 
    This module equips you with a critical understanding of the various established approaches to histories of photography and the differing uses of photography. It also considers the visual as a form and method of communication and introduces you to the wider professional world of photography. 

  • Analogue Processes 
    You’ll gain a practical introduction to the technical theory involved in the production of analogue photographic work, from camera controls to traditional processes and printing. 
  • Digital Practice 
    You’ll explore the fundamentals of digital imaging from basic capture and image management, through image adjustment and modification, to arrangement, key-wording and file management.  

  • Visual Strategies
    Building on your technical expertise, this module focuses on process control in the production areas of colour, black and white, and digital photography. The emphasis is on production values and the inter-relationship between idea, process and image. 
  • Photography, Design and Communication 
    This module introduces you to fundamental skills of composition and how it affects interpretation. Working with natural and artificial lighting, you will use line, tone, plane, texture, colour, shape and form to control the content and composition of the image.  

  • Professional Workplace Development 
    You’ll learn how to record and reflect on your progress through a Personal Development Plan. This will include collating an anthology of your visual influences and interests, developing study and employability skills relevant to the photographic sector, and improving your capacity to undertake independent research.

There is a greater emphasis on experimenting with media and ideas as you take on more challenging briefs. You’ll have the opportunity to engage with live projects for clients, take part in competitions and undertake interdisciplinary work by combining technologies.  We will also look at the current business environment for commercial photographers in the UK and Europe.  

You’ll study modules such as: 

  • Contemporary Digital Practice 
    You’ll develop further skills and concepts involved in making digital photographic work, harnessing a range of software for raw image capture and manipulation. The focus is on production values and output quality.  

  • Creative Communication 
    This module encourages you to adopt and realise an independent visual concept and style, working within the confines of a set brief to communicate different ideas to an audience. You’ll also develop further skills in lighting to underpin your experimentation.  
  • Business and Professional Practice 
    Examining the current business environment for photographers in the UK and Europe, you’ll gain a better appreciation of the realities of working for yourself as a professional practitioner. You’ll produce, present and evaluate a detailed business plan.  
  • Reading Photography 
    Exploring dominant theories and analytical approaches that have informed photography history and criticism, you’ll begin to apply these to your own research topic. You’ll debate some of the key writers and theorists on photography, from nineteenth-century criticism to the present day.   
  • Combined Technologies in Practice (double module) 
    This module offers a practical opportunity to experiment with the combination of different technologies and various formats of analogue photography, digital photography and the moving image. You’ll produce a body of work which reflects that experimentation. 

If you want to gain work experience, you can take an optional work placement between stages two and three to apply your academic knowledge in a work environment. During the placement, you'll study an additional qualification, the Diploma in Professional Practice, which features modules such as: 

  • Applied Professional Practice 
    This module enables you to relate your academic knowledge to the work environment. It also provides a framework for you to develop skills relevant to all areas of professional practice, including objective setting, planning, negotiating, implementing, demonstrating and reflecting.   
  • Contemporary Issues in Professional Practice 
    You’ll gain insights into the commercial realities and external factors that influence the success of an organisation.  

This stage involves a substantial amount of independent study as you develop an individual approach to your work while deepening your awareness of current trends in commercial photography. This culminates in an independent development project which showcases your originality and professional standards.   

You'll study modules such as: 

  • Writing Photography 
    You’ll undertake sustained and focused research into aspects of photography’s contemporary practices, histories or theories. The module covers methods of research, structuring and presentation of a written dissertation, and case studies.  

  • Assignment Photography (double module) 
    Undertaking extensive advanced level work, you’ll negotiate a substantial live project which could involve collaborations within the photographic industry. You’ll initiate questioning approaches, experiment and generate innovative solutions –while deepening your understanding of the commercial contexts that affect the decisions of different client groups 
  • Professional Futures 
    As part of your work to establish yourself as a professional practitioner, you’ll analyse the current business environment in the UK and Europe, looking specifically at the area of the photographic sector you intend to enter.   
  • Independent Development Project (double module) 
    You’ll present a body of work, which expresses your professional potential in relation to commercial photography and fosters your independence, initiative and confidence. You’ll also gain a more critical understanding of the role and importance of the display and installation of your work.  
Students welcoming guests to a Buxton Open Day

Find out more about Commercial Photography

The best way to find out if studying at Derby is right for you is to experience an Open Day. Get a feel for the city and campus, tour our first-class facilities and see where you could be living.

Book your Open DayBook your Open Day

How you will learn

This course involves an inspirational mix of studio workshops, group and individual tutorials, seminars and lectures, screenings and peer group critiques.  Your learning will be supported by a programme of visiting photographers and trade suppliers who will share their insights into the profession. 

We focus on creative problem-solving through project work and encourage an exchange of ideas between you and professionals working in the industry. The option of a work placement between stages two and three offers invaluable experience and our students have been placed with organisations as varied as the Derby Telegraph, Rolls-Royce, local media agencies and Derby Hospital’s Medical Illustration Department.   

You’ll also produce a variety of live project work for various clients. Recent examples have seen students recording new exhibitions for Derby Museum and Art Gallery or promoting a network of Peak District food producers.  

There is also the chance to visit exhibitions, go on study visits to local and national companies, and take part in prestigious competitions and festivals.  These include the acclaimed FORMAT International Photography Festival  which is hosted and organised jointly by the University and QUAD.  

Practical work makes up 75% of the course, with critical studies making up the other 25%. For all practical modules, you’ll be assessed on your practical work, formal presentation of course work, and your contribution to individual tutorials, group tutorials and seminars. For your context and dissertation modules, you’ll be required to submit essay work and course work. 

Entry requirements

September 2019 typical entry requirements

UCAS points112 (up to 16 from AS-levels)
Specific requirements at A-level

No specific subject requirements

Specific requirements at GCSEGCSE Maths and English Grade C/Grade 4 (or above) or equivalent qualification
IELTS6.0 (with 5.5 in each skills area)
Interview / AuditionYes - see interview details

Alternative entry qualifications:

We usually consider an A-level in General Studies as a supplementary qualification. A good application/performance will be taken into account if you do not meet the criteria/offer conditions.

Our entry requirements for this course should be read together with the University's general entry requirements, which details subjects we accept, alternative qualifications and what we're looking for at Derby.

Fees and funding

2019/20 Fees


£9,250 per year

£1,155 per module


£13,250 per year


Further information about our fees and support you may be entitled to.

Additional costs and optional extras

How to apply

UK/EU students

Full-time students applying to start in September should apply for this course through UCAS or you can apply directly to the University for an undergraduate course if you’re not applying to any other UK university in the same year.

Part-time students should apply directly to the University.

Apply through UCASApply directly to the University

Guidance for EU students post-Brexit

International students

Full-time students applying to start in September should apply for this course through UCAS or you can apply directly to the University for an undergraduate course if you’re not applying to any other UK university in the same year.

Apply through UCASApply directly to the University

Guidance for international applicants applying for an undergraduate degree


This course gives you a head start if you’re looking for a job in the image industry or planning to work on a freelance basis. The skills you'll develop, both academic and practical, are invaluable in areas ranging from commercial and editorial photography to location finding and management, photo retail and image manipulation. Our graduates pursue career paths in fashion, advertising, documentary and landscape photography. You could also consider becoming a photographer's agent or picture researcher. 

We also provide support for graduates starting out in the creative industries, through our incubation unit – Banks Mill. It offers studio workspace and business development activities within a vibrant and thriving community of artists, designers and makers.  

In addition, there is the option to take your skills to the next level on our MA Film and Photography

Notable Graduates

Emma Slater

Emma was head hunted by a top gun maker in Birmingham, Westley Richards, to run their professional photographic studio shooting everything from still lifes, portraits to product brochures and websites. Emma was also a finalist in the prestigious Hassleblad Masters Competition.

Programme leader

Cameron Jinks

Contact us

If you need any more information from us, eg on courses, accommodation, applying, car parking, fees or funding, please contact us and we will do everything we can to help you.

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† Additional information about your studies

Download programme specification

Teaching hours

Like most universities, we operate extended teaching hours at the University of Derby, so contact time with your lecturers and tutors could be anytime between 9am and 9pm. Your timetable will usually be available on the website 24 hours after enrolment on to your course.

Additional costs and optional extras

We’re committed to providing you with an outstanding learning experience. Our expert teaching, state-of-the-art facilities and great employability prepare you for your future career. As part of our commitment to you we aim to keep any additional study costs to a minimum. However, there are occasions where students may incur some additional costs.

Included in your fees

Mandatory costs not included in your fees

Optional costs not included in your fees

Please note: Our courses are refreshed and updated on a regular basis. If you are thinking about transferring onto this course (into the second year for example), you should contact the programme leader for the relevant course information as modules may vary from those shown on this page.


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