Photography – Lens-Based and Light Based Media

Key Stage 4

GCSE Art & Design – Photography

Students study for the AQA GCSE in Art and Design, specialising in photography. In photography, students are introduced to a variety of experiences exploring a range of lens-based and light-based media, editing using computer software, techniques and processes, including both traditional and new technologies.

Course Structure

The course is made up of Controlled Assessment units and exam work.

Controlled Assessment

Two Units (projects) set by the teacher, 60% of Total marks.

  • Unit 1 – Identity
  • Unit 2 – (choose from a selection of themes)

Exam Work – 40% of total marks.

Students choose one exam question from a selection set by the exam board. There is an 8 week preparation period followed by a 10 hour supervised practical exam.


The teacher will continually assess students’ coursework and exam work. The exam board will moderate a selection.
The teacher will use four assessment objectives to assess how well students:

  • Objective 1 – Develop ideas through investigations informed by contextual and other sources.
  • Objective 2 – Refine their ideas through experimenting with resources, media, materials, techniques and processes.
  • Objective 3 – Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to their intentions in visual and/or other forms.
  • Objective 4 – Present a personal, response demonstrating analytical and critical understanding.

Each unit of work will cover all assessment objectives


Key Stage 5

A Level in Art & Design – Photography

Specific Grade Requirements: 5 A-C GCSE of which Art must be at C or above


  • Unit 1: Personal Investigation Students develop a personal investigation based on an idea, issue, concept or theme supported by 1000 – 3000 words.
  • Unit 2: Exam – 15 hours

Work is internally set and marked, a sample is externally moderated.

Course Content:

‘A’ Level Photography is a stimulating two year course that mixes well with a range of other ‘A’ Level subjects and is of value even if students do not intend to make a career in Photography. The course is split into 2 units over two years. The ‘A’ Level syllabus builds on the skills and ideas developed in the GCSE course, but expands the depth of visual understanding and technical skill.

Students are expected to explore and raise their technical skills to a very high standard while also experiencing new techniques, processes and ideas.

Students should also develop their critical and historical awareness of the arts and social/cultural influences on the Arts (i.e. keep annotated sketchbooks). In unit 1, an annotated study of one to three thousand words is required. Much of the work is of a personal nature and requires students to think and act independently both in school and at home. During the course, students are expected to visit galleries as well as attending other Art Department trips.

Career Pathways

Possible careers pathways are photojournalism, fashion photography, wedding photography, product photography, website photography, and forensic photography.