Freelance Photography - MA

Full Time, Part Time
September 2016
£6,500 for UK/EU Full Time 2016 entry (view all fees)

Our unique Freelance Photography course is developed with leading industry professionals, producing graduates with the technical knowledge and entrepreneurial skills that the diverse, challenging photographic industry needs.

If you are a self-motivated, ambitious photography graduate, or if you are an experienced photographer and want to develop your skills, knowledge and expertise, this course is for you.

It will give you the opportunity to analyse and further develop your photographic and professional experience, and you’ll also explore the specialist skills and competences relevant to particular markets and client needs.

You’ll study current and emerging photography technologies, working practices and stylistic approaches, develop your technical and aesthetic mastery in photographic production and examine how creative media enterprises operate.

Last chance to apply

The 2016/17 academic year will see the final intake of new students for this course, so get in quick if you want to apply.

Want to study in 2017/18?

You may want to check out this similar course which will be available to start in 2017/18:

What's covered in the course?

We have a long history of delivering successful Master’s courses and pride ourselves on delivering a stimulating and supportive learning environment.

On our Freelance Photography MA, you’ll be challenged to stretch yourself as a photographer and as an entrepreneur.

You’ll explore areas of professional practice, including the use of DSLRs and high-end medium format cameras, creative lighting strategies in both the studio and on location, and ways to conceptualise and direct a shoot. You’ll also look at post-processing and retouching.

As a freelance photographer, you’ll have to work for multiple clients, so part of the course will examine how you can maximise the efficiency of your workflow. Marketing yourself as a brand is key to your success, so you’ll explore how to best target potential clients and how to evaluate business opportunities.

Our strong industry links enable us to keep our courses relevant and up-to-date, ensuring you stand out from the crowd when you look to enter the workplace.

You’ll be based at the state-of-the-art Parkside Building at the City Centre Campus, where you’ll be supported by course leader Julian Kilsby, who has worked as a freelance photographer for many years in a number of fields, including travel, documentary and fashion photography. You’ll also be taught by Annette Naudin, who is the course director for our MA in Media and Creative Enterprise.

Why Choose Us?

  • This is a unique postgraduate photography course that focuses on both entrepreneurial and advanced photography skills.
  • You’ll be taught by industry experts and guest speakers – all of whom work within the photographic industry.
  • You’ll be based at our state-of-the-art City Centre Campus at Millennium Point, which boasts an array of industry-standard equipment.
  • Thanks to our strong links within the creative sector, you’ll develop a professional network of contacts.
  • You’ll be equipped with a range of transferable skills, such as enterprise, marketing and promotion.
Visit our open day

Postgraduate Open Day

Our next Postgraduate Open Day will be on Wednesday 23 November, between 2pm and 7pm. Come along to find out more about our courses and see our facilities.

Register now

This course is open to International students

Birmingham School of Media

Discover the Birmingham School of Media

Visit our School site for more student work and extra information.

Visit the School website

Where our students go

Our students have gone on to work with companies such as:

  • Birmingham City Council
  • Louise Holdate Photography

And in jobs such as:

  • Benefit Officer
  • Photographer

New £10,000 postgraduate loans

You may be able to take advantage of the government’s plans to make loans of up to £10,000 available for postgraduate study.

More about postgraduate loans

Entry Requirements

UK students

Applicants should possess at least an upper second class first degree (or equivalent) in photography or have considerable experience in this field and be able to demonstrate evidence of ability appropriate to the course.

Good spoken and written English are vital. IELTS level 6.5 is a minimum. Applicants must have proven experience in photography, an inquiring mind and a self-motivated creative vision.

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2016 FT 1 year £6,500
PT 2 years £3,250 per year

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form instead.

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2016 FT 1 year £12,000
PT 2 years £6,000 per year

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form instead.

The University reserves the right to increase fees broadly in line with increases in inflation, or to reflect changes in government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.

Additional costs

Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items. Many of these activities are essential and compulsory parts of your learning experience.

The link below gives you an estimate of the possible costs associated with key activities on specific courses. Please bear in mind that these are only estimates of costs based on past student experience and feedback. The actual costs could vary considerably (either greater or lower than these estimates) depending on your choices as you progress through the course.

All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.

Find additional costs for your course

Your personal statement

Your personal statement is a highly important part of your application. It gives you a crucial opportunity to say why you’re applying and why the institution should accept you.

Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:

Course choice

Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?

Career plans

If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.

Work experience

Mention any work that is relevant to your subject, highlighting the skills and experience gained.

School or college experience

Highlight skills gained at school/college, eg summer schools or mentoring activities.

Non-accredited skills or achievement

eg Duke of Edinburgh Award, Young Enterprise scheme.

You should also mention your future plans – if you’re planning to take a year out, don't forget to give your reasons. Talk about any subjects you’re studying that don’t have a formal assessment and any sponsorships or placements you’ve applied for. And don't be scared to add in details about your social, sports or leisure interests.

Get more information on writing personal statements.

This course is available part-time

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our pdf application form instead.

Got any questions?

Search our Frequently Asked Questions for a range of information about our courses and studying here.

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible postgraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.

Did you know that you will soon be able to apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans

Stage 1: Postgraduate Certificate

Modules explained:
Professional Photography Skills
30 credits

In this module, you’ll analyse your photographic and professional experience and explore the specialist skills and capabilities that are pertinent to specific market sectors and client needs. You’ll undertake a series of challenges to evaluate and address gaps in your professional skills base, as well as strengthening your knowledge of photographic practice and professional portfolio development.

30 credits

You’ll examine entrepreneurial techniques and processes, putting into practice ideas you have for developing yourself as a professional. You’ll be expected to be involved in creating networks both in and outside the University. This module will encourage you to identify industry challenges that you can work on to enhance your independence, confidence, networking capacity and strategic thinking.

Stage 2: Postgraduate Diploma

Modules explained:
Creative Freelance Strategies
30 credits

This module will enable you to develop your own unique photographic style. You will have the opportunity to position yourself within specified freelance markets and explore methods of promoting yourself to successfully target clients.

Production Lab
30 credits

This provides an environment where you can experiment – independently or collaboratively – as an innovator and an entrepreneur for your final MA by Practice phase.

This module has three phases - an audit of challenges and opportunities for innovative media production; experiment and exploration; and consolidation and development of a proposed strategy that will lead to you developing and writing a proposal for MA by Practice.

You will research, develop, plan and reflect on your professional production practice and will include market research, scheduling/time management and communication skills.

Stage 3: Masters

Modules explained:
MA by Practice
60 credits

This involves work processes and output that is equivalent to 600 hours of study. You’ll complete a portfolio of client-based photography – this often involves a number of commissions or collaborations with external clients within their specialised photographic field – and you will critically reflect on the experience.

Previous submissions have included fashion photography portfolios, collections of wedding photography (with promotional images for wedding vendors), editorial sports photography and portraits for organisations and individuals.

You can study our Freelance Photography MA course full-time for one year or part-time over two or three years.

The course is divided into three parts - after completing the first two modules (30 credits each), you’ll be awarded the Postgraduate Certificate; the second stage, after completing a further 60 credits, you’ll attain the Postgraduate Diploma; and upon completion of the final 60 credit Masters by Practice project, you’ll be awarded the full Master’s degree.

You’ll be assessed by coursework and will be expected to submit a high-quality portfolio, presentations and written work, which will comprise critical evaluation and project proposals.

As well as working with tutors in small workshop classes, you’ll take part in individual tutorials, where you’ll get feedback on your work and discuss your projects.

You’ll be expected to work with your fellow students on a series of practical tasks, and you’ll also work with industry professionals on photo shoots, as well as on live briefs for businesses and organisations. These will form an important part of your overall assessment.

We have a range of contacts in the industry, from renowned photographers and picture editors, to creative directors and social media marketing experts, who are invited to come and offer you their advice and industry insight.

Assessment methods

Assessments usually emphasise scholarly or professional practice through which the key learning objectives are tested. Three weeks are set aside for assessment work.

Further Study

Although this course is geared more towards preparing you for a career as a freelance photographer, there is the option to continue to a research degree (MPhil or PhD). If you want to extend your studies, your course tutor will guide you on the relevant research degrees that are offered at Birmingham School of Media.

Live projects in action

During your MA in Freelance Photography, you'll be tasked with completing live briefs for real businesses and organisations.

In 2014, our students were given a brief to: "Produce a photo montage of Birmingham City Council staff with the British Council for Offices (BCO) trophy in their everyday working environment," for their newly built office complex.

"What made this team extra special was that each of the photographers had a beautiful, developing style and an advanced aptitude for using cameras, flash and photographic equipment... The end result is fantastic. We are wowed by the results."

Alison Carnell, Customer Plus

Read the brief, see images, and client feedback.

Enhancing employability skills

Our Freelance Photography MA course is designed to equip you with the business acumen, as well as the technical and creative skills, you need to succeed as a professional photographer in this competitive industry.

Thanks to our strong industry links, you’ll have made plenty of professional contacts and joined a number of networks, photographic organisations and professional bodies during your course, all of which will prepare you for taking your skills into the marketplace.

Through your studies, you’ll build up an impressive portfolio of work and a visual brand that you can market to potential clients. And because the course also focuses heavily on entrepreneurship, you’ll also be armed with a deeper understanding of how to set up and run your creative enterprise.

Previous graduates have gone on to work as wedding and portrait photographers, set up their own fashion photography studios and become specialist sports photographers. A recent graduate has also found work writing for Practical Photography magazine.


You will not undertake a formal placement but you will be encouraged to continue to build a working profile alongside your studies, gaining client commissions or taking part in collaborative projects that will enhance your portfolio.

More about our placement opportunities...


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

International Students

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Popular home countries

Our students come from around the world but our freelance photography course is most popular with international students from:  

Parkside and Curzon Buildings

Our Facilities

When you join Birmingham City University, the first thing you will notice is the high standard of our campuses. With an investment of £260 million across our buildings and facilities, we are committed to giving you the very best learning environment to help shape your experience.

Birmingham School of Media is recognised as a key centre of excellence in interactive media training, television production and education by Creative SkillSet, the UK Sector Skills Council for the audio visual industries.

State-of-the-art facilities

You will learn in our state-of-the-art facilities - including the £62m fully-digital Media Centre - located on the City Centre Campus. You will enjoy access to extensive studio and workshop space including four TV studios, six radio studios and broadcast-standard edit suites, as well as cutting-edge equipment and software.

Facilities include the largest TV floor of any university in the UK, a ‘green screen’ and the MILO motion control camera - we are one of just two universities in Europe to offer MILO technology.

Our four broadcast-standard edit suites are based on the industry-standard Avid editing system, used in almost all films and the majority of UK television. Two of the suites are specialised for Audio Finishing and Colour Grading. Our six digital radio studios are all linked an equipped with the best news and production software.

You will have access to our full broadcast-standard dubbing suites, which are based on a multi-layered ProTools desk and can dub both film and TV with up to 120 simultaneous sound sources. We also have an ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) booth and the ability to record Foley (additional live sound).

The Parkside Building

The Parkside Building has been designed to maximise light and encourage collaboration between artists and students. It is the perfect setting for the workshops and teaching spaces of our design courses, as well as the state-of-the-art media centre for the advanced teaching facilities of Birmingham School of Media.

All this ensures that The Parkside Building offers a first class learning environment and a true central location for students in Birmingham City Centre.

Julian Kilsby

Award Leader and Senior Lecturer

Julian Kilsby is Degree Leader in Media Photography and Award Leader for MA Freelance Photography at the School of Media. He joined the University 16 years ago and has a background in a variety of photographic fields including social documentary, travel photography and product photography. His expertise lies in fashion photography, and he is currently shooting promotional images for clothing designers from around the globe.

A number of Julian’s students have gone on to forge successful careers as freelance photographers in areas as diverse as social photography, music photography, product photography, fashion and beauty photography.

The photography industry is continually changing and Julian Kilsby maintains a keen interest in these developing technologies, the evolution of working practices as well as the delivery and consumption of the photographic image.

"The courses I teach are deeply rooted in an understanding of the requirements necessary to succeed in today's very competitive photography industry. It's about understanding the creative conceptual process and managing client expectations. It's about relevant camera, lighting and post-processing skills for particular markets. It's about developing a focussed portfolio that defines you as a working photographer. And it's about a deeper theoretical understanding of the way we communicate visually; of image meaning, creation and consumption."

"Interestingly, the professional photography press has recently criticised the tradition of photographic education for being out-of-touch with today's industry requirements. This certainly can't be said of the courses at the School of Media where students are continually offered insights, skills and knowledge into how the industry operates."

At Birmingham City University, Julian has developed an MA in Freelance Photography to address the rapidly changing world of the industry. Students on this course study professional practice, engage in a photographic skills audit and develop a defined visual identity whilst exploring, and reflecting on, their creative and entrepreneurial potential within a defined market context.

The course, which started in 2009, is unique amongst photography courses offered in the country. It is another example of how Birmingham City University is providing courses that are relevant to today's changing society.

Dr Annette Naudin

Course Director in MA Media & Creative Enterprise

Course director Annette began her career running her own textile business. She built it up into a company that supplied high-end stores such as Liberty and Harrods, and exported to Japan and the USA. Moving into media and creative work, she’s consulted with Arts Council England and is now a trustee of arts organisations, including Moseley Development Trust, and a mentor with UnLtd supporting social enterprises. Read her wordpress blog as well as her blog on the University’s website.

UK prospective students:

UK enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5595

EU / International prospective students:

International enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5389

Already applied?

Email the applications team

+44 (0)121 331 6295