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On our diverse and inspiring BA (Hons) Commercial Photography course we will help you to become a creative individual in the exciting world of commercial photography.
We will focus on the fields of fashion, portrait, fashion film and product photography, developing your talent in an environment of imagination and experimentation.
Combining technical expertise and creative experimentation, we will encourage you to develop a professional identity and signature style through a course tailored to your career path, putting you at the cutting edge of contemporary photographic practice.
You will learn from staff with a wealth of industry experience, having worked for clients such as the BBC, the Brit Awards, British Telecom, Channel 4, Condé Nast, The Guardian, Hyundai, Liverpool FC, Marie Claire, Microsoft, The Sunday Times Magazine, Tesco, The Daily Telegraph, the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Opera House.
There is also a dedicated technical support team and exceptional facilities situated within the City Centre Campus. These include industry-standard photographic studios, darkrooms, television studios, editing suites, a giant green screen studio and an extensive Hires and Loans department.
We will help you to collaborate both within the University (for example, with the Fashion or Product Design courses) as well as externally, with live briefs for real clients. You will also have the opportunity to study abroad for part of the course, or to go on trips to destinations such as New York, Berlin and Paris.
We have exceptional levels of external engagement, with visiting lectures by nationally and internationally-recognised photographers, as well as having numerous links with industry, workshops, seminars, masterclasses, careers advice, portfolio reviews, mentorships and placements.
In an environment of imagination and experimentation, we will nurture your talent and help you to develop into an employable and creative photographer.
"Working on The Brit Awards is the best thing I've worked on so far, being given the opportunity to assist with early experiments, taking those onto the two shoot days, editing and animating the footage and finally being invited backstage to preview the work in the venue." William Marler
Our next University-wide Open Day will take place on Saturday 4 November. Come along to find out more about our courses and see our facilities.
To welcome all new home and EU undergraduate degree students starting in 2017 or 2018, we're giving at least £150 worth of credit to spend in a host of ways, on books and a range of learning materials. Even better, it doesn’t have to be repaid.
We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.
In addition to qualifications, applicants will also need a good portfolio. Applicants will be invited to attend an interview.
112 UCAS tariff points or equivalent, see typical offers below.
For students who complete the full IB Diploma: Obtain a total of 14 points or above from three Higher Level Subjects
For students who do not complete the full IB Diploma: Obtain a total of 16 points or above from three Higher Level Subjects
For students who do not complete the full IB Diploma: Obtain a total of 16 points or above from three Higher Level Subjects
In addition to the above, applicants will also need:English Group A - Grade 4 or aboveOREnglish Group B and Ab Initio - Grade 5
Country-specific entry requirements and qualifications.
Entry requirements here
International students who cannot meet the direct entry requirements can begin their degree studies at Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC).
From A/AS Level with a minimum of 2 A Levels
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 in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.
UK and EU students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.
There are three ways to apply:
You will need to complete our International Application Form and submit it together with scan copies of your original academic transcripts and certificates.
Our in-country representatives can help you make your application and apply for a visa. They
can also offer advice on travel, living in the UK and studying abroad.
If you are applying for an undergraduate degree or a Higher National Diploma (HND), you can apply through the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions
You can request a printed form from your school or nearest British Council office. You will be charged for applying through UCAS.
Birmingham City University’s UCAS code is B25 BCITY.
Your portfolio might be viewed when you are not present, therefore make sure it is easy to use - think of it like a book. Your name and a title on the outside will be useful - this also helps distinguish the front from the back.
Be relevant Include relevant work related to the subject area of interest. Know about the course you are applying for. Show ideas generation, experimentation and risk taking. Within your portfolio, are you able to demonstrate knowledge of the subject discipline, practitioners and individuals that have inspired you?
Think about the basicsShow examples of paintings, drawings, photographs, three-dimensional work, time-based work and anything else relevant to the area of practice.
Tell a storyTry to show one full project from start to finish with the preparatory drawings included. Annotations are helpful as they show how you research and reflect on the development of your work.
The finished articleInclude three to four final pieces that you are able to talk about. This might include 3D models rather than photographs.
The sketchbookInclude sketchbooks. This will give us an understanding of how you think (through your annotations) and allow us to see the development of your drawing (if the portfolio is digital, photograph or scan some of the best pages).
*Digital portfolio guidance will be available soon.
UK / EU students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.*
The personal statement 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:
Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?
If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.
Mention any work that is relevant to your subject, highlighting the skills and experience gained.
Highlight skills gained at school/college, eg summer schools or mentoring activities.
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.
*Non-EU students are not required to submit a personal statement when applying for this course.
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 your course. 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.
View additional costs for this course
UCAS Undergraduate Apply is open for 2018 entry. You can start your application now, but completed applications can't be submitted.
Completed applications can be submitted to universities and colleges.
Part time and international students can apply direct via an online application form. The links to the forms will be available in September 2017.
We offer further information on possible undergraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.
In the first year of the course we will provide you with the foundations of photographic practice. This will include essential technical skills using our state-of-the-art facilities, an understanding of how to harness and develop your creativity, means of communicating a message through your work, and an appreciation of the ethical and social issues that all modern photographers should be aware of.
The first year is a generic foundation into the technical, conceptual and historical contextualisation of photography in order to give you the broad understanding of the medium that is required. It also allows you great flexibility in your career path as at the end of the first year you will choose either the BA (Hons) Commercial Photography course or the BA (Hons) Photography.
This module introduces the universal principles and theories of visual communication. The aim of the module is not only to introduce you to the principles within your own chosen subject area, but also to provide opportunities to take workshops in all subject areas, seek advice from experts in other disciplines and work collaboratively with students from all Visual Communication subject areas.
This module will introduce you to historical and contemporary concepts within a number of photographic genres. The module is designed to establish basic workshop skills that are specifically the building blocks for future modules. This module is structured to you with an appropriate level of digital techniques that both support the module and are transferable. The module will result in a body of work that is the outcome of a set project and one day briefs.
This module builds on the Principles of Photography module and is designed to further develop the necessary technical, conceptual and creative skills. Research methods will be explored through workshops that directly link with practical experimentation. The module is designed to establish intermediate workshop skills and to equip you with an appropriate level of creative lighting and post-production skills, necessary to competently complete the module.
Building on the key principles articulated in the three modules in your first semester, this complementary, contextual studies module will explore seminal design movements and practitioners of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It will provide you with a broad contextual framework that will underpin your design practice, both at university and in the future.
You will have the opportunity to select one of five option modules offered across the school: People and Identity, Sound and Movement, Space and Place, Text and Image, Time and Sequence. Thematic in their approach they are intended to offer you multiple approaches to the diverse practice of visual communication.
This module is about moving from the safety of the classroom and into the exterior world. As part of the module you will be expected to take your work into a public domain. You will be honing your practice through engagement and collaboration with external bodies, and beginning to identify your direction of study. The module is designed to establish advanced workshop skills and an appropriate level of enterprise skills.
In the second year, you will further develop your signature style, moving rapidly towards your chosen career goal. This will be achieved by developing your portfolio, your photographic intelligence and your industry knowledge. Furthermore, you will start to define the type of photographer that you want to become, becoming increasingly expert in that area.
Industry-standard briefs will help you to understand the commercial photographic market today, while a collaborative module allows you to work with Graphic Design and Illustration students from the School of Visual Communication, from which many long-lasting personal and professional relationships have been formed.
You will also be encouraged to collaborate with those outside of the school, building industry links that enhance your work and skills. Examples of collaboration include models, makeup artists, stylists, fashion designers, filmmakers, jewellery makers and product designers. You will also gain essential business skills to prepare you for undertaking paid work for real clients. Live briefs are a key part of the second year, so you that you experience what it is really like to work as a professional photographer.
You will begin to focus on a more discreet area of specialism, preparing you for your final year of study. You will work within smaller groups, alongside a tutor with expert knowledge in your chosen specialist area. You will also identify and research an area of your profession, developing numerous life and creative skills that will enhance your abilities and aspirations beyond graduation. This aspect of the programme will be supported by seminars and lectures from industry experts and practitioners.
Live projects, industry links and competitions form a key part of the curriculum at this stage in your course. We will encourage you to reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses, and build upon achievements in order to improve your performance. Active participation through workshops and master classes are embedded throughout your second year.
Collaboration is a vital employability skill within the creative industries and this module allows you to develop these skills, making use of University facilities and with the support of academic staff. Within this module framework you are able to create an interdisciplinary project with students from complementary disciplines across the School and wider Faculty.
This flexible module allows you to identify direction within your own practice and future aspirations. You will undertake approaches that will help define your area of practice, which is personalised to your own interests. The structure of this module encourages the development of a more focused, in depth and advanced study through the use of self-directed projects.
In your second year you will have the opportunity to replace 20 credits of study with the following module:
The purpose of this module is to enable you to develop professional attributes and subject skills through experience in the workplace, and to critically reflect upon your learning in that context. You will normally be expected to arrange your own placement, with support from academic staff and BCU Careers.
In the final year you will, under expert tutor guidance, define your own projects, ensuring that your university work is tailored perfectly to you. You will work towards a final outcome, again chosen by you, such as a book, magazine, exhibition or industry standard portfolio. As before, we will help you to develop your business profile and to become a practicing commercial photographer before you have graduated, which only goes to strengthen your portfolio and your employability.
We will be there to support you both professionally and pastorally. As well as our own expert tuition, we have a wide range of world-class photographers and portfolio reviewers who will inspire you to take your work to the next level. You will have access to the huge network of contacts that the University has, both nationally and internationally, as well as our close links with other courses within the University.
You will also undertake a piece of critical writing that examines the business practices of your chosen career.This will equip you with the necessary knowledge to approach the commercial photographic market, preparing you for your future aspirations and increasing your level of employability, allowing you to flourish not just while studying, but for many years after.
In exploring your own creative direction you will conduct a project over several weeks, in negotiation with your tutors, which will allow you to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the issues and concepts chosen and further refine your visual identity as a contemporary photographic based practitioner.
You will develop your skills to source, synthesis and apply research, allowing you to work independently and articulate ideas that are central to your professional practice.
The purpose of this module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed project. It is a culmination of your three years of study and should be a personal inquiry, of a professional and innovative standard and a celebration of you as a work ready practitioner.
You will develop a final major body of work, demonstrating your skills and knowledge which will be showcased at our Graduate Shows. You will have an exhibition, showcasing your individual creative signature, communication, information and problem-solving skills. You will develop your negotiation and planning skills, and will produce meaningful creative work.
The number of contact hours with lecturers varies depending on the type of activity, the module and the year group. The figures below show a weekly average but these will fluctuate throughout the year.
Scheduled Contact Hours:
These studio contact sessions usually consist of lectures, tutorials, workshops, seminars and group activities in numerous combinations. Additional to these scheduled hours you will be expected to undertake guided independent learning. You will use the facilities within the Faculty and beyond to further develop your individual projects.
The school offers a suite of optional technical workshops including printmaking, studio lighting and a wide range of software packages.
While you study the course you will be offered opportunities to go on group excursions both in the UK and abroad. We usually have about three overseas trips a year which we offer both at subject level, such as the Photography trip to Paris Photo Fair, as well as School-level trips to destinations such as Venice, New York and Berlin. We also run an exchange with a Thai university, with additional ‘study abroad’ opportunities, including Erasmus exchanges.
Locations do alter each year to allow for students to experience a range of cities. We always put on UK study trips to places such as London, Manchester, Oxford and Liverpool. Where possible, UK trips are free or heavily subsidised.
As a Visual Communication student, we do encourage you to take advantage of these trips as we see them as adding extra value to your course and they do offer additional research opportunities.
View examples of student work...
If you are interested in undertaking part of your studies abroad, the Erasmus scheme may be of interest to you. It allows higher education students to study for part of their degree in another European country.
It is open to undergraduates in their second year (or above) and offers a unique opportunity to enhance your CV and experience new cultures. If you study with us you will have access to an Erasmus co-ordinator, who can provide information about which institutions we have links with.
Find out more
As graduating students you will naturally follow your own career path and that may mean going straight into industry.
However, many students look at the opportunities that we offer for postgraduate study at Birmingham City University. It is important to keep your options open and researching further into your area of study brings many rewards.
The School runs a one-year MA Visual Communication as a natural progression from its undergraduate courses. Should you wish to, you will be encouraged to continue your journey with us and develop your practice further.
Our BA (Hons) Commercial Photography course is designed to enhance your skills and aptitude, preparing you for a career in a landscape that is continuously changing. Within Visual Communication, specifically photography, there are a variety of career opportunities you may wish to explore. As a creative practitioner you will be able to generate a range of potential ideas and visual developments.
You will have the skills that demonstrate sound judgements in accordance to the theories and concepts of visual communication subjects, responding to the demands of industry.You will develop an in-depth understanding of the relationship between theory and practice through research, this will not only allow you to undertake further study, it will allow you to produce meaningful, well-informed work.
You will gain an understanding of the underlying concepts and established principles that govern creative practice. Alongside this you will develop a range of working strategies, methods and materials, learning how to apply these to production. You will also discover, and respond to, the influence of audiences, clients, markets and other participants in relation to Visual Communication practice.
You will benefit from hearing the expertise and having the chance to network with our high-profile guest speakers. Our students have recently had the opportunity to meet international fashion photographer Lara Jade and international advertising and commercial photographer Perou. We also host guest workshops from industry practitioners including regular portfolio reviews.
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.
Our links include: GRAIN Photography Hub and Network, BOM (Birmingham Open Media), Flatpack Film Festival, Studio Wayne McGregor, Free Range, Central School of Make Up and Terry Manduca Photographers Agent.
We are in partnership with Grain, The Hub for Photography in the West Midlands. And as part of this partnership, we hold symposiums, portfolio review days and lectures. Research projects are embedded in the future plans for this initiative, bringing wider benefits to the university.
Through our courses we give you the skills and experience needed to get a head start when applying for jobs. But we offer something extra too – Graduate+.
Our unique programme gives you the chance to develop valuable skills outside of the more formal classroom learning. We award points for Graduate+ activities (including firewalking!) and these can be put towards a final Graduate+ award.
The School of Visual Communication offers a broad education as well as the very specific subject skills. As such, we see many graduates working in the creative industries, but also in a variety of employment, such as managerial roles, education, tourism, marketing and freelance business.
Industry demands are constantly changing so it’s important that we prepare you for all eventualities. The internationalisation components mean that you will be aware of global expectations and the possibilities of work outside the UK. All modules have transferable skills built into the teaching, so that you are able to apply your knowledge to a variety of tasks and challenges.
Commercial Photography graduates work in a range of careers including:
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:
Students come to study in the School of Visual Communication from all over the world but we have nurtured some long-standing relationships with Malaysia, Thailand, China and India.
If you are a student from these, or any other countries, you should consider studying with us as we offer a wide curriculum that has internationalisation built into the modules. We actively encourage learning across creative disciplines, group projects and live briefs. We have also established relationships with numerous colleges and industry overseas.
A fine example of this is Lichao Meng, who joined us from China. We helped to develop Lichao’s understanding of photography and develop his strengths, so that by the end of the course he had created a stunning portfolio and graduated with a Frist Class Honours Degree. Another good example is Dominika Wozniak who won the World student fashion photographer of the year.
Our students have won the Association of Photographers Student Photographer of the year in 2015 and 2016.
We take a pride in developing strong creative communities and these thrive on the injection of different cultural experiences. To develop a sense of sharing all experiences and ideas is fundamental to the philosophy of Visual Communication.
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
Our visual communication degrees are housed in the state of the art £62 million Parkside Building, part of our City Centre Campus.
We offer extensive studio and workshop space and cutting-edge equipment such as Vicon 3D (an external tracking motion capture facility) and Gypsy (an exoskeleton-based motion capture system). Both of these systems extend the possibility for production of 3D animation and films.
You will enjoy access to our Hollywood standard MILO unit. We were the first School of Visual Communication in Europe to offer MILO motion capture technology, now one of only two owned by Universities in Europe.
We offer cutting-edge provision such as digital print centres and Sonny Ross became the first student on the Visual Communication course to master the art of the RISO machine. He has since used this to produce many successful RISO publications including “Rojo & Baxter” which has been a success at various zine and book fairs across the country.
Award winning artist, film maker and photographer Ravi Deepres has established an international reputation for his still and moving image work. Ravi’s work deals with environments and conditions which impact profoundly on human and natural psyche. Exploring thematics such as historical, subconscious and psychological influences and states through choreographic and kinetically employed aesthetics.
Winner of The Great North Run Moving Image commission in 2006, made in collaboration with Bafta winning filmmaker Michael Baig Clifford.
Read Ravi's full profile
With a passion for Landscape and Documentary photography Paul gained his Masters Degree after specialising in ‘Man’s degrading interaction with the environment’. His exhibitions have ranged from Landscape studies, to politics, to environmental issues.
Initially Paul trained as a studio practitioner before he ran his own commercial photography consultancy. Named Redhead Paul’s clients included organisations such as: British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, National Health Service, Mitchell & Butlers (Bass), Saucony and the BBC.
Read Paul's full profile
Specialising in commercial and editorial photography for national and international clients Joe works freelance alongside his work for the University. Experienced in both film and digital photography he is currently working with RED cameras, combining moving and still image. His extensive list of clients include: BBC, British Telecom, Fulham FC, Hyundai, Liverpool FC, Marie Claire, Microsoft, Nivea, the Times, Sotheby’s, The Sunday Times Magazine Tesco and the Young Vic Theatre.
German-born photographer Timm has lived and worked in Birmingham since 2000. Graduating from Birmingham City University with a First Class degree in Photography, Timm then went on to become a freelance photo journalist. Timm has worked for the University since 2010 teaching photography and continues to work freelance in the industry.
Read Timm's full profile
UK enquiry form
+44 (0)121 331 5595
International enquiry form
+44 (0)121 331 5389
Email the applications team
+44 (0)121 331 6295