MA Photography


Program Description

The MA Commercial Photography course is the perfect springboard for ambitious photographers wishing to become practitioners at the forefront of the industry.

MA Commercial Photography

The course is founded on the assertion that commercial photography is a powerful form of mass communication that potentially connects with an audience of millions. The course offers an exciting combination of art and commerce and comprises of three highly practice-focused units. This is to allow the production of substantial bodies of work that could become an exhibition or publication.

The course is designed for ambitious photography graduates or experienced photographers who wish to develop their knowledge and expertise in order to reach the very top of their field. We look for students with a passion for the subject and who are willing to take risks, and in doing so, push themselves to new heights.

Course Duration

  • 1 year (full-time, 45 weeks)
  • 2 years (part-time, 90 weeks)

Course Leader

Paul Wenham-Clarke – Course Leader

Professor of Photography, FBIPP and AoP Member

Professor Paul Wenham-Clarke has been a professional photographer and educator for over twenty-five years and has won eighteen national and international titles in professional competitions or awards. In 2010 he won an Association of Photographers Gold Award (commissioned documentary category) which is considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in the industry, other recipients include Nadav Kander and Simon Norfolk.

Course Philosophy

What defines it as commercial is that it’s conceived and created with a specific audience in mind, conscious of how meaning is affected by sociopolitical criteria. It can be utilised in a variety of ways: to stimulate commerce; promote new trends; deliver complex narratives; and inform and express opinions. In the process, opportunities arise for creative practitioners working in commercial contexts to produce innovative work.

The MA Commercial Photography course is structured in such a way that learning develops systematically and with an emphasis on the independent learning abilities required for continuing professional development and the advancement of your career.

The course allows you to undertake advanced study in a wide range of areas including advertising, documentary, editorial, fashion and portrait photography. Through originality in the application of contemporary academic research and professional practices to the production of new complex work, you will challenge the accepted conventions of the genres.

By a combined approach of practice, theory and professionalism, the course will provide a challenging and stimulating environment in which you are able to develop your full potential, with the aim of becoming a practitioner at the forefront of the discipline. You will expand your commercial potential by applying genre practices across contexts; for example, the aesthetics of documentary can be applied to advertising, editorial, and fashion outcomes.

The course enables you to develop an in-depth and critically informed understanding of the commercial photography industry. You will engage with key themes in emerging and established critical analyses that underpin each professional genre. This will equip you with the theoretical understanding to progress your practice and effectively articulate your concepts through the production of advanced outcomes to specialist and non-specialist audiences.

You’re encouraged to make industrial links across a broad range of organisations relevant to your chosen professional specialism. Using these links, you will learn to manage and exceed client expectations through the application of your new academic understanding of the production of inventive commercial work.

Course Outline

MA Commercial Photography students will be able to engage with a breadth of creative practices including advertising, fashion, editorial, documentary and fine art photography. Using still and/or moving image, you’ll define your own visual identity and then identify an appropriate audience to ensure a successful and profitable career.

MA Commercial Photography offers the opportunity to study in the genres of advertising, fashion, editorial or documentary photography, whichever genre you choose to pursue will define your experience of the course.

In each genre, you’ll develop a comprehensive understanding of techniques and knowledge relevant to that specialism, combined with a critical awareness of developments in that area of professional practice.

The course will encourage students to make industrial links and live projects as part of their MA study. This may include students working very closely with external organisations to achieve a highly creative postgraduate level outcome and possibly make industrial links that continue far beyond graduation.

Digital technologies have driven an ever-increasing trend towards the blurring of boundaries between the various art practices and this has presented challenges and opportunities for today’s professional photographic practitioners. The course encourages the appropriate use of frontier technologies and will support this whenever possible.

The course comprises of three units that should be seen as one integrated body of study. Depending upon your own individual approach and learning style, you’ll be given the opportunity to run one major project across all three units, or produce a smaller project for each, it’s your choice.

The course is project-focused and builds towards the completion of a major portfolio of work through self-initiated practical assignments, which are supported by written commentaries.

Full-time and Part-time Pathways

This course runs for one year (45 weeks of study), from September to September. Attendance is on average one day a week (Tuesdays).

The part-time course runs for two years (90 weeks of study), from September to September. Attendance is one day a week for the first 15 weeks (Tuesdays) and then one day every other week for the rest of the course.

The part-time day typically starts at 11.00 and runs until 18.00. This is to allow students who are travelling from further afield to reach the University in good time. There are breaks in teaching at Christmas, Easter and a month in the summer.

Full-time and part-time students are brought together a great deal in order to enrich their study and create a vibrant master’s level community.

Studios and Resources

Studying our MA Commercial Photography course means you’ll have access to state-of-the-art facilities and industry-standard equipment. Our studios and resources support all photography practices from analogue through to high-end digital production.

Our photography department is equipped to the highest professional level – there are seven studios and numerous location kits of with Profoto and Broncolor lighting equipment.

The digital camera equipment includes Hasselblad and Phase One as well as numerous high-end 35mm based DSLRs. There are two photography dedicated retouching suites all equipped with top-end Apple tower computers all with the latest versions of Adobe Creative Suite software.

We have digital printing in the digital suites to A2 and in addition a 40-inch-wide large format inkjet printer plus an amazing Chromira printing system that prints digital files onto C-type light-sensitive colour paper. This printer is the same type as several of the top London professional photographic laboratories. In addition to all the digital equipment, we have a comprehensive set of analogue facilities.

There are two large B/W darkrooms, one wet and one dry plus c-type darkroom printing and high-end scanning available.

We have numerous film cameras of many types including Hasselblad, Mamiya, Sinar, Toyo and even a 10×8 camera.

Your Interview and Portfolio

As part of your application, we require a portfolio that demonstrates your skills and an MA Proposal. These two elements are used to assess your current practice, ambition and suitability for the course.

Application Deadline

Applications are open for 2020 entry.

You can apply from November and there is no set deadline for applications.

It’s worth remembering that overseas applicants who pay the full tuition fees by 1 August will receive a 10% discount.

We encourage you to apply early so that you have time to organise accommodation and to arrange for a visa (if required) before you enrol.

Entry Requirements

We encourage applications from students with a broad range of qualifications and we welcome students from all educational backgrounds. we will take into account the knowledge and skills that you have developed outside the classroom as well as your previous qualifications.

UK Applicants

  • You will usually have BA (Hons) Degree graded at 2.1 or above, or an equivalent UK or international qualification in your chosen subject or a related discipline.

Overseas Applicants

For overseas applicants, we accept a range of English Language qualifications, including the following qualifications for MA and Master of Architecture (MArch) courses:

  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) grade C
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) grade C
  • Certificate of Attainment in English (London Board) level 5 or 6
  • IELTS score of 6.5 or above
  • Pearson PTE score of 54 and over, with a score of 51 in each component.
  • IELTS, Pearson and TOEFL scores must be less than two years old at the time the course commences to be valid.

We may also accept TOEFL iBT scores of 80 or above for entry to degree courses; however, we would prefer one of the above qualifications.

TOEFL is a test of American English and is not classified as a Secure English Language Test (SELT) for Tier 4 Visa applicants.

Alternative Qualifications/Experience

  • Applicants with other than the required academic qualifications will be considered for entry if there is sufficient evidence to indicate that they have the potential to fulfil the objectives of the course of study and to achieve the standard of the final award.
  • Applications are also welcomed from those with other qualifications or with work experience which demonstrates appropriate knowledge and skills to study at postgraduate level.
Last updated Oct 2020

About the School

Established in 1883 as a specialist institution, Arts University Bournemouth is a leading university offering high quality specialist education in art, design, media and performance across the creativ ... Read More

Established in 1883 as a specialist institution, Arts University Bournemouth is a leading university offering high quality specialist education in art, design, media and performance across the creative industries. We’re passionate about the creative subjects we teach and continue to encourage curiosity, risk-taking and adventure in exploring and pushing subject knowledge and its boundaries. Read less