BA (Hons) Documentary Photography

Since it was established by Magnum photographer David Hurn in 1973, BA (Hons) Documentary Photography has established itself internationally as one of the premier courses at which to study documentary photography. With over 100 years of photography teaching behind us, we have a long and distinguished history.

Our definition of ‘documentary’ is broad. It blends the traditions of documentary storytelling with the most exciting innovations in contemporary photography. On this Documentary Photography degree, you’ll learn how to think critically and independently, and you’ll gain the technical skills to communicate your ideas in the most effective way. Our Documentary Photography students regularly win some of the industry’s most prestigious awards. Last year, these included Sam Ivin, winner in Student Work Category of PDN’s Photo Annual 2015; Yasmin Balai, second place in the IAFOR Documentary Photography Awards 2015 and Mira Andres, winner of the ESPY Award 2015. See more of our students recent work here. You can also follow Documentary Photography on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Study Mode 2017 Duration Start Date Location
Full-time 3 Years September Cardiff
Study Mode 2018 Duration Start Date Location
Full-time 3 Years September Cardiff

This world renowned Documentary Photography course blends the traditions of documentary and photojournalism with the most exciting innovations in contemporary photography.

In your first year you will learn to photograph confidently around subjects that really interest you and develop the research skills to complete picture essays on a wide range of contemporary subjects. There is also an opportunity to engage with emerging technologies in digital moving image.

As you progress into the second year you will initiate projects developed from your own interests and research, while reappraising documentary practice in all its contemporary contexts. Practical workshops continue throughout the year and explore printing for exhibition, large format photography, digital output for print, and book publication. Live projects include collaboration with renowned photo-book designers and internationally active visiting photographers.

The final year is seen as a professional year in which you will produce a sustained and ambitious body of work. You are also asked to respond to a live professional brief. Your projects are drawn from your own inspirations and ambitions and you will be encouraged to make work that will prepare you for engagement with the photographic industry.

Year 1

  • Photographer as Observer
  • Photographer as Interventionist
  • Photography Subject 1
  • The Narrative
  • Multi-Vocal Documentaries
  • Photography Subject 2

Year 2

  • Research for Practice and Dissertation
  • Documentary Strategies
  • Photography Subject 3
  • Documentary and the Publication

Year 3

  • Negotiated Practices
  • Preparation for Industry
  • Project Portfolio Development
  • Critical Paper


Throughout the Documentary Photography course you will be assessed on practice-based modules, supplemented by self-reflective and context-based analysis. You will receive clear and detailed feedback that will help you reflect on, and develop your strengths.

This is supported by individual tutorials, seminars and workshops around business practice and professional skills.

Institution Code


The comprehensive photographic facilities include:

  • Professional standard analogue black and white and colour darkrooms and equivalent film processing areas
  • Dedicated digital photography suites are equipped with Apple Mac workstations and impressive high end scanning and printing facilities
  • Comprehensive equipment loans via our dedicated media stores, including a range of cameras and lighting rigs. Our bookable studios have convenient, flexible access, as do our digital post-production spaces
  • Colour and black and white darkrooms
  • Digital darkrooms
  • Extensive digital printing facilities
  • Digital C-type printing
  • Traditional printmaking facilities
  • Wet darkrooms
  • Dedicated photographic lighting studios
  • Location lighting equipment
  • Black and white film processing
  • Colour film processing
  • Industry standard scanning facilities
  • High specification digital cameras
  • HD video cameras
  • Small, medium and large format cameras
  • Photography software
  • Video editing software
  • AV projection equipment


Paul Reas, Documentary Photography Course Leader
Geraint Cunnick, Academic Subject Manager
Lisa Barnard, Senior Lecturer
David Barnes, Senior Lecturer
Colin Pantall, Senior Lecturer
Prof Mark Durden
Russell Roberts, Reader

Entry criteria detail typical offers but USW considers all applications on an individual basis which means that we could make offers based on qualifications, personal profile and experience. Combinations of qualifications are acceptable and other qualifications not listed may also be acceptable.


An interview and portfolio are required for the Documentary Photography course. Your portfolio should provide evidence of your ability in the field and demonstrate your desire to study Documentary Photography. You will also be required to write a brief interview task (one side of A4) about an area of Documentary Photography or a photographer that interests you.

Typical A-Level Offer

BCC to include an art and design related subject

Typical Welsh BACC Offer

Grade C and BC at A Level with an art and design related subject

Typical BTEC Offer

BTEC Extended Diploma Distinction Merit Merit in a relevant subject

Typical IB Offer

29 points to include 16 points at Higher Level to include a relevant higher subject at grade 5

Typical Access to HE Offer

60 credits overall to include 45 Level 3 credits equating to 12 Distinctions, 18 Merits and 15 Passes in a relevant subject

Additional Requirements

GCSEs: The University normally requires a minimum 5 GCSEs including Mathematics and English at Grade C or above, or their equivalent but consideration is given to individual circumstances

International Entry Requirements

We also welcome international applications with equivalent qualifications. Please visit the country specific pages on our international website for exact details.

English Requirements

In general, international applicants will need to have achieved an overall IELTS grade of 6.0 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component.

However, if you have previously studied through the medium of English IELTS might not be required, but please visit the country specific page on our international website for exact details. If your country is not featured please contact us.

All fees are per year. Once you have started your course, your fee will remain the same for each year of study.

August 2017 - July 2018 Fees

  • Full-time UK and EU: £9000
  • Full-time International: £11900

August 2018 - July 2019 Fees

  • Full-time UK and EU: TBC
  • Full-time International: TBC

Additional Costs

Students have access to a wide range of resources including textbooks, publications, and computers in the University’s library and via online resources. In most cases they are more than sufficient to complete a course of study. Where there are significant additional costs either obligatory or optional these are detailed below. Of course students may choose to purchase their own additional personal resources/tools over and above those listed to support their studies at their own expense. All stationery and printing costs are at a student’s own expense.

* Obligatory

Item Cost
Kit (Uniform and Equipment) * £250 - £1000
Digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera with interchangable lens option - this to start the academic year and to be used as main camera for production.
Field Trips * £300 - £400
Year 02 Network week events in Amsterdam and London/Brighton
Field Trips * £300 - £400
Year 3 Paris Photo Trip.
Materials * £1000 - £1500
Cost of printing papers/film etc over a three year period.
Other: £400 - £1500
PC or Mac computer capabale of image and video editing and storage/processing of images
Other: * £500 - £1000
Costs of producing final year publicaiton and fabrication of graduate show work - cost is dependent on nature of work and aims of student regarding next step in career/emplyability

UK and EU students

Apply via UCAS if you are a UK/EU residing applicant, applying for year 1 of a full-time undergraduate degree, Foundation Year, Foundation Degree or HND and you have not applied through UCAS before. If you are applying to study part-time, to top up your Foundation Degree or HND, or to transfer to USW from another institution, please apply directly

International students

Apply directly to the University if you live outside the UK/EU

Apply now 

Admissions statement

Graduates from the Documentary Photography course work in diverse areas, as commissioned photographers, working regularly for many of the world’s leading magazines, or as photographic artists, publishing and exhibiting at international galleries such as Tate Modern and participating in events including the Venice Biennale. They also work as picture editors and researchers, working for magazines like GQ and institutions such as the National Portrait Gallery.

Our Careers and Employability Service

As a USW student, you will have access to advice from the Careers and Employability Service throughout your studies and after you graduate.

This includes: one-to-one appointments from faculty based Career Advisers, in person, over the phone or even on Skype and through email via the "Ask a Question" service. We also have extensive online resources for help with considering your career options and presenting yourself well to employers. Resources include psychometric tests, career assessments, a CV builder, interview simulator and application help. Our employer database has over 2,000 registered employers targeting USW students, you can receive weekly email alerts for jobs.

Our Careers service has dedicated teams: A central work experience team to help you find relevant placements; an employability development team which includes an employability programme called Grad Edge; and an Enterprise team focused on new business ideas and entrepreneurship.

Related Courses