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.
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.
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 to the production of inventive commercial work.
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.
You can download the programme specification.
You can find out more about any course costs.
Take a look at our frequently asked questions about the MA Commercial Photography course.
What students are doing
In 2017, the MA Commercial Photography course held a photography seminar day in the Photographers’ Gallery in London. Entitled ‘Art & Commerce – Striking a Balance’, the seminar brought together three highly talented photographers whose practice combines fine art and commercial work. You can read more here.
Looking to be inspired? Browse our gallery of student work to find out more about the kinds of projects that our students get involved in.
Studios and resources
Studying on 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.
Download our Portfolio Guidelines for more information.