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Key Stage 4: Photography

Curriculum Intent

Photography is defined as the practice of producing images using light-sensitive materials such as photographic film, or digital methods of development and production to create static or moving images. The course aims to continue developing existing artistic thinking, introduce new skills whilst working towards achieving outcomes that provoke reaction and admiration.


Curriculum overview

Students must develop and apply the knowledge, understanding and skills specified in the

subject content to realise personal intentions relevant to Photography and their selected area(s) of study.

In Unit 1 and Unit 2 students are required to work in one or more area(s) of Photography, such as those listed below:

  • portraiture

  • location photography

  • studio photography

  • experimental imagery

  • installation

  • documentary photography

  • photo-journalism

  • moving image: film, video and animation

  • fashion photography.


They may explore overlapping areas and combinations of areas.

The following aspects of knowledge, understanding and skills are defined in further detail to ensure students’ work is clearly focused and relevant the course.

The way sources inspire the development of ideas, relevant to photography including:

  • how sources relate to historical, contemporary, social, cultural and issues-based contexts and external considerations such as those associated with the cultural industries and client-oriented requirements

  • how ideas, themes, subjects and feelings can inspire creative responses informed by different styles, genres and aesthetic considerations and/or an individual's distinctive view of the world.

Skills, knowledge and understanding

The ways in which meanings, ideas and intentions relevant to Photography can be communicated include the use of:

  • figurative and non-figurative forms of representation, stylisation, simplification, exaggeration, the relationship between form and surface embellishment, constructional considerations and imaginative interpretation

  • visual and tactile elements such as: colour, line, form, tone, texture, shape, pattern, composition, scale, sequence, surface, contrast.

Within the context of photography, students must demonstrate the ability to use photographic techniques and processes, appropriate to students’ personal intentions, for example:

  • lighting

  • viewpoint

  • aperture

  • depth of field

  • shutter speed and movement

  • use of enlarger

  • chemical and/or digital processes

  • use media and materials, as appropriate to students' personal intentions, for example:

  • film

  • photographic papers

  • chemicals appropriate to darkroom practices

  • digital media, programs and related technologies

  • graphic media for purposes such as storyboarding, planning and constructing shoots.

Unit 1: Portfolio of work

The portfolio must show a sustained project evidencing the journey from initial engagement to the realisation of intentions and a selection of further work undertaken during the student’s course of study.

Each student must select and present a portfolio representative of their course of study. The portfolio must include both:

  1. A sustained project developed in response to a subject, theme, task or brief evidencing the journey from initial engagement with an idea(s) to the realisation of intentions. This will give students the opportunity to demonstrate, through an extended creative response, their ability to draw together different areas of knowledge, skills and/or understanding from across their course of study.

  2. A selection of further work resulting from activities such as trials and experiments; skills-based workshops; mini and/or foundation projects; responses to gallery, museum or site visits; work placements; independent study and evidence of the student’s specific role in any group work undertaken.

The work submitted for this component will be marked as a whole. Students should carefully select, organise and present their portfolio and must ensure that it provides evidence of meeting all four assessment objectives. They must identify and acknowledge sources which are not their own and provide evidence of drawing activity and written annotation

Unit 2: externally set task non-exam assessment (NEA)

Students are required to elicit a personal response from one starting point or project brief from the AQA Art and Design paper. They are expected to develop their own work informed by their preparatory studies, exploration and experimentation of media and development of their ideas.

Papers will be issued from 2nd January in the year of examination to give students unlimited preparation time. However, their final responses will be completed in 10 hours of supervised time. Students must not undertake any further preparatory studies once the first period of supervised time starts.

How do we measure the impact of the course?

Assessment takes place throughout the course for both formative and summative purposes, in line with the AQA specification assessment objectives. Key pieces of work are assessed and grades/targets for improvement recorded on the Art teams’ progress and assessment sheet. A mid-term assessment takes place throughout each coursework project enabling teachers and students to modify STATS and analyse progress against agreed GCSE targets.

Assessment has two strands

  • Unit 1. Portfolio of work (96 marks) 60% 

  • Unit 2. Externally set task (NEA) (96 marks) 40%

Marked by the centre and moderated by AQA.

Assessment Objectives

Assessment objectives (AOs) are set by Ofqual and are the same across all GCSE Art and Design specifications and all exam boards. The exams and non-exam assessment will measure how students have achieved the following assessment objectives.

  • AO1: Develop ideas through investigations, demonstrating critical understanding of sources.

  • AO2: Refine work by exploring ideas, selecting and experimenting with appropriate media, materials, techniques and processes.

  • AO3: Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to intentions as work progresses.

  • AO4: Present a personal and meaningful response that realises intentions and demonstrates understanding of visual language.

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