BA (Hons) Documentary Photography


This degree is based at USW’s purpose-built campus, in the creative centre of Cardiff.

Since it was established by Magnum photographer David Hurn in 1973, the Documentary Photography degree has established itself internationally as one of the premier courses at which to study documentary photography. USW has a history of 100 years of photography, and over 40 years of teaching Documentary Photography behind us.

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.

Students and graduates from the Documentary Photography course regularly win the industry’s most prestigious awards. Lua Ribeira and Sam Laughlin were joint winners in the 2017 Jerwood/Photoworks Award. Lua Ribeira was also runner up in the prestigious 2016 Bar Tur Photobook Award. Daragh Soden made the Irish Times ’50 People To Watch In 2017’ list. Previous winners included Sam Ivin, (Student Work Category of PDN’s Photo Annual 2015); Yasmin Balai, (second in IAFOR Documentary Photography Award) 2015 and Mira Andres (winner of the ESPY Award 2015).

The Documentary Photography course was recently featured in the prestigious British Journal of Photography. The course was the only UK course to feature in this special edition on excellence in European photographic education.

Follow Documentary Photography on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

2021/22 update: Blended learning approach for USW courses.

[Update excludes online-only courses].

The wellbeing and health and safety of our students and staff is paramount to us. We are committed to delivering all of our courses and services as safely as possible. Due to the pandemic, the methods and activities adopted for the coming year may differ from those previously published and may be subject to further change through the course of your study if such change is necessary due to public health concerns, health and safety guidance or in response to Government Guidelines. USW is committed to providing you with a fantastic student experience and a wealth of support, and you can hear how students have benefitted from this approach here: Learn more about blended learning.

UCAS Code Study Mode
Duration Start Date Campus Campus Code
7G84 Full-time 3 Years September Cardiff (ATRiuM) B
UCAS Code Study Mode
Duration Start Date Campus Campus Code
7G84 Full-time 3 Years September Cardiff (ATRiuM) B

On this Documentary Photography degree you’ll learn how to work independently as a documentary photographer, be able to photograph con dently around subjects that interest you and develop research skills for picture essays on a range of subjects.

Subjects are photographed over extended periods and you’ll be expected to produce work to professional standards. Live projects include collaboration with photo book designers and internationally active visiting photographers. Thefinal year is seen as a professional year. You’ll produce an ambitious body of work and respond to a live professional brief to prepare you for the photographic industry.

Year 1 - Documentary Photography degree

  • What is Documentary?
  • Photographer as Observer
  • Photography Subject 1
  • The Narrative
  • Multi-Vocal Documentaries
  • Photography Subject 2

Year 2 - Documentary Photography degree

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

Year 3 - Documentary Photography degree

  • 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.






The comprehensive photographic facilities include:

  • Professional standard analogue black and white and colour darkrooms
  • Colour negative film processing service
  • Dedicated digital photography suites equipped with Apple Mac workstations and impressive high end film scanning facilities
  • Large format digital printing facilities (up to 60”)
  • Comprehensive equipment loans via our dedicated media stores, including a large range of pro cameras and lighting rigs.
  • Small, medium and large format analogue cameras
  • Bookable photo-studios with convenient, flexible access
  • Location lighting equipment
  • High specification digital cameras
  • HD video cameras
  • Industry standard photography software
  • Industry standard Video editing software
  • AV projection equipment


Paul Reas, Course Leader
David Barnes, Course Leader
Lisa Barnard, Senior Lecturer
Dr Eileen Little Senior Lecturer
Prof Mark Durden


The entry criteria below shows the qualification range within which the University will make offers. Most offers we make are at the top of the range, but we take all aspects of an application into consideration and applicants receive a personalised offer. Combinations of qualifications are acceptable and other qualifications not listed here may also be acceptable. 


Applicants in the UK

Selection for this course is based on a suitable application and attendance at an interview with successful outcome. You may also be required to provide a portfolio of your work prior to attending interview where your course requires this, and full details of what is required will be provided once your application has been processed.

Applicants outside the UK

Selection for this course is based on a suitable application and submission of a portfolio of your work which the Course Leader confirms is suitable for an offer to be made.

Typical A-Level Offer

BCC - CDD to include a relevant art and design subject (this is equivalent to 104-80 UCAS tariff points).

Typical Welsh BACC Offer

Pass the Advanced Welsh Baccalaureate Diploma with Grade C/D in the Skills Challenge Certificate and BC - CD at A Level with a relevant art and design subject (this is equivalent to 104-80 UCAS tariff points).

Typical BTEC Offer

BTEC Extended Diploma Distinction Merit Merit - Merit Merit Pass in a relevant subject (this is equivalent to 112-80 UCAS tariff points).

Typical IB Offer

Pass the International Baccalaureate Diploma with a minimum score of 29 overall including 5 or above in English at standard level

Typical Access to HE Offer

Pass the Access to HE Diploma with a minimum of 80 UCAS tariff points

Additional Requirements

GCSEs: The University normally requires a minimum 5 GCSEs including Mathematics/Numeracy and English at Grade C or Grade 4 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.

Full-time fees are per year. Part-time fees are per 20 credits. Once enrolled, the fee will remain at the same rate throughout the duration of your study on this course.

Find out how to pay your tuition fees in full or by payment plan.

This course is eligible under the Enhanced Learning Credits scheme for Ex-Armed Forces personnel.

International Scholarships are available for self-funding international students.

August 2021 - July 2022 Fees

  • Full-time UK:  £9000

  • Full-time International:  £13500 

August 2022 - July 2023 Fees

  • Full-time UK: 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 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 interchangeable lens option – this to start the academic year and to be used as main camera for production
Field Trips £300 - £400
Year 02 Network events
Field Trips £300 - £400
International trip (All trips are subject to change and viability in relation to student numbers)
Materials * £1000 - £1500
Cost of printing papers/film etc. over a three year period
Other: £400 - £1500
PC or Mac computer capable of image and video editing and storage/processing of images
Other: £0 - £600
Costs of producing final year publication and fabrication of graduate show work- cost is dependent on nature of work and aim of student regarding next step in career/employability
Trips £140 - £160
Year 01 UK trip (All trips are subject to change and viability in relation to student numbers)

UK and EU students

Apply via UCAS if you are a UK/EU residing applicant, applying for year one 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.  

Admissions statement


Graduates from the Documentary Photography course work in diverse areas, as commissioned photojournalists, 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. Graduates can also progress to a PhD or research degree.

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.


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