Personal statement advice: photography

Whether it's an exhibition you've visited or an artist who inspires you, drawing on your photography influences is key to an impressive photography personal statement. We asked photography admissions tutors what they're looking for in your personal statement – and here are some more of their top tips.
‘We want to see evidence of your passion for the subject, your engagement with photography, and all things creative outside of your studies. Tell us about exhibitions you’ve been to and magazines you read, or even relevant websites you subscribe to.’ Peta Tatersall, Admissions Tutor – University Of Portsmouth

Showcase your creativity – in photography and beyond

Admissions tutors want to understand what really fires your interest in photography, including wider cultural influences. Think about who inspires you – artists or writers as well as photographers – and how this has influenced your photographic choices and approach.

Dr Paul Cabuts from University of South Wales says photography is about communication, and that he’s looking for students who have something to say about the subjects in their photographs, and who can also use photography to express ideas.

What to include in your photography personal statement

  • Online portfolio: do you have a portfolio showcasing some of your original work? Tutors are keen to know about this.
  • Relevant outside interests: talk about the ways in which you engage with the visual arts outside your studies – such as a gallery visit, or a particular exhibition that inspired you and why. Keep information you include about your interests relevant to the application.
  • Your flexibility: Dr Cabuts is looking for applicants to demonstrate an awareness that 'being successful in photography isn’t just about taking a good picture.’ He’s looking for a range of skills 'which include those gained outside of the photography world,' including through volunteering or undertaking work experience.
  • Your engagement with the course: Geoff Buono at University Campus Suffolk wants to read about your photography interests, ambitions, activities, and achievements, as well as why you want to study the courses you’re applying for, your future aspirations, what you expect from the degree, and what you can contribute.
  • Independent thinking: David McGravie from the University of Hertfordshire likes to see 'evidence that you’ve done something off your own back, like books you’ve read, exhibitions that have informed your own practice, or photos you’ve taken that have gone beyond your own comfort zone.'

Keep your photography course preferences open

With a range of photography courses to choose from, some students specialise in fashion, advertising, editorial, documentary, or wildlife photography, while others might study photographic art, or opt for a broader curriculum spanning all of the above. Be mindful of being too prescriptive when it comes to specifying a particular photography genre in your personal statement.

According to Peta Tatersall at Portsmouth, 'If you’ve said you want to do fashion photography and have applied to a course with a broad-based curriculum (and high application numbers) you may find you've selected yourself out of the running for an interview. Photography is a very popular subject and places are competitive, so give yourself the best chance of multiple offers by keeping it open.'

David McGravie at Hertfordshire adds that 'if you meet the entry criteria, we will invite you to interview, but we will be hoping that the person we meet will bear out the person we saw in the statement.'