The real cost of a photography degree.


As a student ambassador one question I get all the time from parents and students regarding photography degrees is the cost. So today I thought I would share details on the real cost of a photography degree based on my experience as a Press and Editorial Photography student. 

The degree itself

So what does your nine grand get you? Well it covers your contact time including lectures, seminars, crits, tutorials and any one to ones and support sessions you may request. It may also provide you with other opportunities to attend talks and additional courses at your university. 

Tech and Camera Equipment 

The resources that come included in your degree will include equipment you can borrow and computers and software you can use in your learning resource centre. You will be given a list from your tutors however before you start containing all of the things you will need to purchase yourself before starting your first semester. This is what was on mine:

    •    Digital SLR camera capable of shooting RAW files with manual over-ride of any automatic settings.

    •    Lens hood and UV/skylight filter for each of your lenses.

    •    Camera equipment holdall, large enough for extra items you may wish to use/purchase during the course.

    •    CF and SD cards

    •    USB card reader for above

    •    USB flash memory stick

    •    An external hard drive of at least 500 GB to back up your work.

    •    Laptop computer. While we work mainly on Macs, PCs are fine.

    •    10" x 8" print box (for handing in our prints)

    •    Lens cleaning cloth

You may also receive a reading list before your start however if you don’t plan on reading all the books over the summer it may be worth waiting till you start uni so you can borrow some of them from the library. 

Processing/Developing etc.

During your inductions you will often be given photographic paper and film to have a practise with. However if your course has a semester dedicated to analogue photography you will need to buy your own photographic paper and rolls of film. It is often worth waiting until you start uni before buying paper as it is best to buy in bulk and share with a few people, rather then paying more for an amount you may not use. Your university may also be the cheapest place you will be able to purchase these things, as they often sell them at cost price. You won’t have to buy any of the chemicals for processing however and it is unlikely that you will need to buy your own hand tanks or anything like that for processing.

I do however recommend purchasing some white gloves for handling your film negatives and also a folder and negative wallets to store your negatives in. If you’re not into film photography however you can discount a lot of the costs in this section; however your modules may require you to shoot a certain amount of your work on film.  

Printing and Binding

Despite my degree being more digitally based we are still required to create prints of our work which I do through my university’s printing service. On average my box of prints per module has costed me around £50 and so far I have only handed in 10x8 sized prints. You will also be required to bind your essays and if you are interested in creating your own zine or exhibition catalogue then you may choose to do that through your universities printing and binding services or externally. 

Once you start exhibiting your work however you may want to consider an external fine art printing service such as Printspace. For me personally printing costs are some of the most frustrating however being able to manage the professional printing of your work is a valuable skill to have. 


This is one that will definitely vary between institutions but for me I have had two compulsory residential trips in my first year that I had to pay for completely and I have also had to pay to travel to various locations for live shoots and talks. It really is one of those things and some universities will pay for all of your trips and at others trips will be optional. However it’s worth bearing in mind these costs and how these experiences will benefit you so you can decide whether to opt in or not. 

Travel and Accommodation 

This is a cost that will really be up to you and that is whether you are travelling far from home to attend university and where you will be living. I live around 350 miles away from my home back in Sheffield and that means quite the trip to move all my stuff down, and it also means I definitely have to live in rented accommodation. Luckily your maintenance loan will cover most of these costs however often you will need to dip into your personal savings to cover deposits and living expenses. These are the kinds of costs that are managed very differently by individual students and their families. I know people whose families have paid for everything and I also know people who have taken out a maintenance loan and used their savings like me to cover all the initial costs of accommodation and travel. 

Websites, domains, business cards etc.

Finally if you haven’t passed out from stress at this point (and i’m genuinely getting there), your loving lecturers may also require you purchase things like websites and business cards as part of a practical module. Let me reassure you slightly and inform you that if you do your research you will find plenty of places that do student discounts for these kinds of things, but also don’t see these things as a burden because they are genuinely so valuable and when you get to university you are basically a freelance professional. So don’t fret about acting like it. 

Now take a deep breath because that is everything. Degrees are one hell of an investment and they’re not for everyone, but having to manage and source your own finances is a great way to dip your feet into adult life and will put you in great stead for the future. Nine grand a year is a lot of money but remember that everything you do in your photography degree is hypothetical if you don't make use of it. If you buy film or order business cards just to tick some boxes, then yeah sure what you spent wasn't worth it. If you use all of the resources however for something more then just getting through your degree; you will find it is worth every penny. 

universityEmily Allen