Online Microcredential in Creative Arts & Media

Digital Photography: Creating a Professional Portfolio

Navigate the fast-moving technological developments in digital photography and build a professional portfolio you’re proud of.

307 enrolments

Created by

The Open UniversityThe Open University

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In collaboration with

Royal Photographic SocietyRoyal Photographic Society

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Take your digital photography skills to a professional level

According to IbisWorld, the photographic industry grew by 2.1% between 2014-2019, and demand for professional photography and digital imagery is expected to continue to increase.

Most people own a camera that would’ve been the envy of professionals 10 years ago, but it takes more than clicking to create amazing digital images.

On this microcredential, you’ll explore the theory and practicalities of digital imaging, from how light refracts through a camera lens to what makes a visually pleasing scene.

As well as theoretical work, you’ll tackle a series of hands-on assignments designed to progress your technical and artistic skill and share them with a supportive online community.

You’ll experiment in applying a range of photography techniques to a specialist photographic genre–from nature and people to architecture and fine art–challenging you to step outside of your photographic comfort zone.

Each week, you’ll learn from a different genre guide prepared by specialist photographers or leading industry partners, as you split your time between practical image capture and editing and online theory.

You’ll also dedicate two hours a week to online peer review, in order to critique and learn from the work of others.

You’ll use the diverse range of work you create to build a photography portfolio for professional work in photography.

This microcredential meets the standards set by the Common Microcredential Framework.

What skills will you learn?

  • Digital image capture technologies
  • Advanced techniques and photographic practices
  • Image capture
  • Photo editing
  • Critically evaluate images
  • Develop a professional portfolio
  • Communicate vision and intent
  • Images and social media

What you will achieve

By the end of the microcredential, you’ll be able to...

  • Apply photographic techniques to create interesting images in a genre of your choice
  • Produce high quality digital images using a combination of manual methods and editing software
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the internal workings of modern cameras (including smart phones) and how they create images
  • Develop your own photographic style and give constructive feedback on others
  • Identify different photographic genres and the most effective techniques used in each

Are you eligible for this microcredential?

To join this microcredential, it’s recommended you have a basic understanding of photographic techniques and digital photo-editing and have basic computer skills.

You’ll need a camera that creates images as digital files and it should have some controls and settings (eg shutter speed, aperture or automatic settings). It’s possible to complete the course using a smartphone with a reasonable camera.

You’ll also need photo-editing software on your computer, smartphone or device. You’ll use a variety of commercial and free tools including Photoshop, Affinity and others.

All teaching is in English.

Is this microcredential right for you?

This microcredential is designed for competent photographers who want to take their skills to the next level and improve their photography as part of their professional work.

If you want to move from photography hobbyist to a professional level photographer, this course will support you to build the tools, knowledge, and portfolio to get there.


What happens before, during, and after your microcredential

  • Before learning

    You’ll have access to our online welcome area where you’ll be able to start conversations with your fellow learners and read any announcements or information relating to your microcredential.

  • Course

    From 2 Nov 2020

    Digital Photography: Creating a Professional Portfolio

    Learn to make beautiful digital images from scratch with anything from your camera phone to a professional DSLR

    10 weeks

    10 hours per week

    • Week 1

      What makes an interesting image?
      • Introduction to digital photography
      • Images and our view of the world
      • Fundamentals of image composition
      • Looking critically at images
      • Planning your composition
      • Week 1 review
    • Week 2

      When light becomes data
      • Your digital camera
      • Light and its properties
      • Finding information about a digital image
      • Working with light
      • Week 2 review
    • Week 3

      Working with exposure
      • Visually assessing exposure in an image
      • Controlling image exposure before you take the image
      • Capturing movement
      • Working with light meters
      • Exploring and controlling exposure digitally: the histogram
      • Week 3 review
    • Week 4

      Focus and depth of field
      • Exploring lenses and focus
      • Focal length and camera shake
      • Optical and digital zoom
      • Controlling depth of field
      • Week 4 review
    • Week 5

      Enjoying colour
      • Infrared and reflected light
      • Sensing colour - eye versus camera
      • Sensors in your camera
      • Talking about colour
      • Colour expression in digital imaging
      • Colours depend on other colours
      • Week 5 review
    • Week 6

      Displaying images
      • Using technology to display your images
      • Printing techniques and devices
      • Colours when printing your photos
      • Memorising compressing and storing
      • Week 6 review
    • Week 7

      Historic and contemporary innovation
      • Creating photographic opportunities
      • Low-tech photography
      • Advanced image composition
      • Experimental photography
      • Genre-established aesthetics
      • Week 7 review
    • Week 8

      The power of smartphone photography
      • Advantages and limitations of the smartphone camera
      • Knowing your smartphone camera
      • Organising your images
      • Social media for your images
      • Week 8 review
    • Week 9

      Exploring your genre
      • Sharing a panel of twelve images
      • Introduction to genre field guides
      • Week 9 review
    • Week 10

      Submitting your photographic portfolio
      • Preparing for your assessment
      • Submitting your assessment
      • Well done!
  • After learning

    Once you’ve successfully completed the microcredential, you’ll receive your academic credits from The Open University.

What you will receive

10 UK credits at Undergraduate level from The Open University

Credits are awarded on passing the final assessment. The assessment requires you submit a panel of images in a genre of your choice and a written Statement of Intent as part of a cohesive portfolio of work.

Find out how credits work and where you can use them in our FAQs.

A Certificate in Photography from The Royal Photographic Society

The certificate is free to members of the Society or available for an additional £12 for non-members.

Learn more about this organisation

Additional benefits

This course provides the knowledge and skills to help amateur photographers take the next steps towards professional photography. Creating a portfolio of work that explores an explicit photographic intent is a requirement for a number of distinctions, qualifications and recognitions, including the RPS Associateship Distinction (ARPS).

What is a microcredential?

Microcredentials are designed to upskill you for work in rapidly-growing industries, without the time and cost commitment of a full degree. Your microcredential can stand alone as an independent credential, and some also offer academic credit to use towards a degree.

Learn online with expert instructors

Complete online courses led by experts over 12-16 weeks with a dedicated group of professionals.

Complete project-based assessments

Test your understanding with online tutor-marked assessments and exercises.

Earn a professional credential

Finish your learning and pass your assessments to gain an accredited credential.

Advance further in your career

Use your microcredential as evidence of your specialised skills and progress further in your industry.

Career-focused learning by The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

  • Established1969
  • LocationMilton Keynes, UK
  • World rankingTop 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

This microcredential is in collaboration with Royal Photographic Society

This microcredential is presented in partnership with The Royal Photographic Society. The RPS is the United Kingdom’s leading photography organisation.

Delivered by experts

I’m Georgy Holden, Senior Lecturer at the Open University. I’ve taught at the OU for over 35 years and lead the Design and Innovation degree. I’m also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

I am Senior Lecturer in Environment at The OU leading courses on Photography, Renewables, and Climate Change. Fellow, Judge Business School and Senior Associate CISL, University of Cambridge.

I am an ecologist and photographer working at the Open University. Some of my papers are here: and photos here:

I am a senior lecturer at The Open University, UK, where I develop and deliver distance learning in a range of subjects.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps, but you can complete them as quickly or slowly as you like
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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When would you like to start?

Enrolment for this microcredential is closed. We aim to run our microcredentials every few months. Speak to an enrolment advisor to find out more about this microcredential and future start dates.

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    We can accept payments made by card (Visa, Mastercard and American Express) or PayPal via our online system.

    You will have 14 days from the day the course starts to apply for a refund. You can find more information in our cancellation and refund policy.

    Microcredentials are designed to fit around your life and timezone.

    There may be live events as part of your studies, but these will be recorded and can be watched afterwards if you aren’t online for the live broadcast.

    No, microcredentials are designed to be taken anywhere in the world. You won’t need the right to study in the country where the university offering the microcredential is based.

    Microcredentials are stand-alone products, designed to meet specific learner and employer needs and offer a credential in their own right. Those awarded by The Open University have a credit value at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, and this may in the future be used towards qualifications (for example, a Bachelor’s Degree, Diploma of Higher Education or Postgraduate Certificate) at The Open University, or potentially at another university (subject to the agreement of the receiving institution).

    Want to know more? Read the microcredential FAQs, or contact us.