Belfast Exposed Photography Academy

Participant on location as part of the 2021 Photography Academy © Belfast Exposed

Part of our public engagement programme, the Belfast Exposed Photography Academy supports career development in the arts. We want arts careers to be achievable for all young people growing up in Northern Ireland. This means making training, education & skills accessible to all.

For both beginners and those who already have some interest in photography, the Academy offers a programme of education and training for up to 40 young participants every year.

Participants receive a photographic and creative education, delivered by expert facilitators in an accessible and supportive environment. The Academy also offers a range of additional skills development sessions and careers advice. There is additional pastoral support, particularly through our Mental Health & Wellbeing courses. The result is a programme that breaks down barriers facing participants and allows artistic talent to flourish.

Who is it for?

Simple. Young people aged 14-19 living here in Northern Ireland. To find out exactly if you could take park, get in touch.

What is it?

The Academy offers skills, qualifications and bespoke photographic, artistic & professional development. We do this in a relaxed learning environment. This is not a traditional classroom-based course and there is a strong focus on practical, real-world skills development.

Completing the course will equip participants with an OCN Level 1 and Level 2 in Digital Photography. This is equivalent to 3 GCSE’S at Grade B. Additionally, participants will take part in tailored workshops that provide career development skills and assist in access to higher education (HND, Degree programmes etc).

Our highly skilled staff have significant experience as facilitators and in using photography in community settings. Therefore, Belfast Exposed can provide community groups the option of working directly in their community, as well as in-house at our photography centre in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The programme can also be designed to meet group needs, including neurodiversity and differing physical abilities, as well as to fit specific training centre timescales. 

Programme Structure

Level 1 – Teaching Basic Skills

Participants will undertake 10 x 2hr facilitated workshops on a weekly basis, 2 x full-day workshops and 15hrs of self-directed assignment.

This phase of the programme covers the basics of how to use a camera, software techniques for editing and studio lighting. We also look at health & safety issues around working as a photographer, as well as how to archive your work securely.

Participants will also learn how to compose a photograph properly, and the difference between commercial and artistic photography. We look at the history of photography, how to plan a project and a basic introduction to our darkroom.

After the first 10 weeks, we will register all those who wish to go ahead and continue with the OCN qualification. There is no pressure to do this, as we want this to be an enjoyable as well as informative experience. Only those who want to will be entered for the OCN.

Level 2 – Enhancement of Skills

During the second part of the course from January to May, we will complete the OCN course work through in-class tuition and self-directed work. Participants will undertake 10 x 2hr facilitated workshops on a weekly basis, 2 x full-day workshops and 15hrs of self-directed assignment.

During this stage, we cover advanced technical and creative skills. This includes both formal studio portraiture and how to print photographs in high definition, as well as additional health & safety training.

Participants well have the opportunity to experiment with both landscape and street photography, and basic animation. We also run special workshops on Zine Creation during this part of the course.

Level 3 – Career Path Development

For participants who wish to advance further, Level 3 offers 8 x 2hr-facilitated workshops on a weekly basis, 1 x full-day workshop or site visit and 15hrs of self-directed assignment.

There are three projects that participants take part in during this final phase of the Academy programme.

  • Facilitation Project

Participants learn the skills needed to facilitate sessions and workshops. Working with our community art experts, this project focuses on photography workshops. However, there are transferable skills to be learnt.

  • Advanced Portfolio Project

You will design and develop a photographic project. Chose a field/type of photography and then aim to develop a professional standard portfolio of work, supported by our staff.

  • Career Seminars Project

Be inspired through workshops with professional photographers. Learn about working in studio photography; photojournalism; fashion; film & video production; advertising; wedding photography; and animation.

Booking Information

If you are interested in booking or would like more information about the programme, please contact

Case StudyWhat working with Belfast Exposed can do for young artists

Ben Malcolmson

Emerging artist Ben Malcolmson – from the Shankill area of Belfast – has worked with Belfast Exposed and participated in various programmes since the age of 10. This has included workshops, summer schemes, the Young Futures programme, volunteering in the gallery and facilitating recent programmes for younger people. Nominated by Belfast Exposed, Ben was the Northern Ireland representative for Making Marks 2019, with the Arab British Centre, funded by the British Council Kuwait. Making Marks explored the impact of working internationally on emerging artists. Ben’s residency to Kuwait was one stage in the Making Marks project. Over several months, Ben worked with Belfast Exposed on a body of work titled Murmur, which was exhibited at Belfast Exposed in 2020 as his first solo show.

Ben is a recent graduate from Ulster University, graduating with a First-Class Honours in BA Photography with Video, which included undertaking an Erasmus Year (2019-2020) at The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague on their BA Photography course.

In June 2022, Ben was appointed Assistant Curator here at Belfast Exposed.


The Belfast Exposed Photography Academy is made possible by support from Children in Need and The Garfield Weston Foundation, and Belfast Exposed’s principal funders The Arts Council NI and Belfast City Council,

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