Study programme

Each year of the Bachelor Photography programme is divided into two semesters of 16 weeks. Each semester is divided into two blocks of 8 weeks. Courses usually last for one block or a full semester.

Every semester ends with a collective assessment, where you organise all work from participating courses over the preceding semester in a personal and insightful presentation. During a collective assessment, you are expected to reflect on the preceding semester and articulate learning goals for next semester.

Documentary and Fiction specialisations

In the second year of your studies, you will choose your specialisation: Documentary or Fiction. This won’t affect the topics you work on, but says more about the way you approach these topics. The role you take as maker determines your choice for Documentary or Fiction.

Documentary students tend to take a role of observer and work ‘with’ and ‘in’ the real world. A documentary student is always in conversation with subjects and has a genuine interest in others. Their work contemplates ‘what the world is’ in the same way a columnist reflects on what’s happening in the world. The work field for a documentary photographer can range from classical documentary to fine arts.

Fiction students often take a role of creator, of someone who intervenes and directs. Imagination takes a big role and subjects are functioning like actors who show the vision of the author. Fiction work contemplates ‘what the world could be’ in the same way a novelist reinvents the world we see. The work of fiction photographers can be found in settings ranging from commercial such as fashion and advertising to fine arts.

A lot of fascinating work is made in the grey area between Documentary and Fiction. There is room at the KABK to actively work in this grey area and we encourage students from both directions to collaborate and inspire each other.

Programme structure

In the first year, you experience a thorough and intensive introduction to a broad variety of aspects connected to the field of photography. Through theory, field trips, exhibitions and events, you will quickly broaden your knowledge on photography and beyond. You will learn how to manage your studies and how to structure your work process.

In this first year, there is a strong emphasis on improving your technical skills, including postproduction in photography. You will be challenged on content by doing projects in the role of a street photographer, a portrait photographer, a studio photographer and more. All these exercises and projects teach you a variety of strategies to create work.

Alongside, you will follow basic courses in graphic design, moving image and interaction design to better understand how contemporary photography is intertwined with other media. By exploring the breadth of the photographic landscape, you will start to discover where your own true interests lie.

At the end of the first year, you will make an application for either the Documentary or Fiction specialisation. The motivation for your preferred direction is clearly reflected in the work you’ll show at your collective assessment and underpinned by your verbal presentation.

In the second year, you’ll dive further into specific aspects of your chosen specialisation (Fiction or Documentary). The difference is primarily manifested in long-term photography courses, taught by internationally acclaimed specialists with different backgrounds in photography.

An important goal for the second year is to have your personality shine through in your projects. This ambition is helped by courses like Civil Society Lab where you will be encouraged to explore your fascinations outside the world of art and photography.

As the focus on technique subsides after the second year, this is the last year to bring your technical skills to the highest level possible. You’ll deepen your knowledge and experience of moving image and interaction design in courses that are tailored to your chosen direction. You also follow the course installation design that entirely focuses on presentation techniques - in line with the ambitions within your work.

The Individual Study Track (IST) – starting in the second year – provides you an opportunity to follow courses outside the department or to do projects that complement your personal interests. You can also choose to follow an exchange semester at one of our partner institutions abroad.

One of the highlights of the second year is the international fieldtrip where you will produce a body of work on a self-chosen topic within one week. The project is preceded by intensive preparatory research. After the trip, you and your peers will collaborate in editing and producing a publication in a one-week workshop.

In the third year of your studies, you will be challenged to go further in-depth by immersing yourself into a semester-long project working around a given theme. A driving aspect is to bring nuance and subtlety into both content and presentation of your work. You are expected to become aware of your potential audience, and the consequences this has for your work, as well as working with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Your long-term semester project will end up as your first solo-publication. You are also expected to present your project using a different presentation platform; for example, using interaction design or moving image.

You finish the project with a public presentation outside the academy where you will gain valuable experience in organising, constructing, publishing, financing and advertising a project, all the responsibility of you and your peers.

In the second half of the third year, you will go on a 3-month internship with one of the many acclaimed professionals from our broad international network. You will build up a network and obtain experience in the professional field. This experience enables you to connect different elements of your study and prepare plans for your final year.

In the last month of the year, you’ll be at KABK with your peers and teachers and make a head start with projects from the graduation year, meaning you complete a plan for commissioned work and begin writing your thesis. More details can be found in the fourth-year description.

The Individual Study Track (IST) provides you the opportunity to follow courses outside our department or create projects that complement your personal interests. You can also choose to follow an exchange semester at one of our partner institutions abroad.

In the fourth year, you will be challenged on both theory and practice by focussing on three major projects: a commissioned work, a thesis and your graduation work. All three projects are connected and feed off each other. We call this the ‘fourth year triangle’. An important challenge is to better articulate who you are as maker, and where you stand in the professional field.

Your commissioned work will be realized for a commissioning partner (or client) outside the academy and should fall within your own field of interest. You will be challenged in crucial skills such as pro-activity, responsibility and your ability to collaborate.

The result should be published in an existing (on-line) magazine, exhibited in a real exhibition space, or any other form that reaches an audience, desired by both you and the commissioning partner.

In the meantime, you also work on your thesis, where you research and write around a self-chosen topic that contributes to your personal ‘fourth year triangle’. The thesis helps to better understand your position as a maker and can be seen as the backbone of your graduation work.

Your graduation project is defining you as a photographer, and will be your entrance to the professional field of art and photography. You will develop a personal working method that will enable you to continue your development as a critical maker and thinker after your graduation.

In addition to the three major projects, extra attention is stressed to organisational and entrepreneurial skills, such as setting up a business, pitching a project, writing quotes and budgets, branding and networking, grant applications and other aspects that prepare you for a professional practice after your graduation.

Also in the fourth year, Individual Study Track (IST) provides you the opportunity to follow courses outside our department or to create projects that complement your personal interests. During the last semester, you can use IST to work on the publicity campaign and catalogue of your graduation group.

At your final exam, you will show a coherent visual presentation of your commissioned work, thesis and graduation work. Next to this, you’ll deliver a verbal presentation that elucidates your work and intended place in the professional field. After passing your exam, your work will be exhibited in the graduation festival.

Part-time programme

The educational structure of our Bachelor Photography programme, allows us to offer the part-time variant also in four years. The content of the part-time programme is comparable to the full-time programme, but with a different organisational structure. Study load and intensity are comparable as well as the level of graduation.

Part-time classes take place two days a week. At the beginning of each year, you receive a year planner giving insights in all additional dates for workshops and such that you’ll need to block. Some classes are combined with full-time classes. There are one or two project or workshop weeks per year. The part-time course has fewer classes and requires more self-study than the full-time variant.


Graduates are expected to meet the following qualifications:

  • Students are able to develop and implement distinctive imagery in a meaningful way resulting from their research and artistic ambition (creative ability)
  • Students are able to contextualise and critically reflect on their own work and on work of others, and they are capable to utilise external feedback and positively implement this in their own work (capacity for critical reflection)
  • Students are able to continuously investigate and analyse their own ambition, vision and working methods as well as the professional practice around them. Their innovate position constantly challenges the photographic medium in general (capacity for growth and innovation)
  • Students are able to organise an inspiring and professional working ambiance. They are capable of practically organising their profession and are ambitious in marketing their work (entrepreneurial and organisational ability)
  • Students know where to reach and how engage their audience and clients. Students are able to present their vision, research and work in a convincing manner, as well written as orally (communicative ability)
  • Students understand how their work relates to the professional artistic and societal context (external awareness) Students understand group dynamics and are able to make independent artistic contributions to a collaborative work. Students are also capable of organising collaborating partners for their own practice (capacity for collaboration).

Read more about the core competencies in design education

Further Education

After completing the Bachelor Photography, graduates can continue their studies at a master's degree level in design or art. For example, another master's programme at an art academy or at the KABK such as the Master Photography & Society . You can also apply for a University (WO) master's programme such as the Master Film & Photographic Studies at Leiden University (admission to a WO programme sometimes requires a pre-master's track).

See al master's degree programmes at the KABK