KS3-5 Art & Photography

Year 7 - 13

At the National Portrait Gallery, we offer a significant programme for the interpretation of art and photography including practical workshops gallery tours, talks and study days.

FREE  (unless otherwise stated) Cancellation and non-attendance charges  apply. See terms and conditions


The National Portrait Gallery has an extensive permanent photographic portrait collection, as well as displaying temporary photographic exhibitions.

Students work in our studio workshop space using large-format and/or digital cameras, using studio lighting to create their own portraits, taking on the roles of photographers, stylists and models.

Students develop ideas, improve technical skills with formal elements, and make connections between their own outcomes and the artists' approach.

Please see here for photography-based Gallery sessions

Our Photography resource set Portrait Photography - From the Victorians to the Present Day is now available for teachers

Photography Study Day

This intensive Study Day offers students the opportunity to explore aspects of photography in the Collections. Suitable for secondary art and photography students KS4+.

Please see here for photography-based study days.


Workshops in Practical Art

Practical Study for KS3 –5
workshops led by professional artists and specialists

Through our broad range of portraiture approaches including painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and digital media, learners are offered workshops led by professional artists, held in our fully equipped Education Studio Space. Students develop ideas, improve and explore technical skills inspired by the Collection.

All workshops run for one day from 10.30 - 15.30 with a break for lunch (not provided). Minimum number of students is 15; maximum is 20.

Please note that school groups must commit to stay for the duration of the workshop.

£20 per student (including booking fees and all materials)
Cancellation and non-attendance charges  apply. See terms and conditions

Please see here for studio-based practical art workshops

Meet the Artist

Meet the Artist is a unique opportunity for students to connect with practising artists who are associated with the National Portrait Gallery through exhibitions, commissions, and portrait prize programmes. Dates for ‘ Meet the Artist’ sessions are released throughout the academic year please check our website regularly, sign up to the schools termly newsletters or follow us on twitter for updates 

Gallery Discovery Tours & Talks

Suitable for KS3 +

Gallery Discovery Tour: 1 hour, maximum 25 students

An explorative, lively gallery tour, engaging students directly with works from our Collection.  Students engage in lively dialogue encouraging curiosity and creative thinking, developing a deeper understanding of portraiture.

Illustrated Talks : 1 hour, maximum 138

We offer lecture theatre based discussions. Looking works from and beyond our Collection to explore a theme. Held in the Ondaatje Wing Lecture Theatre, these talks are ideal for larger classes or groups of classes and a great starter for before Gallery visits or drawing activities.
Cancellation and non-attendance charges apply. See terms and conditions

Booking essential

Tours & Talk Themes

Sketchbook Skills

Suitable for GCSE or A-Level.

All sessions run on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday 14:00 – 15:00. Bookings in advance are essential.

Led by our Learning Freelancer team of artists and teachers, these sessions aim to sharpen your students’ observation and sketchbook skills, giving students’ new ways to develop their sketchbooks in the Gallery spaces. £ 75 per group (Minimum 10, Maximum 20 students) 

Think like an Artist

How do artists push boundaries and think creatively, questioning the world around them? Through directed discussion and debate, students look at the Collection with an artist’s ‘eye’; given the opportunity to analyse portraits making connections through an explicit  framework guided by a gallery teacher  and think critically about the artistic concepts, content and processes.

What is portraiture?

Students explore and analyse critically the history of portraiture from the Tudors to Contemporary, assessing the changing faces of the art form. Through a lively debate and some specific observational drawing activities   students will be encouraged to discuss how and why content, style, and approach has changed, adapted and evolved over time.

Fashion and Adornment 

In the Gallery’s Collection, clothes, accessories, jewels and makeup can be seen to reinforce character and status. Students are encouraged to explore and interpret different styles of fashion, adornment and costume from the Tudors to Contemporary Portraits.  

Image and Identity - Who are you?

Young people are continuously exploring how to convey to others who they are and what they feel. Our Learning Freelancers use a variety of teaching models, including object association to promote lively discussion and enquiry, exploring ways in which portraits of British achievers from our time and from history can be interpreted in terms of the sitter's own image and identity.

The Self-Portrait - Look at me, what do you see?

Discover the mood, form and process behind some of the most interesting self- portraits in our Collection. Exploring self-presentation and context, students are encouraged to enquire through a variety of learning models including discussion, object association and interpretation.

The Photographic Portrait

Students observe samples from the Gallery’s Collection to explore and make connections between a wide variety of forms and processes, considering the relationships between contemporary approaches and older works to express their own ideas and observations.

Signs and Symbols - Can you crack the codes?

Artists have used the language of visual symbols for centuries, for example, a rose or a skull can suggest love or death. Explore symbolism in portraits from the Tudors to the contemporary collection, detecting hidden meanings and messages.

The Abstract Portrait

Starting with Patrick Heron, students explore and discuss the use of abstraction in portraiture, through observing a variety of portraits.

The 3D Portrait

Students respond to a variety of sculptures in the gallery, discussing the different techniques and approaches taken by the artist to depict a portrait in three-dimensions.

20th Century Portraits

Students are given the opportunity to discuss the context and content of key examples in the Gallery’s extensive twentieth-century portrait collection.

Exhibitions & Display Talks

For talks on our temporary Exhibitions and Displays, many themes are available, including tours around Simon Schama’s The Face of Britain, and Van Dyck: Transforming British Art displays, please go to Exhibitions & Introductory Talks

Image banner: Photograph Marysa Dowling ©National Portrait Gallery, London