In a fast-moving society, the professional image-maker has a powerful role in the way science is communicated to the world. The professional imager is vital to modern research, science communication, commerce and industry.
The Biological Photography and Imaging MSc is ideal for students wishing to pursue a career in professional imaging. We bring together science, photography, business, web, video, design and writing to provide you with a dynamic set of skills making you attractive to employers.
The study programme incorporates the areas of:
- biological research and natural history
- photography and imaging (both industrial and media production)
- video making
- science communication
You are expected to have a high quality undergraduate degree in the biological or related sciences. Applicants with degrees in other disciplines may be accepted at the discretion of the Course Director. Applicants with professional experience at a level equivalent to that of a first degree will also be considered.
Applicants are expected to have their own digital SLR camera. Systems normally used on this course are Nikon or Canon; if you wish to operate a different system, you need to discuss this with the Director of Photography.
Royal Photography Society Qualifications
The Royal Photographic Society are offering our students to join at the level of Graduate Imaging Scientist and ARPS via exemption (GIS ARPS) upon completion of the course. This is a great opportunity to attain an additional professional qualification.
- Photography studio equipped with a spectrum of lighting systems, including Bowens studio lighting, continuous lighting, video lighting and a range of modifiers. The studio has many backdrops including blue and green screen, as well as facilities for set building
- Photographic stereo
- Dedicated computer room with over 16 iMacs which is open 24 hours, 7 days a week
- Microscope lab
- Handling collection of rare biological specimens including some extinct insects plus taxidermied and fluid preserved material
- Glass house
- Dark room
Global Course Community
Our course has attracted students from all over the world, including America, Belgium, China, Ecuador, India, Germany, Mexico and Pakistan. The University has a wealth of support for international students with a dedicated International Office providing guidance on visas and immigration, fees and funding, and settling into life at Nottingham.
- This is a one of the kind course in the UK unique to Nottingham
- Special guest lecturers which have included BAFTA award winner Alex Tate, Jackie Poon, Heather Angel, plus many more
- Receive tuition in the leading industry-standard web design and animation software and graduate with an online portfolio of your work
- Uniquely, we also offer a business component to the course to prepare you for a competitive marketplace
- Organise and take part in an annual local exhibition. Past students’ work was exhibited at Wollaton Hall, with their photographs also published in the Guardian.
The taught component of the MSc Biological Photography and Imaging consists of six modules worth 20 credits each. The modules are listed below:
Applied Digital/Conventional Imaging
Through the application of industry standard software, you will become capable in editing images: making choices on which to use, enhancing images and applying the images to graphical layouts with written text.
This module also introduces key concepts in natural history photography, including how to identify different organisms and the use of keys and the natural history collection. Assessment is through practical coursework.
Image Manipulation and Multi-Media
You will analyse the use of visual media in websites, social media and other channels, while also gaining insight in to how imaging professionals can use images to enhance scientific study, web promotion and support online articles.
This module also introduces the concept of extracting data from images in a number of ways and then using this data for investigations. There is a brief introduction to the production of 3D anaglyphs and 3D modelling. Assessment is through practical coursework, research essay and presentation.
Film Production and Digital Film/Video Photography
This module teaches you video capture and production, the techniques and application of filming, sound capture, camera movements and editing – using industry standard software.
On completion, you will understand relevant filming techniques, how to work with editing software and demonstrate an intermediate level of knowledge of film design and storytelling. Assessment is through a group project, an individual filming project and an assessed editing project.
Microscopy and Image Analysis
This module will give you expertise in using a number of different microscopes and lighting effects. You will have a general grounding in the optics and calibration of light microscopes, various preparative techniques and staining protocols and the uses and benefits of fluorescence and electron microscopy.
Separately, this module also includes a section on marine and aquatic biology concentrating on the wildlife of rocky shores, photographing in aquaria and lectures on using under-water housings. You will need to add some measure of image analysis in your project using Photoshop, ImageJ or microscope-specific camera software.
The microscopy project is written up as a scientific paper based on a short project and the marine biology section by producing a dichotomous key.
Professional Techniques in the Field
Using your experience, knowledge and skills to date, you will write, photograph and design your own magazine covering a range of topics set out by the course. These include small worlds (that can incorporate images from the microscopy module), animals in captivity, urban wildlife, birds. Sections from the commercial and business module can also be used to enhance the magazine.
You will demonstrate advanced photographic, editing and design techniques, as well as good management of time and resources to complete this project to deadline. This module has been key in helping many of our students achieve employment.
Commercial and Business Application for the Professional Imager
This module will teach you the commercial application of your imaging skills. In conjunction with the Professional Techniques project, you will create a series of articles exploring the commercial application of imaging.
You will use your skills to create business advertisements and develop an understanding of the fundamentals of starting a freelance business. This includes marketing to a target audience and how to start earning a living from your imaging skill set. Assessment is through practical coursework, a business plan and a presentation.
During the summer semester, a 10-week work study project worth 60 credits is undertaken in a subject area agreed with the course director. This work-study project can be carried out in the UK or abroad. The project allows you to specialise in a specific area of interest, relevant to the course, and put your newly-learned skills into practice in one large, intensive project.
You will plan, photograph and produce a project within media of your choice – a book, film or research study. You will learn how to self-fund a personal project, liaising with members of the public to attain support for your project. Your finished product will be used for assessment, and can also be used as a portfolio piece for the first step in your chosen career.
The above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. This course page may be updated over the duration of the course, as modules may change due to developments in the curriculum or in the research interests of staff.
Teaching methods and assessment
Teaching methods and module delivery are determined by content but it is anticipated that at least half of your time will be spent completing practical tasks in the computer lab, studio or field.
The teaching week is split into teaching days and days where you are free to complete assignments. In each semester, typically there will be one day per week devoted to each of the three modules (three days total), and two days for assignment completion.
Most of the teaching will occur during the autumn and spring semesters with the final project running during the summer. Students are required to complete six compulsory modules (20 credits each) and a final project (60 credits) on a topic relevant to biological photography and imaging.
The pass mark for the MSc is 50%. Students failing to achieve that grade may be given the opportunity to obtain a Diploma in recognition of work already completed if they achieve a grade between 40-49%. Diploma students do not undertake a final 60 credit project.
Part of the assessed coursework is a blog. You are expected to post about your time on the course such as field trips and publish your photographs. This becomes an online portfolio.
See our inspirational students’ work below:
Students also have the opportunity to produce a magazine – writing the articles, taking the photos and creating the adverts. See past students’ magazines on our Issuu.
We have designed this intensive taught course to deliver a wide range of skills that are grounded in a solid understanding and appreciation of the biological sciences. Graduates of the course are equipped with the skills to pursue employment or further study in a variety of areas.
Our graduates have gone on to become professional photographers or undertake PhDs in molecular biology and biophysics, or pursued various careers such as:
- wildlife filmmaking
- website design
- food photography
- medical imaging
The writing skills our students develop have also enabled them to publish work in scientific and popular magazines.
Additionally, the course provides guidance for individuals who wish to pursue a career as a freelance professional imager. The course will provide you with the business skills necessary to work on a freelance basis. This includes learning how to:
- write a business proposal
- give business presentations
- apply a marketing strategy to your business
- understand copyright law
- deal with a picture agency
Graduate destinations include:
- TV producer for Saving Planet Earth, Planet Earth 2 and Nature’s Great Events
- Media Researcher for Wildscreen
- Specialist Researcher at Photolibrary Group
- Research Associate at the University of Nottingham
- Science Educator for the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS)
- Medical Photographer and Videographer at Christchurch Hospital
- Assistant Producer and Camera Operator, working on projects for Disney, the Discovery Channel and the BBC
Average starting salary and career progression
94.9% of postgraduates from the School of Life Sciences secured work or further study within six months of graduation. £21,400 was the average starting salary, with the highest being £40,000.*
* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates who were available for employment, 2016/17. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.
Careers support and advice
We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students whatever your course, mode of study or future career plans.
You can access our Careers and Employability Service during your studies and after you graduate. Expert staff will help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.
More than 1,500 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.
As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses. This includes a subscription to Adobe Photoshop which costs £16 (+VAT) per month and purchasing Techniques in the Field magazine for £40. Your summer project is self-funded and costs will vary depending on the nature of your project and its location.
Please note that these figures are approximate and subject to change.
You should be able to access most of the books you'll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies or more specific titles.
Scholarships and bursaries
The School of Life Sciences is offering 12 scholarships amounting to £1,000 each for international students joining our MSc courses in 2019/20. To apply for these scholarships you need a copy of an acceptance letter confirming that you have a place to study. This is a competitive scheme and students will be awarded a scholarship on academic and individual merit.
The closing date for applications is 12 noon (GMT) Friday 24 May 2019. Successful applicants will be notified via email by Friday 14 June 2019.
Full details and application forms for these scholarships can be obtained by contacting:
Government loans for masters courses
Masters student loans of up to £10,906 are available for taught and research masters courses. Applicants must ordinarily live in the UK or EU.
International and EU students
Masters scholarships are available for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure you apply for your course with enough time.
We provide guidance on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study. You can also access specific funding opportunities, entry requirements and other resources for students from specific countries.