Triangle

Course overview

Have you ever wanted to work on nature, archaeology, or other science documentaries?  Are you looking to blend science and art? Do you understand the importance of an informed public?  

In a fast-moving society, the professional, photographer, videographer, and imaging specialist, 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.

Professionals in this field are key in communicating with the public, sharing scientific news, and affecting the collective consciousness.  Without them, powerful exposés on the destruction of the environment, the eradication of species, and the impact of humanity on the world would not exist.  Without these exposés, the public attitude toward climate change and environmental impact might not have begun to change.

This course allows you to determine what level of science and learning you wish to communicate to your audience with your art.  From in-depth scientific research to digestible information that the average teenager can understand, we will work with you to best tailor your art to your audience.  

The Biological Photography and Imaging MSc is ideal for students wishing to pursue a career in photography, videography, imaging, science communication, or any visual art. 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

We also teach a module designed to help you start and market your own freelance imaging business after graduation.

Why choose this course?

Graduate pathways

The Royal Photographic Society offer our graduates multiple options to join them.

Special guest lectures

Including BAFTA award winner Alex Tate, Jackie Poon, Heather Angel, plus many more

Exhibit your work

Past students’ work was exhibited at publicly, with it also published in the Guardian.

Gold-standard teaching

Our teaching is recognised as of the highest standard

International Research

95% of the School of Life Sciences research was deemed to be of international quality.

Research Excellence Framework 2014

Course content

The taught component of the MSc Biological Photography and Imaging consists of six modules worth 20 credits each. This is alongside a project work module worth 60 credits.

Modules

Core modules (20 credits)

Applied Digital/Conventional Imaging 20 credits

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 20 credits

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 20 credits

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 20 credits

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 20 credits

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 20 credits

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.

Project work (60 credits)

Project work 60 credits

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 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. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Tuesday 19 October 2021.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Seminars
  • Field courses
  • Workshops

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.

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.

How you will be assessed

  • Coursework
  • Project work
  • Portfolio (written/digital)

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.

Contact time and study hours

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. 

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2022 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:2 honours degree in a relevant subject

Applying

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.

Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply

Fees

All listed fees are per year of study.

Qualification MSc
Home / UK £11,600
International £26,500

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you will pay international tuition fees in most cases. If you are resident in the UK and have 'settled' or 'pre-settled' status under the EU Settlement Scheme, you will be entitled to 'home' fee status.

Irish students will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for ‘home’ fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our information for applicants from the EU.

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

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.

Funding

There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

We also offer a range of international masters scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding

Careers

We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

Each year 1,100 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Graduate destinations

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

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

Additionally, 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

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.

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.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
" The MSc in Biological Photography and Imaging was the perfect course for me. I have directly applied the skills I learned on the course to all the roles I have had over my career since I graduated. I think the course is a fantastic launch pad for anyone considering a career in photography, digital imaging, scientific comms, photo journalism, marketing, web design, or further research. "
Frankie Buckle

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This content was last updated on Tuesday 19 October 2021. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.