Postgraduate study

Biological Photography and Imaging MSc

This unique course is ideal for students wishing to pursue a career in professional imaging. It incorporates the areas of biological research, imaging and communication.
 
  
Duration
1 year full-time
Entry requirements
2:2 (or international equivalent)
IELTS
6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses may be available
Start date
September
UK/EU fees
£11,475 - Terms apply
International fees
£25,200 - Terms apply
Campus
University Park Campus
School/department
 

 

Overview

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. 
 

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. 
 


Key facts

  • 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.
 

Full course details

This course provides the skills and knowledge for students with an undergraduate degree in biology to move into the professional photographic and imaging field. It is also intended as a potential stepping-stone into further postgraduate research in scientific imaging, such as a PhD.

What you'll learn

  • Analysis of the biological content and scientific value of images produced in various ways
  • The ways that imaging enhances scientific discovery and communication
  • Technical knowledge of digital stills production, image processing and manipulation, filmmaking techniques, web design, 3D technology and more
  • Outdoor photography techniques for capturing images of animals and plants in their environment, and training in the studio for organisms that can be handled indoors
  • Image production using light, scanning electron and fluorescence microscopes. You will also learn how to analyse these images and interpret data from them
  • The commercial application of imaging as well as skills in business and project management. This includes the legal principles of copyright and ownership of the images that you produce
 

How you'll be taught

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.

 

Location and field trips

The course is based on University Park Campus, a beautiful 300-acre landscaped campus which is home to a variety of wildlife. 

We also have Wollaton Hall and Park and Attenborough Nature Centre providing local locations ideal for practising your photography.

Past field trips have included locations such as Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Filey Brigg and Padley Gorge in the Peak District.

 

Facilities

  • 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
 

Assessed coursework

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

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Alumni profiles

Edward Marshall:
I'm a natural history photographer based on the Isles of Scilly, and put simply, I wouldn't be where I am today without the MSc Biological Photography and Imaging course. For me, it was life changing.
 

 

Jack Mooody:
I cannot recommend this course enough – it’s got a bit of everything! Whether your interests lie in photography or film making, you will learn new skills, experience unique opportunities, and make some strong friends in the process. One of the best decisions I ever made.  
 

 

Frankie Buckle:
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.
 

 

 
 
 

Modules

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.

 

 

Project work

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 modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.

 
 

Funding

School of Life Sciences scholarship 

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:
Anita Purshottam
MB-Info-PGT-Mol@exmail.nottingham.ac.uk

 

UK/EU students

For funding advice, please see our guide to funding

Government loans for masters courses

The Government offers postgraduate student loans for students studying a taught or research masters course. Applicants must ordinarily live in England or the EU. Student loans are also available for students from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international 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 your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.

Additional funding options

The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) offers a selection of bursaries and awards that may be suitable for MSc Biological Photography and Imaging students.

The Scientific Exploration Society (SES) also offer several awards to help fund photographer’s work.

 
 

Careers and professional development

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

In 2017, 94.9% of postgraduates from the school who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £21,400 with the highest being £40,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates, 2016/17. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career prospects and employability

Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.

 
 

Related courses and downloads

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Disclaimer
This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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