Biological Photography and Imaging MSc


Fact file

MSc Biological Photography and Imaging
Full time 12 Months
Entry requirements
2.2(Lower 2nd class hons degree or international equivalent)
6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
University Park Campus
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


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.
Read full 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 MSc Biological Photography and Imaging is ideal for students wishing to pursue a career in professional imaging. 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. We welcome new graduates and those who have spent time in employment.

The study programme incorporates the areas of:

  • biological research and natural history
  • photography and imaging (both industrial and media production)
  • video making
  • communication

Applicants to this programme 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

  • One of a kind course in the UK unique to Nottingham. 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.
  • 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, enabling you to present your skills to the competitive marketplace.
  • Take part in an annual local exhibition. Most recently, students’ work was exhibited at Wollaton Hall and had their photographs published in the Guardian. Students are responsible for organising the exhibition, providing more experience in project management, business and marketing. 

Course details

The learning outcomes of this course are intended to provide 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

  • Gain experience in analysing the biological content and scientific value of images produced in various ways.
  • Appreciate the ways that imaging enhances scientific discovery and communication.
  • Receive up to date technical knowledge of digital stills production, image processing and manipulation, filmmaking techniques, web design, 3D technology and more.
  • Learn 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.
  • Participate in a dedicated microscopy module that will allow you to produce images using light, scanning electron and fluorescence microscopes. You will also learn how to analyse these images and interpret data from them.
  • Improve your knowledge of the commercial application of imaging as well as skills in business and project planning. You will also be advised on the legal principles of copyright and ownership of the images that you produce.

How you'll be taught

Teaching methods and delivery of each module will be partly 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.

Field trips further away have included Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Filey Brigg and Padley Gorge in the Peak District.



  • Dedicated computer room with over 16 iMacs which is open 24 hours, 7 days a week
  • Photography studio equipped with a spectrum of lighting systems, including Bowens studio lighting, continuous lighting, video lighting as well as a range of modifiers. The studio has many backdrops including blue and green screen, as well as facilities for set building
  • Photographic stereo
  • Microscope lab
  • Handling collection of rare biological specimens including some extinct insects plus taxidermied and fluid preserved material
  • Glass house
  • Dark room

Student work

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 students’ work below:

Another part of coursework that many of our students enjoy is creating a magazine from scratch. You will write the articles, take the photos and create the adverts. See past students’ magazines on our Issuu

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Instagram


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.






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

This module aims to teach you how to effectively capture images, process and use them effectively in delivery to the end user, either through articles or posters, using industry standard software. You will become capable in editing their images – making choices on which to use as well as enhance the image, and applying them to graphical layouts with written text. This module introduces some 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

This module aims to show you how images can be used to gain scientific information through analysis, applying this to visual research studies. You will also analyse the use of visual media in websites, social media and other channels by imaging professionals. You will gain an understanding of the use of their images in enhancing scientific study, web promotion and support of online articles. This module introduces the concept of extracting data from images in a number of ways and then using it 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 aims to teach 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 show an understanding of applicable filming techniques, a clear understanding of working 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 is designed to familiarise you with and 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. This can be via Photoshop, ImageJ or via some of the 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. You will demonstrate advanced photographic, editing and design techniques, as well as good management of time and resources to complete this project to deadline. The magazine will be composed of a number of articles around themes. These include small worlds (that can incorporate images from the microscopy module), animals in captivity, urban wildlife, birds and sections from the commercial and business module that can also be used to enhance the magazine. This product 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 their imaging skills. In conjunction with the Professional Techniques project you will create a series of articles exploring the commercial application of imaging, as well as using your skills to create business advertisements to show your understanding. You will also understand the fundamentals of starting a freelance business, marketing to a target audience, and how to start earning a living from their imaging skill set. 

Assessment is through practical coursework, business plan and a presentation. 


During the summer semester, a ten-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 relevant to the course. It gives you the opportunity to 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 plan, prepare and self-fund a personal project of your choice, liaise with members of the public in attaining support to complete your project as well as an understanding of your own abilities based upon everything you have learned during the course. You will finish with a physical product of your own interest to use for assessment and also 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.



School of Life Sciences scholarship 

The School of Life Sciences is offering 12 scholarships amounting to £1,000 each for students starting in 2018-19. 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.

Application deadlines

Home/European Union students: The closing date for scholarship applications is 12 mid-day (UK time) Friday 17 August 2018. Successful applicants will be notified via email by 31 August 2018.

International students: The closing date for scholarship applications is 12 mid-day (UK time) Friday 25 May 2018. Successful applicants will be notified via email by Friday 8 June 2018.

Full details and application forms for these scholarships can be obtained by contacting:
Anita Purshottam


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.

The Royal Photographic Society

The Royal Photographic Society offers a selection of bursaries and awards that may be suitable for MSc Biological Photography and Imaging students. Please see their website for full details.

The Scientific Exploration Society (SES)

SES offer several awards to help fund photographer’s work. Alumnae Amy Hong was successful in attaining an award and the SES are always keen to see our students apply. More information about the awards can be found on their website


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 2016, 92.6% 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 £26,847 with the highest being £70,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates, 2015/16. 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

No related courses
Explore it - Virtual Nottingham

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.

Get in touch
+44 (0)115 951 5559
Make an enquiry


Science videos

Science videos


Student Recruitment Enquiries Centre

The University of Nottingham
King's Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

t: +44 (0) 115 951 5559
f: +44 (0) 115 951 5812
w: Frequently asked questions
Make an enquiry