Marine & Natural History Photography BA(Hons)

Penryn Campus
3 years full-time
Direct line
01326 213730

The Marine & Natural History Photography course at Falmouth is one of a kind. Our course offers you an unparalleled opportunity to engage with natural history image-making, conservation and environmental issues. The course caters both for terrestrial and marine-based image-makers, with an optional underwater programme.

The environment in and around Falmouth makes this degree very distinctive. With access to hundreds of miles of coast, sweeping landscapes and a variety of different habitats, you'll be constantly inspired and challenged to produce stunning natural history images.

Our course will challenge you to extend your skills as a communicator using photographs, words and moving image. Blending craft skills, professional practice and theoretical knowledge, the course sets you up to develop a critical understanding of your work and an appreciation of the relevance of research skills and working methodologies.

Our students have taken part in incredible projects such as assisting on an expedition to Norwegian glaciers to document climate change, and spending three months in the Ecuadorian rainforest carrying out research projects with American scientists.


  • Recent field trips include expeditions to Iceland, Red Sea, Borneo, Cairngorms, and China.
  • Contact with AONB, Wildlife Trusts, National Maritime Museum, Oxford Scientific, Royal Horticultural Society, Natural England, National Trust, RSPB, National Farmers Union, Shark Trust and independent wildlife photographers and film-makers
  • Using traditional, electronic, still and moving image technologies
  • Photomicrography, close-up, time lapse and film-making experience

How is the course taught

You'll study habitats and species, and understand the scientific basis for the planet's diversity of life, conservation, ecology, biomes and habitats, both underwater and on land – all aided by scientific and photography field trips, international diving trips and our contacts with renowned organisations.

Our students are encouraged to interact with industry at every available opportunity and our visiting lecturer programme is continually seeking to obtain the highest level of guest speakers. These have included the BAFTA-winning film cameraman Ian McCarthy and award-winning underwater photographers such as Doug Allan.

To add to this the internationally acclaimed BBC film cameraman and producer Andrew Cooper has recently donated an annual student award that is open to final year Marine & Natural History Photography students; giving the winning student the opportunity to work with him after they graduate.

You'll receive expert tuition from staff who are practising photographers and scientists, allowing you to acquire a deeper level of problem solving and conceptual thinking that underpins all your practical work. You'll also engage with key environmental and ecological debates that will be vitally important to whichever profession you choose.

What you'll do

Year 1

In your first year you'll focus on photographic practice, research and critical thinking and biodiversity and habitat, including photographic and scientific enquiry.

  • MNHP110: Photographic Practice 1
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    This module will introduce, develop and consolidate a range of photographic craft skills through a series of individual and group projects relative to marine and natural history photography that will familiarise you with the Photography Centre and the functions of various hardware and software. These introductory projects will begin to explore the expressive, critical and technical potential of photography and will provide the underpinning for the opportunities for more individually led work later in the course.
  • MNHP120: Informing Contexts 1: Research & Critical Thinking
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    This module aims to introduce you to the historical and cultural contexts within which marine and natural history image making has developed as a genre. Particular emphasis will also be placed on the development of your research, IT and study skills as well as oral and written communication. This module reinforces the practical photography you produce in MNHP110.
  • MNHP130: Biodiversity & Habitat 1: Photographic & Scientific Enquiry
    (20 credits ETCS 10)
    This module requires you to engage with a scientifically informed appreciation of the issues affecting both habitats and species to develop your photographic practice. You will develop a new body of photographic work in response to the themes of biodiversity and habitat. It provides an introduction to the evolutionary process and how it informs understanding of the global diversity of animals, plants, fungi and microbes. It also provides you with a basic understanding of animal behavior and how organisms are classified, as well as a basic understanding of the importance of taxonomy in species conservation, the importance of accurate identification of organisms, and the classification of habitat types in the UK.
  • MNHP140: Photographic Practice 2
    (20 credits ETCS 10)
    In this module there are a variety of opportunities to work both on your own assignments and with colleagues on team projects. The module provides an opportunity to extend your control of the communicative process through an understanding and ability to construct effective photographic narratives in a range of circumstances.
  • MNHP150: Informing Contexts 2: Research & Critical Thinking
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    This module aims to further establish your critical awareness of historical and contemporary issues within marine and natural history photography and introduce key ideas in the critical study of photography and the language used in the critique and analysis of visual material. In your research journal you continue to evidence your critical awareness and analytical skills directly in relation to your evolving photographic practice. It will explore methods of describing, analysing, critiquing and theorising about photographs, as well as key concepts within visual culture and media studies which impact upon marine and natural history photographic practices.
  • MNHP160: Biodiversity & Habitat 2
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    This module consolidates and develops the skills introduced in Module MNHP140 and also encourages a scientifically informed appreciation of the issues affecting both the habitats and species within and around which you develop your photographic practice.

Year 2

In your second year you'll develop your studies in photographic practice, both moving image and stills, research and critical thinking and look at global conservation. You'll also prepare for your own research project.

  • MNHP210: Photographic Practice 3
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    This module enables you to expand your powers of observation and interpretation, creatively using moving image. You will build upon, enhance and utilise the knowledge and skills developed in Stage 1 by being introduced to elements of film making appropriate for Marine and Natural History subjects.
  • MNHP220: Informing Contexts 3: Professional Practice & Critical Awareness
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    This module aims to engage you in issues relating to business and professional practice, whilst allowing further development of communication and other transferable skills. Work placement opportunities will be encouraged. The module will help guide you in the development of an appropriate photographic portfolio as well as different elements of business practice and the application of ethical, professional and management disciplines. Rights, ethics and business practices will be investigated in order to highlight problematic areas of photographic practice and aid you in situating your own developing practice in professional contexts.
  • MNHP230: Global Conservation 1: Photographic & Scientific Enquiry
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    This module aims to introduce you to the increasingly complex interplay of factors affecting the natural environment, and the interpretation and application of skills required to put global habitat, diversity and conservation into the context of photographic practice. You will explore global distributions of main habitat types and their characteristics, and methods of recording habitat status by photographic and other means (including ecological survey techniques). You will also explore the future sustainability of the natural environment in the context of natural resources and the human impacts on these. You produce a presentation and a report relating to a survey project.
  • MNHP240: Photographic Practice 4
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    You will be required to negotiate a self-devised assignment/project (SDA) that meets the unit aims and learning outcomes. Therefore the chosen direction of this module will be specific to your particular interests, expertise and ambitions. It is envisaged that the portfolio of work you produce will indicate the further development of your photographic signature, expressed within a clear appreciation of genre within marine and natural history photography, informed by environmental, regulatory and ethical awareness
  • MNHP250: Research Project Preparation
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    In this module you will continue to build on the photographic and theoretical questions introduced in MNHP210, and you will be further supported in situating your own developing photographic practice within contemporary discourse. You will prepare and test your analytical, evaluative, critical and written skills in preparation for the contextual units MNHP320 and MNHP340 which you will undertake in Level 3.
  • MNHP260: Global Conservation 2: Photographic & Scientific Enquiry
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    This module consolidates and develops the skills introduced in Module MNHP230 and also encourages the learning and application of intellectual skills required to make informed choices as to which species should be conserved on a global scale. You will develop a portfolio and Biodiversity Action Plan, in which you explore why particular species are under threat or have become extinct, and develop an appreciation of the ecological, economic and cultural contexts within which conservation must be considered. You will also be introduced to the future of species conservation and the history, present status and future of international legislation.

Year 3

In your final year you'll look at photographic practice in context and focus on your final photography portfolio and dissertation.

  • MNHP310: Photography Major Project Development Portfolio 1
    (40 credits ETCS 20)
    The photographic work undertaken in this module will result in a major project development portfolio, the first of two portfolios delivered in your final year of study. The major project development portfolio is a photographic exploration and 'test bed' through which you identify the subject that you will consolidate in your second semester final major project.
  • MNHP320: Dissertation
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    This module provides an opportunity for you to carry out in-depth research and critical analysis of a topic relevant to the direction and development of your practice. The dissertation provides the opportunity for you to engage with research and analysis into historical and professional concepts and theories that will help inform, develop and resolve your photographic practice. As such it may potentially encompass a wide range of subject matter being typically determined by the nature of your practical work, together with advice and support from tutors.
  • MNHP330: Photography Final Major Project Portfolio 2
    (40 credits ECTS 20)
    This module is designed to deepen and broaden your understanding of your preferred area of study, and enable the achievement of a very high level of creative and critical practice. In consultation with tutors, you will negotiate and determine the nature of this practice, thus establishing the specific thrust of your learning activity.
  • MNHP340: Critical Review of Photographic Practice
    (20 credits ECTS 10)
    This module enables you to synthesise and reflect upon the critical, conceptual, technical and professional skills and understandings required in producing a professional photographic portfolio. It also affords you the opportunity to demonstrate the critical understanding of your own work in relation to the work of your peers and professional photographers operating in their field. The Critical Review of Practice is closely linked to the development of your own photographic work (developed in Module MNHP330). It is intended to confirm that your practice is underpinned from an informed position, and allows you to locate your photographic practice in a historical, cultural and professional context and comment on how the earlier investigation undertaken in the Dissertation (Module MNHP320) has informed your final images. It is also designed to expand your thinking and develop skills in exploring and reflecting on your practice, and the development of a critical self-awareness within the broad field of photography, media and communication.


The photographic facilities are state-of-the-art with five fully equipped studios, darkrooms, print rooms, digital suites and a photo-microscopy laboratory. The high-spec, industry-led Photography Centre is at your disposal, with the latest photographic equipment for marine and natural history photography:

  • Macro and long lenses, macro flash, infrared triggers, time-lapse and underwater cameras
  • A specialist laboratory to house microscopes, aquariums and equipment for wildlife specimens
  • Digital and traditional processing facilities
  • A Walled Garden with fully equipped hide for the study, photography or filming of birds and other animals


Our staff are practising photographers and scientists. They have worked and exhibited internationally, working for clients such as Pepsi, BT, Audi, Barclays, British Marine Industries Federation and the Eden Project.

Many of our staff are involved in national photography institutes and societies and are at the forefront of marine and natural history photography.


  • Continuous assessment through visual, verbal and written assignments
  • Portfolio of photography or moving image work
  • Final year dissertation and critical review


  • Wildlife photographer
  • Underwater photographer
  • Researcher
  • Conservationist
  • Cameraman
  • Film-maker

Student Mentor Scheme

Falmouth's Student Mentor Scheme matches new starters with a second year student, to help you settle in and find your feet. Our student mentors are now on Facebook. To chat to a mentor about the course, living in Cornwall or what to expect at Falmouth, check out the Marine & Natural History Photography group. You'll need to join the group before you can post.

If you don't have access to Facebook please email your name and proposed course to:

For more information about the application process, portfolios, interviews and selection days, please contact our admissions team using our enquiry form