Environmental (ecological) genomics aims to understand the genetic basis of relationships between organisms and their abiotic and biotic environments. It is a rapidly progressing field of research largely due to recent advances in the speed and volume of genomic data being produced by next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies. Building on information generated by NGS-based approaches, functional genomic methodologies are being applied to identify and characterize genes and gene systems of both environmental and evolutionary relevance. Marine photosynthetic organisms (MPOs) were poorly represented amongst the early genomic models, but this situation is changing rapidly. Here we provide an overview of the recent advances in the application of ecological genomic approaches to both prokaryotic and eukaryotic MPOs. We describe how these approaches are being used to explore the biology and ecology of marine cyanobacteria and algae, particularly with regard to their functions in a broad range of marine ecosystems. Specifically, we review the ecological and evolutionary insights gained from whole genome and transcriptome sequencing projects applied to MPOs and illustrate how their genomes are yielding information on the specific features of these organisms.