Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The World of Medical Photography

I'm frequently asked 'What is a Medical photographer and what do they do?'
So here's a little insight into just that.......

What is a Medical Photographer?
Medical photographers, also known as biomedical photographers, are those rare individuals who have both a demonstrated artistic ability and a detailed knowledge of scientific processes. They use their skills and abilities to document scientific information that relates to biology, chemistry, medicine, and other health-related subjects. These photographic representations of medical and biological subjects are sometimes used in textbooks, pamphlets, exhibits, instructional films, civil/criminal legal procedures, and teaching models.

They may also document surgical procedures, record a patients medical progress over a period of time, or photograph an autopsy. A major function of the medical photographer is to assist in education and research. They make prints of charts and graphs, digitize images, use photomicrography to allow microscopic objects appear in full detail, and process photographs of many different anatomical areas in an effort to increase understanding of the human body and the diseases that affect it. Medical photographers are increasingly using technology to help them perform their duties. They use the most up-to-date computers and photographic design software, such as Photo Shop, to clarify a variety of complicated medical concepts and processes.

What do you do?
I take pictures of operations and also of patients with particular medical conditions. The pictures are used for teaching publications and for patients' notes, so that consultants can track how a medical condition is developing. These images can include original wounds, progressing conditions like rashes, and surgical procedures. I also work in the pathology lab, photographing autopsies, specimen samples from patients and also specimens on the microscope.

What are your main responsibilities?
I take pictures during operations and at specialist clinics. I do a lot of ophthalmology work which involves taking pictures of people's eyes using a special fundus camera. (A fundus camera or retinal camera is a specialized low power microscope with an attached camera designed to photograph the interior surface of the eye, including the retina, optic disc and macula.)

Fundus camera

Fundus photo
What qualities do you need for your job?
You've got to be friendly and good at dealing with people. Patients can feel very intimidated about having their photograph taken. Confidentiality is vital too and you have to respect the patients privacy. You need to work well under pressure because there are always deadlines to meet.

Why did you choose this type of work?
I have always loved photography but Medical photography is different. I find it fascinating, so I decided to specialize in this field of work. Although the photography definitely comes first, an interest in medical matters is a close second.

Do you need a degree for your job?
Yes, in photography or illustration.

What equipment do you use?
As well as cameras, computers play a big part in our work, especially now that most of the pictures we take are digital. You need to know how to download the pictures onto PCs, and understand the main media computer programs. All the images are stored on a computer database and we have to colour correct them and often put them into computer presentations for consultants.

What are the particular challenges in your work?
You never know exactly what you are going to be photographing and that's what makes it interesting. As with all forms of photography you've got to be on top of all the technical aspects. Lighting is especially important and the pictures need to be as natural and clutter free as possible.

What do you like/dislike about your job?
I love the fact that no day is ever the same and that I use a camera everyday, because that's what I trained to do. Sometimes things can be upsetting and a lot of people will open to you and talk about their illness. But you need to be able to distance yourself.

 Like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get!!!


  1. That's the clinical facts - so what about some funny stories? Your professional life must be full of them! ;)

  2. p.s. just noticed your JO inspirational listing. I'm actually blogging about one of his right now - tried it for the first time this evening and it was stunning.