Visual Arts & Trades
Medical photographers produce material for patient care, medical education and medical research. They photograph patients, specimens, operations and so on, for medical records. They also prepare visual aids such as slides and videos, which can be used for teaching and research purposes.
Medical photographers usually work in a medical illustration department as part of the healthcare teamworking closely with doctors, healthcare scientists, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Medical photographers capture a broad range of medical procedures. They work in clinical and surgical photography.
Their photographs are used to help doctors diagnose conditions early and help researchers and those involved in training medical staff.
Typical job responsibilities include:
- Photographing and video-recording surgical operations in surgical photography
- Making photos and other diagrams, artwork and X-rays into slides for use in tutorials and lectures. They often have to check that copyright laws are followed when reproducing original slides
- Taking photos for medical journals and books, and photos of special events that happen within the hospital
- Can involve specialising in video, for example to illustrate a patient's movement problems
- using specialised techniques, such as photomicrography, which allows microscopic objects to be seen in detail, or 3D imaging.
Medical photographers are part of the healthcare team and work with doctors, nurses, other health professionals, medical illustrators and audio-visual techniques.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for medical photographers
- An interest in science, medicine and photography
- An understanding of the human anatomy
- Ability to copy with distressing situations, e.g. you may have to photograph a post-mortem or someone who has been disfigured in an accident
- Good communication skills, to be able to liaise with medical, nursing and research staff
- Knowledge of computer imaging software packages such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, or Kodak Photo Desk, and ability to keep up to date with changing digital technology
- High levels of accuracy
- Knowledge of photography techniques
- Good organisational skills
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of medical photographers
Medical photographers can be based in departments of medical illustration in hospitals, in medical schools, in private medicine and in research establishments. The larger departments are generally found in university hospitals. Look at individual hospital or medical school recruitment sites.
Vacancies are advertised in the British Journal of Photography, the Ophthalmic Imaging Association (OIA), and on the website of the Institute of Medical Illustrators (IMI).
Vacancies are advertised on all major job boards, the NHS Jobs website, NHS Scotland Recruitment, and on Universal Jobmatch.
Qualifications and training required
Most entrants have a relevant HND, Foundation degree or degree in photography. Advanced level Apprenticeships in Photo Imaging are also available, and it may be possible to enter with a degree in subject related to photography. If you go via this route, you will probably need a postgraduate certificate in clinical photography.
Details of undergraduate and postgraduate courses are available at the Institute of Medical Illustrators (IMI). If you have a degree from a different photographic discipline, you can apply for a position as a trainee and take a one-year, graduate of postgraduate certificate in clinical photography while working.
Many videographers are qualified as clinical photographers and will gain registration through that route.
The MSc (Hons) degree in Clinical Photography available at the University of Westminster is the only full-time undergraduate course. Entry requirements are:
- 3 A levels (or equivalent), including biology, and ideally photography,
- plus 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4, including English, maths and a science subject.
For entry to a relevant degree course, you will need:
- 2/3 A levels. Some courses may ask for passes in biology and photography
- 4/5 GCSEs in grade 4 and above, including English and maths, biology.
To enter a relevant HND or Foundation degree, the requirements are:
- 1/2 A levels, including art and/or biology
- 4/5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including English, maths and art
Changes currently underway mean that photographers working in healthcare will need to undertake state registration with the Health Professions Council. This will require training and a qualification in clinical photography at graduate or postgraduate level.
The Institute of Medical Illustrators (IMI) offers further training to support continuing professional development (CPD) of medical photographers.
Postgraduate courses are available, and may be a requirement for some positions.