Medical Photographer

The Job and What's Involved

Medical photographers provide a wide range of photographic services to staff working in the medical field. They use photography and sometimes video for:

Patient care - taking photographs of patients to help diagnosis, and to track and record treatment. They also download digital images or scan conventional photographs onto a computer and edit them for use by medical staff. They may use video, for example to illustrate a patient's movement problems.

General information and marketing - taking photographs for publications such as hospital newsletters and annual reports.

Medical photographers may also:

  • Take photographs or videos of medical procedures, such as surgical operations, to provide teaching materials.
  • Use specialist techniques such as photomicrography, which allows microscopic objects to be seen in detail.
  • Photograph medical conditions and surgery to illustrate medical textbooks, journals, reports, prospectuses and information leaflets.

Medical photographers work closely with other healthcare professionals. Much of their work involves contact with patients.

Medical photographers usually work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Some work takes place in clinical environments, such as operating theatres and pathology departments, where strict hygiene and protective clothing rules need to be observed.

Starting salaries for trainees may be around £16,405 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Medical photographers may work in healthcare, research, education or, usually on a freelance basis, for employers such as medical publishers. However, most work in healthcare, where they are also known as clinical photographers.

Education and Training

Most entrants have a BTEC higher national diploma (HND), Foundation degree or degree in photography. Many prepare for these qualifications by studying a BTEC Diploma in Foundation Studies (Lens-based Media), but other qualifications are also acceptable.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

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. A Degree in Clinical Photography is available by distance learning at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A medical photographer should:

  • Have excellent photographic and computer skills.
  • Have normal colour vision.
  • Be able to deal confidently with patients and families/carers, and be able to put them at their ease.
  • Not be squeamish.
  • Be interested in medicine and anatomy.

Your Long Term Prospects

It is possible for a medical photographer to become head of a department.

Freelance medical photographers may broaden their business by developing additional specialist skills in related areas such as scientific or technical photography.

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Get Further Information

British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP),
Fox Talbot House, 2 Amwell End, Ware,
Hertfordshire SG12 9HN
Tel: 01920 464011

Health Professions Council, Park House,
184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 020 7582 0866

Institute of Medical Illustrators (IMI),
29 Arboretum Street, Nottingham NG1 4JA
Tel: 0121 333 8492

NHS Careers, PO Box 2311, Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 606 0655

Skillset, Prospect House,
80-110 New Oxford Street,
London WC1A 1HB
Free helplines:
Tel: 08080 300 900 (England and Northern Ireland),
Tel: 0808 100 8094 (Scotland)
Tel: 0800 0121 815 (Wales)

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