Medical Photography

Medical Photographers must have a very thorough grasp of photographic principles and specific techniques used in the medical setting

Photographers in the Medical Photography field work in hospitals or medical schools and their photographs are used for teaching purposes, diagnosis, scientific records and to illustrate medical and scientific publications. To succeed in this field of photography a genuine interest in science and medicine is as necessary as the ability to take photographs.

Medical photographers need a basic knowledge of anatomy, physiology and the origins and manifestation of disease. They must be able to communicate in medical terminology with doctors, consultants and teaching staff.

A medical photographer must also have the personality to put patients at their ease while photographing them.

Although it is often considered less glamorous than some areas of photography, medical photography offers a challenging and potentially satisfying application of photographic techniques. It also offers a formal career and salary structure.

Medical photographers normally use digital cameras and flash to photograph patients on the wards, in the operating theatre during surgery and sometimes in the post mortem room. But they also use a variety of specialist techniques and equipment. These include micrography, where a camera body is attached to a microscope; time-lapse or high-speed cinematography to record events which occur either too slowly or too quickly for the human brain to comprehend and the use of infra-red and ultra-violet radiation to record images outside the normal visible range.

Surgery_team_operation                        Doctor_ICU

Endoscopy is sometimes used to photograph internal organs. A tube with a light source and a lens is attached to a camera body and fed into one of the patient's orifices so that relevant shots can be taken.

Occasionally a medical photographer may be asked to take PR photographs for the hospital. Examples of this type of work include prize givings or the visit of a celebrity.

Most medical photographers work in small medical illustration departments with medical artists and medical audiovisual technicians.

Employment in Medical Photography

Since the work of Medical Photographers has a direct impact on people's lives and health, applicants often have a degree-level scientific or medical qualification, a formal photographic education (or vocational qualification), and a specialised medical photographic qualification.

Medical Photographers may later choose to specialise in more technical forms of photography, such as Ophthalmic, Surgical or Pathological photography.

There are two main entry routes into Medical Photography. Both require academic qualifications in photography.

The first requires an HND level course in Photography, followed by a trainee post at a teaching hospital and then after a year take a Post Experience Certificate in Medical Illustration or the BIPP (British Institute of Professional Photographers) Qualifying Examination in Medical Photography.

The second option is to complete a full-time HND, MSc or BSc course in Medical Illustration, and subsequently to seek employment. Several colleges and universities offer specialist courses, details of which can be found at Institute of Medical Illustrators website (see below).

Trainee medical photographers will not be considered for work within the NHS without these qualifications. The syllabus for this examination includes modules in anatomy, physiology, disease entities, as well as aspects of medical photographic practice.

Trainee vacancies are advertised in a number of medical publications, the British Journal of Photography and the NHS and NHS Scotland websites:

Further information and resources

Institute of Medical Illustrators (IMI)
provides its members with the umbrella of a Code of Conduct and a Code of Responsible Practice which, together with the Degree and the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme, guarantee employers well qualified and up-to-date staff. Their website provides further details about the job of Medical Photographer as well as links to sites advertising job vacancies.


The British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP)
is a not for profit association of professional image makers that aims to improve standards, develop skills and encourage continuing professional development. The BIPP recognises nine colleges across the UK who have proved that they have the resources, facilities and expert lecturers necessary to run an effective professional photographic course. For details of BIPP Qualifications for practising professionals visit the Membership pages on the BIPP website. For a list of approved colleges, including those offering the PQE e-mail Student Membership is available to students attending a vocational course in photography at an educational establishment in the UK. The Institute's Journal The Photographer is supplied free to all members.

T: +44 (0)1296 718530
F: +44 (0)1296 336367

The Royal Photographic Society (RPS).
is the industry's 'learned body'. Established 150 years ago it aims to promote the art and science of photography. It awards distinctions that are recognised throughout the world and has established special interest groups and meetings for its members, who are drawn from both amateur and professional photographers. It publishes a monthly journal.

T: +44 (0)1225 325733

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