Medical photography is a specialized area of photography that concerns itself with the documentation of the clinical presentation of patients, medical and surgical procedures, medical devices and specimens from autopsy. The practice requires a high level of technical skill to present the photograph free from misleading information that may cause misinterpretation. The photographs are used in clinical documentation, research, publication in scientific journals and teaching.
Medical photographers document patients at various stages of an illness, injuries and before and after surgical procedures. They record the work of healthcare professionals to assist in the planning of treatment and education of the public and other healthcare professionals. The nature of the work requires a respect for and sensitivity to people, an awareness of sterile procedures and an adherence to privacy legislation and policies.
The Bio Communications Association, in a survey commissioned in 2008 of individuals working in medical photography, found that most medical photographers are employed by university affiliated hospitals and research centers. Ten percent were freelancers working in specialty clinics such as dermatology, ophthalmology and plastic surgery. A few of these provided services to the medical-legal profession. Medical photographers photograph patients in clinics, wards and in operating rooms. They may also be called to photograph an autopsy and gross specimens in the pathology department. Specialized photography techniques using photomacrography and ultra-violet and fluorescence photography may also be used. The role of the medical photographer has changed over the years from being exclusively medical to incorporating more general photography of a commercial or editorial nature to support public relations and education. Video production is playing an increased role; medical photographers are often responsible for video conferencing from operating rooms and are involved in tele-medicine. Departments employing medical photographers tend to number five people or less. Some medical photographers specialize in areas such as ophthalmology and dermatology.
Education and training
Most medical photographers have a degree in photography from a college or university and frequently have a degree in the sciences. They need to have a good understanding of photographic and optical principles, and also understand the technical requirements of a particular job in order select or modify equipment. Knowledge of digital imaging software is necessary to edit and output images while maintaining scale and color balance.
An interest in science and medicine are important. A basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology coupled with a working knowledge of medical terminology is required in order to discuss the photographic needs with medical staff and other healthcare providers. Because they are working with patients, medical photographers must have the manners and sensitivity to make patients comfortable while being photographed. They must also be aware of the laws governing privacy and copyright.