THE MEDICAL PHOTOGRAPHER
A medical photographer, also called a biomedical photographer, is a skilled
individual who has both artistic creativity and a detailed knowledge of
scientific processes, anatomy and physiology. Medical photographers can find a
wide range of career options at medical schools, hospitals, research centers, publishing
companies, advertising agencies, pharmaceutical manufacturers and other
health-based organizations. It’s an exciting career for those who excel in both
art and science.
What is a Medical Photographer?
Medical photographers capture and process photographs of the many different
anatomical areas of the human body in an effort to increase understanding of
the body and the diseases and injuries that affect it. Medical photographers
document injuries and diseases, track the progress of operations and medical
procedures, record a patient’s medical progress over time, or photograph
autopsies. They capture images that are used for measurement and analysis, or
to support medical or scientific reports, articles or research papers. Their work
also appears in textbooks, pamphlets, exhibits, instructional films, legal and
litigation procedures, and as instructional models for teaching.
Medical photographers must have an associate's or bachelor’s degree in
photography or medical illustration. These programs teach both the artistic and
scientific aspects of the profession. Students learn the principles of analog
and digital photography, imaging processes and concepts, and photography as it
relates to both multimedia and new media. They are also prepared with a basic
knowledge of anatomy, physiology and biological processes. In general these
programs teach you how to translate complex scientific information into clear,
compelling visual images without bias.
Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in photography and medical
illustration cover topics such as photographic processes; digital, analog,
black and white, and color photography; scientific, surgical, ophthalmic and
forensic photography; the visual arts; multimedia, digital, 3D modeling and Web
publishing; photographic technology and equipment; illustration, drawing and
design; biology, anatomy and physiology; and scientific visualization. Elective
courses allow you to further explore specific areas of study such as surgical
photography, zoological and botanical illustration, and natural science
Medical photographers should seek to become a Registered Biological
Photographer (RBP), a certification offered by the BioCommunications Association's
Board of Registry. This certification evaluates and certifies medical
photographers as experts in the field. After educational requirements have been
met, candidates must pass written, practical and oral examinations, and submit
a portfolio of their work for review.
The field of medical photography is relatively small, but it’s a competitive
field that is expected to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS), the profession will experience a 10-percent to 25-percent
increase in job opportunities by 2020. Medical photographers will see the
highest growth in the educational field, which includes work for textbook
publishers, medical schools and research institutions. A sub-specialty that
will experience a high growth in jobs is a forensic science technician, who
takes crime scene photos. The BLS expects a 19-percent increase in this
sub-field of medical photography.