Clinical photographers work closely with doctors and other health care professionals. They produce photographs, videos and other graphical images for use in patient care, medical education and research. They are sometimes known as medical illustrators or medical photographers.
You could be:
in the ward, using a digital camera to take photographs of a patient's condition to help doctors diagnose treatment
taking a series of photographs of a patient's progress after treatment over a period of time
in the operating theatre, recording surgical procedures during an operation using a video or digital camera
taking photographs of non-accidental injuries (forensics) or recording post-mortem examinations in the mortuary
using specialist equipment and techniques, for example 3-dimensional imaging, to record the structures of body parts such as the eye (ophthalmic imaging)
using graphics or video editing software to produce presentation slides and animations for teaching and educational material
making videos to show problems with patients’ mobility or to demonstrate surgical techniques
creating posters or leaflets for patient health information using graphic design software
keeping up to date with new technology and trends.
Clinical photographers who work in the NHS are called healthcare scientists, and are on the Agenda for Change salary scales. They generally start on Band 5, £26,104 to £32,915 a year. With experience this rises to Band 6, £33,072 to £40,736 a year. The current pay scales are from April 2021.
You work mostly in hospital wards, operating theatres and clinics and in labs, offices or a studio.
Working in a clinical setting you would have to wear protective clothing and follow strict hygiene rules.
You would work around 37 hours a week Monday to Friday, with possible overtime and on call time.
You normally work as part of a team, working closely with doctors, nurses and scientists or other healthcare professionals.
You may sometimes work with patients who have distressing conditions or be faced with upsetting situations.
You might have to carry around heavy photographic and lighting equipment between different departments in the hospital.
You first need to study for a degree in photography, recognised by the British Institute of Professional Photography, and then apply for a trainee post.
Entry requirements for a degree course in photography usually require 4 Highers plus National 5 English, or a HND in Photography. Check individual institutions for entry requirements.
Studying for a relevant Foundation Apprenticeship in S5 and S6, such as Social Services and Healthcare or Creative and Digital Media, can provide work experience and may be accepted in place of a non-essential Higher for entry to a degree course. Entry requirements vary between colleges, but you usually require some subjects at National 5 including English and Maths.
For some posts you might need a driving licence, to travel between hospitals.
You will require a satisfactory criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details on the type you would need.
As well as the NHS, you might also find jobs with publishing companies of medical textbooks or DVDs, or the departments of medical illustration in medical schools.
an interest in and knowledge of anatomy and physiology
good observational skills
an eye for detail and accuracy
good IT skills and basic knowledge of computer graphics software
a keen interest in photography
a strong stomach – not be squeamish
a good understanding of health and safety procedures and legislation.
You also need:
good written and spoken communication skills
tact and empathy for dealing with patients
to be able to work well under pressure
the ability to work well as part of a team.
Training is on the job with part time study towards a postgraduate qualification in clinical photography.
Both the universities of Cardiff and Staffordshire run the Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Photography by distance learning.
Once qualified, you gain professional membership of the IMI and can apply for entry onto the register run by the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS). Although not mandatory, entry on the register is usually required by employers.
You will be able to keep your skills and knowledge up to date by taking training courses through the IMI’s Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme.
You could specialise in areas such as ophthalmic, surgical or pathological photography.
You could get promotion to senior photographer.
With further experience, you could move onto managing a department.
You could teach the subject or be involved in staff training.