How To Become a Clinical Photographer (a Step-By-Step Guide)

Updated 7 May 2023

Photography can be a very varied and rewarding field, and photographers can work in a wide range of areas and specialities. A clinical photographer specialises in the medical field. If you're interested in photography and working in the medical field appeals to you, then clinical photography may be a promising career for you. In this article, we outline the steps you can take to become a clinical photographer.

Read more: How To Become a Freelance Photographer: A Step-By-Step Guide

How to become a clinical photographer

If you're interested in photography and working in this field appeals to you, then you may be wondering how to become a clinical photographer. Clinical photography is a specialised and highly competitive field and it's helpful to understand the entry requirements. Consider taking the following steps to become a clinical photographer:

1. Take art and photography at school

Photography is a creative and artistic field. If you're still at school, aim to take art and photography at GCSE and A-level if your school offers them. This can help you to gain some fundamental artistic and photography skills that may be relevant if you're looking to study photography or art and design at university.

Related: How Much Does a Photographer Make (And Ways to Increase Pay)

2. Consider taking a photography course

A photography course is a great way to learn new skills. If your school doesn't offer photography as a subject, consider enrolling in an evening or weekend course. You can also take photography courses online that you can do at your own convenience. There are also plenty of free resources, such as online tutorials, that can help you gain some skills and see if this is the right career for you.

3. Study photography or a related subject at college or university

If you're interested in becoming a photographer, having a degree in photography is a significant first step. You may also consider studying a relevant subject such as graphic design or art and design. While formal education in photography is not always a prerequisite, it can be helpful to have some education in the arts. Having an artistic background may impress recruiters when you're looking for your first job in clinical photography.

4. Practise taking photographs regularly

A great way to gain informal experience is to take a lot of photographs. You can practise by taking photographs of your friends and family, household objects or nature. You can start to hone your photography skills with just a simple camera in your spare time.

5. Do work experience or voluntary work in a hospital or clinical setting

Gaining some work experience or doing voluntary work in a clinical or hospital setting is a great way to make sure clinical photography is the right fit for you. Medical photography is a small and specialised field, meaning there's a lot of competition for job vacancies. Having relevant work experience can improve your chances of landing your first role.

6. Apply for an entry-level role in clinical photography

Once you've completed your degree, you can apply for a trainee position as a Clinical Photographer. You are likely to be working as a trainee for 12 to 18 months before you're fully qualified. You can also apply directly with the NHS for a trainee role.

Related: How to become a crime scene photographer

7. Take a postgraduate course in clinical photography

The field of medical photography is very specialised and requires further training. While you're working as a trainee clinical photographer, you can complete a postgraduate course in clinical photography to become a fully qualified clinical photographer. This is typically a part-time, distance-learning course that you can undertake alongside your work.

8. Join a professional body

Joining a professional body can really help you to develop your career as a clinical photographer. Consider becoming a member of The Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) or the Institute of Medical Illustrators. These bodies can offer you professional recognition, opportunities for training and the chance to network with other professionals in the industry, which could help you to secure a role and progress in your career.

Read more: How to Become a Photographer

What is a clinical photographer?

A clinical photographer is a photographer specialising in the medical field. They're responsible for the daily recording of clinical conditions exhibited by patients and taking pictures that help diagnose or record a condition during the stages of treatment. These photographs may also be teaching material to train junior clinical staff or for research, audits and publication in scientific or medical journals.

The role can vary each day. A clinical photographer might photograph patients on a hospital ward or in an operating theatre one day, and the next day, they may work from a studio. They also photograph patients in a burns unit or dermatology clinic. The work is of a sensitive type due to the nature of the field. They may also take photographs of people who are very ill or who have passed away to provide their families with a memory. Though it's challenging, it's also a very rewarding career as the work you're doing helps others.

What does a clinical photographer do?

Clinical photographers work in a medical illustration department as part of a healthcare team. They work with other healthcare specialists, including doctors and nurses associated with the delivery of care. Clinical photographers take various sorts of photographs to help with diagnosing and treating patients. This may include specific types of images such as thermography, 3D and ultraviolet imaging and conventional digital photography. Some clinical photographers also practice videography.

Clinical photographers produce vital professional and cost-effective photographic and graphic services for:

  • patient care

  • medical education

  • research

  • specialised techniques

  • providing images and other visual records of symptoms that help to achieve early diagnosis or to confirm the effectiveness of a course treatment

In smaller medical illustration departments, as a clinical photographer, you may have a broader range of responsibilities, such as graphic design. This means you're required to provide different sorts of images to help to diagnose and treat patients. In this case, other responsibilities of the role may include:

  • basic graphic design, for instance, producing material for audiovisual teaching or lectures, artwork for scientific posters and patient information

  • designing corporate material such as annual reports

In larger medical illustration departments, you may work alongside graphic designers and video producers who carry out these tasks.

What is the average salary for a clinical photographer?

The average salary for a photographer is £23,728 per year. Salaries may vary depending on your geographical location, specialisation and experience. The field of medical photography is highly specialised, and it's possible to command a higher salary over time.

Read more: How Much Does a Photographer Make (And Ways to Increase Pay)

Desirable skills for a clinical photographer

In addition to formal training and work experience, there are some desirable skills for those looking to enter medical photography:

Interpersonal skills

Clinical photographers spend a lot of time working with people who may feel vulnerable. With this in mind, it's important that you're confident and able to put them at ease. Being sensitive and compassionate is also key for this role as they're working with patients at what is likely to be a difficult and challenging time for them.

Technical photography skills

Excellent technical skills in photography are key to this role. It's essential for clinical photographers to understand how best to set the lighting and find the optimal position to take good photographs. It's important the photos are professional to accurately depict patient symptoms and treatment for training purposes or for publication in medical journals.

Teamwork skills

Teamwork is an important aspect of the role. Unlike some other types of photography, which can involve a lot of independent working, clinical photographers regularly work with others as part of a team. Therefore, being able to work with others effectively is crucial to success.

Read more: Photographer Skills: Definition and Examples

Organisational skills

Due to the nature of the job, working as a clinical photographer is a very varied role. It involves regularly working in different locations and on various projects. Being able to organise where you're working and what you're working on is essential.

Communication skills

Communication skills refer to how you express yourself in writing, verbally and your use of body language. Being able to talk to their team is essential for a clinical photographer, as it can be a very emotionally demanding job. Occasionally you may benefit from some time out to process something upsetting, and openness and honesty with your colleagues about this are vital.

Time management skills

Clinical photography can be fast-paced, and there may be times when you're balancing many different tasks at the same time. There can also be a quick turnaround when you're editing and processing photographs. Because of this, it's important to be able to manage your time to keep up with the workload effectively.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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