How to Become a Medical Photographer
Love creating meaningful images? Have a passion for photography? A healthcare career as a Medical Photographer could be the perfect healthcare career pathway for you! In this role professionals develop images to be used by other healthcare providers in a variety of ways. Whether being used to monitor a patient’s anatomy, as educational support or to visualize treatment progression, medical images help shed light on the inner workings and responses of the body. Much like a Medical Illustrator, these professionals capture medical images through artist mediums.
Want to learn how to enter this awesome career? Here is 5 Tips from a working professional on How to Become a Medical Photographer:
1. Enroll in a Bachelor’s Degree Program
The first step toward becoming a Medical Photographer is to enroll in a Bachelor’s Degree program in photography or a visual arts program. During these immersive programs, students will receive instruction on a wide variety of photographic and imaging techniques spanning the broad fields of science, technology and medicine. Furthermore, these programs can include wellness education, fundamentals of layout and design, professional practices, optics, perception and imagine and more.
“Generally a Bachelor’s Degree is required to gain employment in an academic institution or hospital as a Medical Photographer,” Katharine Hanlon, a Medical Photographer practicing in the Vero Beach, Florida-area, explained. “In the U.S., the only true undergraduate program in medical photography is at Rochester Institute of Technology, where they offer a Bachelor’s Degree in photographic sciences. Some of my colleagues have this degree, which is certainly more applicable than that of a more general fine art photography program.”
2. Complete Volunteer Work
The best way to gain insight into healthcare settings is to experience them first hand. Prospective students interested in medical photography should aim to get their “foot in the door” at a healthcare facility as soon as possible. Typically volunteerism is the easiest way to achieve this goal. Whether volunteering in a clerical role or as a newborn photographer, any experience can prove incredibly valuable when applying for paid positions in the future.
“Having experience working with Doctors, nurses, administrative staff and patients can be very beneficial,” Hanlon stressed. “A Medical Photographer should understand how hospitals function and try their best to gain knowledge in areas such as anatomy and biology.”
3. Learn the “Ins” and “Outs” of Medical Photography
Photography is much more complicated than using your smartphone to take selfies. When learning how to capture and create professional quality images, Photographers must keep in mind a number of elements including lighting, angle, perspective and more. While many of these concepts can be learned through education, direct experience in the field will provide the experience necessary to maintain a successful career over time. Medical Photographers must understand both the technical aspects needed to capture a great image and the medical knowledge necessary to create images that healthcare providers specifically need.
“Sometimes Medical Photographers are thought of as less ‘creative’ than Fine Art Photographers, as we spend our time working on how to standardize our images and lighting solutions,” Hanlon expressed. “However usually Medical Photographers appreciate the rigid standards and protocols our community abides by, which allows us to problem solve with our unique goals in mind. For this reason, having a scientific mindset is more important than being concerned with producing aesthetically ‘artsy’ images.
4. Consider Specialization
As in the case of many healthcare careers, developing a specialty can help a Medical Photographer find more work and reach a higher salary cap. Examples of specialties include pediatrics, surgery, autopsies, orthopedics, etc. Even when a Medical Photographer does develop a specialty they should still remain able to photograph special patient cases as needed. Larger healthcare systems tend to appreciate a Medical Photographer’s ability to adapt and “change gears” quickly as situations arise.
“I personally work in dermatology, so my work is typically done in exam rooms or a studio,” Hanlon noted. “Conversely, one of my colleagues works almost exclusively in the operating room capturing surgical photography, which can be much faster-paced and more stressful at times. Sometimes we are both also asked to do non-clinical work, such as taking a portrait or an editorial type shoot.”
5. Network with Healthcare Professionals
Aside from gaining the required credentials and volunteering within a healthcare settings, the other most important component to landing employment as a Medical Photographer is networking. The more connected these professionals become to their community, the more acquaintances they can make, and the more career opportunities they will have. To ensure that hiring managers and high-level healthcare employees understand a professional’s desire to become hired, reaching out to introduce yourself and following up with them to seek hiring insights can prove advantageous.
“There are not a lot of positions that open for Medical Photographers,” Hanlon stressed. “When they do come along usually the most qualified people with the most extensive healthcare experience secure the opportunity. Sometimes landing a permanent position in this field may take years and multiple attempts, so networking can be extremely important.”
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