Become a Biomedical Photographer: Training and Career Roadmap

Learn about a career as a biomedical photographer. Research the requirements, skills, education and technical training needed to make an informed decision about a career in biomedical photography. View article »

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  • 0:04 Become a Biomedical…
  • 1:20 Gain Experience in Photography
  • 1:54 Earn a Degree
  • 2:24 Train on Specialized Equipment
  • 2:53 Learn About Safety and…
  • 3:28 Choose a Biomedical Specialty

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Video Transcript

Become a Biomedical Photographer

Biomedical photographers utilize advanced photographic technology and equipment to capture detailed medical and scientific images for various professional uses, including medical publications and journals, scientific research reports, and educational materials.

The detailed images and videos provided by biomedical photographers of surgical procedures, body parts, bacteria, and autopsies, among other things, are used by hospitals, laboratories, healthcare organizations, research facilities, and publishing companies.

Biomedical photographers must be able to communicate visually and have advanced knowledge of photography equipment, such as lighting, tripods, digital cameras, lenses, and photo printing, as well as industry software.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, photographers in general earned an average annual salary of $40,280 as of May 2015. The BLS also projected the job opportunities for photographers in general would increase by just 3% between 2014 and 2024, which was slower than average.

Let's examine the training required to work as a biomedical photographer.

Degree Level Associate's or bachelor's degree
Degree Field Biomedical or medical photography
Experience Hands-on experience gained through biomedical photography program coursework
Training Knowledge of health and safety guidelines and confidentiality laws for medical industry
Key Skills Computer software fluency; ability to communicate visually; advanced knowledge of photography equipment, such as lighting, tripods, digital cameras, lenses, and photo printing
Salary (2015) $40,280 per year (Average salary for photographers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Gain Experience in Photography

Before entering the biomedical photography industry, it might be beneficial to gain experience in general photography through programs or courses offered through community colleges and continuing education programs. These programs might cover topics such as digital photography, computer software, visual communication, lighting, camera effects, and photo printing. They also might demonstrate usage of photography equipment, including cameras, lenses, tripods, and artificial lighting equipment.

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Step 2: Earn a Degree in Biomedical Photography

Scientific and medical photographers usually need an undergraduate degree to gain employment. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in biomedical photography train students to take high-resolution images of human or animal anatomy, especially during medical procedures. Coursework might cover human anatomy and physiology, camera perspectives, photo editing software, biomedical photography equipment, and photographic communication.

Step 3: Get Trained on Specialized Equipment

Taking images of biological processes or anatomy often requires special cameras and equipment. Biomedical photographers typically use very small cameras to capture images. High-speed and time-lapse photography techniques used in this field require multiple camera adjustments. Also, photographers must know how to set up in operating rooms, research laboratories, medical examiner facilities, and other areas.

Step 4: Learn About Safety and Security Guidelines

Biomedical photographers who work with living patients or forensic evidence must comply with certain health and safety guidelines. For example, biomedical photographers must have knowledge of and adhere to confidentiality laws that protect patients' rights and identity. Safety guidelines might require that photographic equipment be sterilized so that it doesn't introduce contaminants to sterile hospital and medical environments. Additionally, photographers must know how to take images without interfering with the duties of medical personnel.

Step 5: Choose a Biomedical Specialty

Some degree programs introduce biomedical photography specialties such as forensics, human studies, veterinary studies, plastic surgery, and scientific research. Other programs offer concentrations in these fields, providing more in-depth understanding. Photographers are not necessarily required to choose one field of specialty in biomedical photography, although a specialty could provide more job opportunities.

To recap, a biomedical photographer typically needs experience in photography and a degree in biomedical or medical photography. These professionals might opt to specialize, and they usually need to train on specialized equipment and learn about safety and security guidelines.

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