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How to Become a Medical Photographer in the US

Medical photography is a profession in the health sector that focuses on documenting images of surgical procedures and patients’ condition. If you have an interest in science and medicine, possess strong photography skills and can effectively handle photography equipment, this could be the career for you.

What Do Medical Photographers Do?

Medical photographers combine their medical knowledge and artistic skills to create photographs for clinical and educational processes. Although photographers can specialize in photography, videography, graphic design or medical art, their general duties include:

  • Producing objective and accurate images of autopsies, injuries and medical procedures
  • Creating graphs, charts, and converting photos into digital images
  • Manipulating microscopic images to reveal more details
  • Preparing octoplastic, rhino plastic, orthodontic and dental osteotomy photographs of patients
  • Operating and maintaining automatic print processing and color processing equipment
  • Classifying, sorting and filing negatives and other photographic materials

Work Conditions

Medical photographers typically work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Those who are self-employed often work during weekends.

Medical photographers can work in a classroom, laboratory, hospital ward, clinic, studio or operating theatre. They work alongside dermatologists, orthodontists, lecturers and other health care or education practitioners.

Those working for large facilities with multiple branches often travel between various sites.


Earnings for medical photographers vary with experience, employer and location. Below is the breakdown of their earnings in various states.


Annual Salary













West Virginia



Qualifications Required

There are two ways to become a medical photographer in the United States. If you are a high school graduate, you can:

  • Pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree in physics, biology or chemistry. This will equip you with the scientific knowledge required to becoming a competent medical photographer. After graduating, pursue short courses offered by the BioCommunications Association.


  • Complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in photography. This will improve your artistic skills. You can then apply to health or education organizations for a trainee position in medical photography and gain the experience required to secure a position as a medical photographer.

Important Skills and Abilities

The medical photography profession requires you to:

  • Have a deep interest in photography
  • Be knowledgeable in desktop publishing software and graphic design
  • Understand physiology, biology and anatomy
  • Have strong communication skills
  • Be able to meet tight deadlines
  • Have artistic skills
  • Be able to work as part of a team
  • Have emotional strength

Career Development

To improve your medical photography skillset you need to:

  • Obtain the BioCommunications Association’s Total Body Photography certification.-You will need to pass a qualifying exam.
  • Pursue a master’s degree in clinical photography, medical illustration or forensic science.

The medical photography field is highly competitive, mainly because it is a small field. To stand out from the pack and improve your employment prospects, focus on obtaining vast work experience.

With experience, you might consider specializing in more advanced forms of photography, such as pathological, surgical or ophthalmic photography.

Job Opportunities

Although some medical photographers are self-employed, others find full-time jobs in:

  • Medical schools
  • Hospitals
  • Research institutions
  • Publishing companies
  • Pharmaceutical manufactures
  • Health organizations

So, what next after having enough of medical photography? With advanced qualifications, you can move into teaching the next generation of photographers in colleges and universities.

Useful Links

Between 2012 and 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a meager 4 percent growth in job opportunities for all photographers, including scientific photographers. Although the job outlook is not that good, your superb artistic skills can drive you to greater heights. Concentrate on nurturing them. Good luck!

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