The Challenges of Medical Photography

In the light of portable and powerful capture devices, photography has seen another era like never before. The development of Social Media makes anyone who has a smartphone can take photos and shares it on the Internet instantly. However, there are still some fields of photography that are limited, but important. Medical Photography is still the hardest field of Photography.

Medical Photography, or Clinical Photography, according to Wikipedia, is the specialized are of photography that concerns itself with the documentation of clinical presentations of patients, procedures, devices, specimens, and autopsies. Most of the individuals who practice Medical Photography are employed by hospitals or universities. Although people who are getting involved in this practice has increased in recent years, their number is still small compared to photographers in other fields.

Diagnostic imaging is the method of generating images representing anatomic structures and organs of the patient’s body. This method produces diagnostics images that can be represented without conflicts in consent and morals. However, medical photography that can expose the patient’s identity is another story.

There’s a lot of things to think about first before one can successfully integrate images into medical practice. One of the biggest challenges, according to Emily Milam of NYU School of Medicine, is consent. You cannot run into technical problems or other factors if a patient does not give the consent to be photographed. There are also times when the dilemma of the patient being unable to give consent is there. There are institutions who employ written consent as the standard while there are others who employ “consent gained verbally”. There are even some institutions that do not use any form of consent at all.

The morality of the session is also something worthy to take note. Will the photograph of a patient be used in medicine or will be exploited for commercial or advertising use? Even though the patient gave a consent, if the consent was given due to the institution or the doctor’s false pretense, the consent is not valid.

Just like other fields of Photography, unless the session is done in the studio, the photographer must know when and when not to snap a shot. This is especially the case when being photographed makes the patient uncomfortable or do not want to be photographed any more. The photographer’s gear is also one thing to consider. In a fast-paced medicine world, a good camera is necessary. You cannot pause an undergoing operation just to get a better angle. Fortunately, medical videos are being done in some of the hospitals and are more preferred.

Last but not least is the experience itself. There would be a time when a photographer needs to take a picture of something he or she is not used to seeing. The quality of the photo can be affected. Just like other fields of photography, the more experienced a photographer is, the more the photos will look relevant. This is also the reason why a medical photographer would be better if he or she has medical experience.  Exposure to more medical activities will be a good starting point for aspiring medical photographers.

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