What is a Biological Photographer?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2019
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A biological photographer is a person who takes and produces still photos and motion pictures for people in the health care professions and natural sciences, and for the general public. The photos she generates are often used to educate others in the health care profession, in the medical records of a patient, in research, and as an illustrative example in medical textbooks. In general, a biological photographer documents organisms that are alive or that were once alive. She must have a thorough understanding of photography, photography equipment, and the biological sciences, as well.

The work that a biological photographer does is quite extensive. For example, a photo may be used to record a medical event, such as the absence of an organ, the presence of a tumor, the extent of a medical condition, or the progress that a patient with a medical condition may be making. If the biophotography equipment is sterile, the entire surgery for a patient may be photographed or videotaped. In addition, if a tissue specimen is collected, a photo may be taken of the specimen under the microscope using technical photography equipment.


Because doctors, students, researchers, and patients want to visually see what is going on, biophotography is very popular. Sometimes a biological photographer will use a highly technical computer or software program to process and manipulate the photos. Doing so allows people to better see the specific item of concern. For example, a photo can be magnified and clarified so that it can become the perfect teaching mechanism or so that a patient can compare the size of a tumor over several months time.

There are several other names for a biological photographer. These include medical photographer, biophotographer, and scientific photographer. Under any of the names, one can specialize in a field of interest. For example, for those that are intrigued by conditions of the eye, there are opportunities for ophthalmic photography. If tissue samples pique one’s interest, there are careers that focus only on photomicrography or photos taken through the lens of a microscope. Plastic surgeons and oral surgeons also use biological photographers on a regular basis.

A biological photographer must be creative in the way she takes photos. In some instances, the normal way of photographing a medical condition may not work. Consequently, the photographer will need to figure out a new way to get the shot. In addition, people skills and good communication skills are always an advantage. A photographer will need to be able to explain what she is doing to medical personnel so that the patient and the photographer are safe.

For those wishing to become a biological photographer, the field is growing. Once a photographer establishes herself as a biological photographer, there are endless opportunities for work and advancement. Depending on whether she is employed by a hospital, university, museum, library, or other organization, the pay can range quite widely.


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