‘An insight into my day job as a Medical Photographer’.

Jul 12, 2021

In February 2021 my old university friend Lianne Litster, a senior Graphic designer for Primark contacted me asking if I’d like to do a Microsoft Teams talk on Medical Photography with her team, to which I happily agreed. Lianne wanted to give her team of designers an insight into my day job as a Medical Photographer working for the NHS and to show them what my job actually entails.

I was sent a list of questions from Lianne and her team which I went through on the Teams chat, I’m going to share these with you below. I’ve also included a few of my own questions which both patients and friends frequently ask me about my job too.

How did you know you wanted to be a Medical Photographer?

Funnily enough I hadn’t actually planned that I was going to be a Medical Photographer. A maternity cover post came up at Royal Preston Hospital in 2017, so I eagerly applied. I’d recently been studying a City & Guilds Level 3 photography qualification at Preston College and I also had my Graphic design degree which was one of the criteria for the post. Surprisingly I was offered the job and was given the opportunity to study the post graduate course in Clinical photography through Staffs University.

What is Medical Photography?

Medical Photography is the capturing and recording of medical conditions found in patients. Photographs help to diagnose and monitor stages of treatment.

A dental patient with Talon Cusp.

What do you photograph on patients?

The work can be varied. Royal Preston Hospital has specialist regional services for cancer, neurosurgery, plastics and burns, rehabilitation and major trauma patients. As a department we see Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Orthopaedic, Vascular, Orthodontic, Maxillofacial, ENT and Radiotherapy patients.

A dermatology patient showing discolouration of the thumb.

I photograph patients on the wards, at outpatient clinics, in the department studio and theatre. I photograph conditions of the skin including burns, pressure sores, ulcers, skin tears, blisters, bruises, rashes and lesions. Patients attend the studio so we can monitor conditions such as facial palsy and ptosis. In theatre we photograph crush injuries, road traffic accidents, brain, orthopaedic and vascular surgery. We are also asked to photograph specimens before they are sent to the lab.

A patient with Talipes Equinovarus (TEV) before treatment.

How long have you been working as a Medical Photographer?

I’ve been with the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust for over three and a half years now.

Can you remember your first photo shoot within the NHS?

I actually can’t remember my first initial photo shoot, although I do remember attending the accident and emergency department and witnessing a machete attack. I was shadowing another photographer at the time, so as you can imagine this was an eye opener for me.

How many colleagues do you work alongside and how do you work together as a team? Do you get briefs for each job?

I currently work alongside one other full-time photographer, a part time photographer, a full-time administrator and a clinical leader. We attend daily outpatient clinics and we also have patients that come to the studio for photographs. Jobs are rang through from the wards on a daily basis. Some jobs are booked in advance for scheduled theatre or video work.

Do you work a normal 9-5pm shift?

Yes my normal working hours are 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.

How are you dealing with the COVID-19 situation within the NHS wards and has it altered your day today work? Do you wear PPE? Is there patient system zones?

When photographing patients I currently wear full PPE, including a mask, visor, apron and gloves. The wards have super green, green, amber, blue and red bays. Patients situated in a Covid contact or positive bay are photographed at the end of the day to avoid transmission of the virus.

Have you a photo shoot you’re most proud of?

I genuinely take pride in all my work. I don’t actually have a favourable photograph, although I remember being fond of taking some lovely black and white photographs of a baby that had sadly passed away. The parents were really happy with them.

Have you ever felt I can’t photograph a certain human body part? Have you ever fainted?

I’ve never fainted although I’ve gagged occasionally when photographing necrotic limbs.

Do you have a photo studio and is it all up to date equipment wise?

Yes we have a studio where we photograph patients. We use a Bowen’s lighting set-up, Nikon D800 cameras and lenses 105mm and 60mm. Macro photography is particularly useful when photographing lesions. In Dermatology photography we use a Dermatoscope which attaches to the camera. This helps to get a much more detailed image. We also have zoom lenses to use for any PR work set by the trust.

A dermatology patient with Seborrhoeic Keratosis. The photograph was taken with a dermatoscope.

Do you work alongside Graphic designers?

We have a Graphic designer that is employed by the Trust yet they aren’t based in our department.

Where do the photos/images get used?

Images are used for patient records, teaching and publication. Images can also be used for legal reasons.

Have you entered into any competitions for Photographic awards?

We can enter the ‘IMI’ annual photo competition which is the ‘Institute of medical illustrators’ members online platform. I have entered work in the past. Website is www.imi.org.uk

Photograph of a patients knee post surgery which I entered into the ‘IMI’ competition.

Do you aspire to a particular photographer or style?

Medical photography requires standard views of patients. You can be more creative with the PR work. The trust employs videographer and photographer Catherine Lamoon, I aspire to her work as Cat has the ability to capture people at work in a fun/candid professional way.

‘Pets as therapy dog Ishka’ comforting a patient.

After the talk Lianne sent me a thank you message from her and the team:

‘Loved that Lianne, so interesting! Very cool to see that Fran had gone from Graphic designer to that type of photography.’ Lorna Nelis

‘Was weird and wonderful! Thanks Lianne.’ Tim Nelis

‘I wanted more brain and guts stories!’ James White

‘Amazing! I couldn’t do that.’ Laura Perry

‘It was fascinating! Thank you Lianne and thank you to Fran for sharing.’ Molly Hollis

I hope you enjoyed my insight as to what it’s like working as a Medical Photographer. If you wanted any further information about how to get into this line of work or if you’d like a Teams talk with your workplace send me an email to fransfotos@me.com.