Intra-oral cutting tool for bone grafting. Photo © Mike Samuels, Medical Photographic Services

Last week,  we published the first part of the interview with Mike Samuels on the topic of Medical Photography.

Here is the rest of the interview. I’d like to thank to Mike for taking time to answer our questions on Medical Photography.

How was medical photography in today’s world different from, say the 1970s, and where do you see medical photography going?

When I started clinical photography in the late ‘60s, it was nearly all done in ‘black and white’ using 5”x4” sheet film and specialist plates. Colour slides were very much the exception. Any film recording was on 16mm colour film using professional cine equipment.

Because clinical photography was very much a professional skill provided by the photographic department very few ‘do it yourself’ pictures were taken.

With the introduction of digital photography and the availability of inexpensive but relatively high quality cameras, the role of the professional medical photographer is being eroded.

Doctors and nurses are increasingly taking their own photographs, which in many cases are of a significantly inferior quality but more importantly the issues of patient confidentiality, consent and privacy are not being correctly observed and it is only a matter of time before serious litigation with regard to sensitive images will occur.

Sadly medical photographic departments are being regarded as luxuries in these economically constrained times and many departments are threatened with redundancies and closure. This is a counter productive situation since the impact on patient care and future education of medical staff is dependent on high quality imagery.

A botox injection. Photo © Mike Samuels, Medical Photographic Services

Are you like the photographers in the CSI TV serials? How realistic are those scenes where the actors photograph the corpse?

The fictional representation of medical photography is just that – fiction. The need for accuracy and repeatability is such that a quick snap will never suffice; measurement and scale are vital.

Although the medical photographer’s role in forensics is minimal, watching the actors in the post mortem room in Silent Witness or similar is not very accurate.

For about 2 years I worked as photographer to a regional coroner and I really cannot identify with most of these situations as depicted in ‘forensics’ themed TV serials.

What are the challenges one can face in the field of medical photographer?

The biggest challenge has to be sensitivity. When photographing patients, they are generally in a vulnerable situation and you may be asking them to confront their nemesis.

Many badly disfigured patients have actively avoided the camera for most of their lives, suddenly they are being asked to stand before a photographer in many cases without the protection of clothing and have their intimate details recorded.

Alternatively, you may be asked to photograph a stillborn baby or a preterm foetus for the parents, as part of the grieving process, sometimes with the parents holding the child.

The ability to handle every eventuality without judgement or shock has to be the greatest challenge.


Mole-map of back. Photo © Mike Samuels, Medical Photographic Services

How would a course that you offer be different from a photographer’s course that one may do in the Middle East.

My personal courses are really only for experienced clinicians or dentists and are generally to try and ensure that all photographs taken by them achieve a minimum standard of technical competence. The qualifying courses for medical photographers are as listed above.

You run a very interesting blog, named the Ageing Photographer. What led to that?

My blog is a result of my work outside medicine and was originated as a retrospective view of my career, evolving into a photographic training blog where I provide training to the general public, however I will be resurrecting another blog called Photography in Medicine as well as a commercial photography website shortly.

Mike Samuels, UK based Medical Photographer

You can email Mike Samuels here.