Biomedical Photography and other second-hand books: What is still suitable for a medical illustrator?


Front Cover of Biomedical Photography edited by John Paul Vetter (1992).

Biomedical Photography by John Paul Vetter

This year is the 25th anniversary of the publication of Biomedical Photography by John Paul Vetter (1920-2009), see front cover below.

As there are no standard textbook for students I was thinking for this post which of the second-hand books available would still be valuable. They won’t contain anything about digital aspects of practice but they would include the most important aspects of standardisation and the application photography to medicine. Looking at Biomedical Photography chapter by chapter there are variations in their relevance today, see Table 1 below.

Chapter title Suitability for current practice
1. Understanding the photographic process No
2. Optics for the biomedical photographer Principles still current
3. Exposure and development Principles of exposure not development
4. Photographic copying Limited value but in some situations understanding flat copy work still useful
5. Photographic reproduction of diagnostic images For old materials only
6. Optical and computer graphics slide production Limited value
7. Photomicrography Principles still apply
8. Close-up photography and photomacrography Principles still apply
9. Public relations photography and portraiture in the workplace A little dated
10. Basic videography and editing No outdated
11. Audiovisual support: a practical approach No outdated
12. Clinical and operating room photography Principles still apply
13. Ultraviolet, infrared and fluorescence recording Principles still apply
14. Productively through the endoscope and the operating microscope How basic equipment works same but photography replaced by glass-glass video.
15. Ophthalmic photography Principles still apply. Limited to older technologies.
16. Gross specimen photography Principles still apply
17. Techniques for dental photography Principles still apply
18. Equipment for dental photography Limited value
19. Veterinary photography Principles still apply but not much here to begin with.
20. Photography of small laboratory objects Principles still apply
21. Managing the biomedical media department A little dated
22. Conserving and storing the images Useful as a starting point for anyone with an old collection to manage.
23. The management of collections of photographic images No outdated
24. Health hazards in biomedical photography No outdated

Table of chapters in Biomedical Photography and their suitability for current practice.



Colour double page spread from Biomedical Photography.

As Martin Johns (1992) said “This book is likely to become the standard text for medical photographers.” The basics and applications remain the same and with its full colour photographs, see above, and useful advice on many aspects of clinical photography it is still one to be recommended. The online price is the same as its original price of £100.

Clinical Photography the Kodak publication

Other second-hand books are; Clinical Photography the Kodak publication (1972), Medical Photography by Dr Peter Hansell and Longmore’s Medical Photography: Radiographic and Clinical from 1944 onwards in various editions.


The earlier editions of Longmore’s are more of historical interest. The 7th 1962 edition and later editions by Ollerenshaw and Hansell with its chapter on “Standardization of technique” are more useful. Prices £3 upwards.


Kodak’s Clinical Photography left from 1972 and right from 1946.

Kodak’s Clinical Photography with its pale green cover, see above, is a classic and obtainable from £20-40. Though it is weaker on “Standardized Representational Photography” it does cover aspects of this especially lighting and background and is particularly strong in supporting thinking around illustrating clinical conditions for teaching purposes. The photographs are black and white but providing you have an original copy rather than a photocopy these are of excellent quality. Online be sure you are buying the 1972 edition not the earlier edition from 1946 or a photocopy.

A Guide to Medical Photography

A Guide to Medical Photography edited by Peter Hansell (1979), see above, with chapters from specialists on the photography of patients, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, gastro-intestinal photoendoscopy, operating theatre, specimen and instruments as well as the usual dated aspects of reproduction. The photography of specimens and instruments is covered well as is the recording of skin texture with lighting.


A Guide to Medical Photography edited by Peter Hansell (1979).

See also

Other blog posts and materials

The booklist from IMI Website


Johns M. (1992) Biomedical Photography by John Paul Vetter. Reviews. Journal of Audio Visual Media in Medicine 15:164.

Vetter, J. (1992) Biomedical photography. 1st ed. Boston: Focal Press.

Hansell, P. (1979) A Guide to Medical Photography. Lancaster: MTP Press Limited.

Kodak (1946) Clinical Photography. London: Kodak Limited.

Kodak (1972) Clinical Photography. Rochester: Eastman Kodak.

Longmore, T.A. (1944) Medical Photography Radiographic and Clinical. London: Focal Press.

Ollerenshaw, R. & Hansell, P. (1962) Longmore’s Medical Photography. London: Focal Press.

Written by David Bryson

tattoos-0083_squareDavid studied Anatomy including Physical Anthropology at Aberdeen University before going on to gain a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Aberystwyth University then went on to study/train as a Medical Photographer at University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. He worked as a medical photographer at University of Dundee and then ran his own business in the Bromsgrove/Redditch area as Medical and Medicolegal Photographer.

David moved back into teaching first by teaching on the part-time HNC in Medical and Technical Photography at Berkshire College of Art & Design and then to become Programme Leader for the BSc (Hons) Biological Imaging at the University of Derby. He has been at the University of Derby now for over 20 years leading programmes including Design for Digital Media and Web Design and Multimedia and teaching on MA in Performance Sportswear Design, Graphic Design, Human Biology, Biology and Zoology.

David is currently a Senior Lecturer in College of Life and Natural Sciences at the University of Derby teaching on the BSc (Hons) Forensic Science. He is a module leader for the Forensic Imaging (including scientific photography techniques e.g. infrared and ultraviolet fluorescence) and teaches on the Forensic Anthropology module.

His research and publications include aspects of support for Learning and CPD, medical and medicolegal photography through the Journal of Visual Communication in Medicine and he co-edited a book on “Textile-led Design for the Active Ageing”, published in September 2014 a follow-up to an earlier book “Smart Clothing and Wearable Technology” from February 2009 both for Woodhead Publications, now part of Elsevier.

Learn more about David and his work

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