This year, the Wellcome Trust introduced a new award for clinical photography as part of the 2016 Wellcome Image Awards. The Julie Dorrington Award for Outstanding Clinical Photography is named in honour of one of the founding members of their clinical collection.

Photograph of a woman

Julie Dorrington in her role as Biomedical Collections Co-ordinator at the Wellcome Trust, 2002. Image credit: Wellcome Images reference: C0012234.

Julie joined what was then the Wellcome Medical Photo Library in 1993. Before that, she had a long and successful career as a highly skilled professional clinical photographer at St Bartholemew’s Hospital, then teaching at the London School of Medical Photography.

With the Julie Dorrington Award, Wellcome Images have chosen to highlight the practice of clinical photography at a professional level and the service that it provides to medicine and medical education.

What is a clinical photograph?

A clinical photograph is a photographic image of an individual taken in order to demonstrate a clinical condition. Clinical photographers provide accurate documentation of a patient’s condition perhaps only once or over a period of treatment. Precision is required for images to be truly comparable and this can only be achieved with skill and attention, controlling all possible variables so that a clear comparison can be made.

A good clinical photograph will accurately and sensitively depict the condition providing vital information about its characteristics for healthcare professionals. It will have clarity, show competency of technique and be aesthetically strong. The photographs may be used purely for a patient case record or with permission also be used as a valuable teaching aid or published for example in books and journals. There are also occasions where images will be used as evidence in a legal case.

The clinical photographer

The history of clinical photography is almost as old as photography itself with some of the earliest recorded uses around 1840. Today the clinical photography profession is closely regulated, working to national standards with those who practice requiring registration. Photographic scales and pre-determined focal lengths ensure the majority of practitioners work to produce scientifically sound, comparable results. Professionals work to ethical standards, adhering to policies around consent, confidentiality and dignity in care.

For more information about the 2016 Wellcome Image Awards and the Julie Dorrington Award, go to the Wellcome Image Award website here.