I, Photographer: Medical Specialist

Adam Cooper captures the healing arts in a busy hospital.

medical specialist main image
medical specialist main image

What do medial photographers actually do?
It varies. Some work with microscopes doing photomicrography, and others with patients in a studio, photographing lesions and visible symptoms. Some specialize in dermatological issues, such as screening for skin cancer. Then others, like me, work for the healthcare institutions doing pre-op patient photos and environmental portraits of doctors taking care of patients, for PR, advertisements and newsletters. For the North Shore-Long Island jewish health system, I'm photographing all 800 doctors for its website—20 to 30 portraits a week.

How are surgical photos used?
Primarily for education. Doctors want series, both video and stills, for seminars. For plastic surgery patients, I take pre-op photos and create illustrations in Adobe Photoshop to show them what their nose could look like.

How did you get into this?
I've been taking pictures since I was 12, and I've always been fascinated by biology. I studied medical photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The program is comprehensive, covering specialized areas like photomicrography and photographing specimens. I've been a medical photographer since 1986.

What's the hardest part?
I worked on the palliliative care floor, where people go to be comfortable before they die. Once a man asked to have his photo with his dying father, and I photographed them in natural light. Later I took some of the color out to illustrate the fading moments. This was a difficult floor to work on.

What gear do you use?
I carry a Nikon D300 and D2X backup, and 17-55mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8 and 10.5mm f/2.8 Nikkor lenses. I use a Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod—its center column swings out horizontally for tabletop work. In the studio I use Elinchrom strobes; on location, three Nikon Speedlight SB-800s and a translucent umbrella. In microphotography, there are specialized cameras built into the microscopes—doctors can take photos using a keyboard after we teach them how to set these up for best lighting and sharpness.

How has medical photography changed over the years?
When I first started, we would shoot hundreds of copy slides as week for lectures—no, because of PowerPoint, that's not needed. We also scanned X-ray film and made prints, which isn't necessary anymore, due to digital radiology. There's little full-time staff work, though in opthalmology we're still very needed.

"The Surgeons" - Two surgeons prepare a donor patient for removal of a kidney that will save the life of his long time friend.Adam Cooper
"IVF" - The highly specialized techniques for Invitro Fertilization is enhanced by this photograph of some of the tools used in the process.Adam Cooper
"Business Portrait" - With over 38,000 employees in a wide variety of positions, quality business portraits are an important staple of photographic services.Adam Cooper
"Chemistry Research" - A long lens and angled camera gives this image a very stock style feel which is what the annual report requires.Adam Cooper
"Colorful Berries" - Seen at a fund raising event for the Health System, there are many opportunities to photograph all types of subjects that will produce pleasing images for display.Adam Cooper
"Fixer Crystal" - Photographed through a polarizing microscope, the image of the photographic chemical creates interesting colors and patterns.Adam Cooper
"Mummy in CT" - A unique opportunity came to our facility to study mummies through the non-invasive use of CT scanning.Adam Cooper
"NQF Award" - Glassware is normally a unique lighting challenge, but when you have twisting crystal, it increases the challenge. This is the Health System's national quality award received in 2010.Adam Cooper
"Pharmacy Panorama" - Photographed with a VR head in eight steps, this image is stitched in Photoshop and then turned into a VR Tour using VR Worx.Adam Cooper
"Reaching For Science" - New creative opportunities arise when working toward an annual report. The challenge many times is to photograph subjects that may not be very exciting in and of itself and to produce something visually stimulating.Adam Cooper
"Rust Auditorium" - This 500 seat auditorium is photographed here with a 10.5mm lens for added effect of the circular ceiling.Adam Cooper
"Women of Science" - Scientists work as a team on the journey to find cures for many diseases. NOTICE: THE NEXT ISSUE DEPICTS SURGERY IN-PROGRESS AND MAY BE TOO GRAPHIC FOR SOME USERS.Adam Cooper
"Brain Tumor Removal" - This series shows the milestones during surgery to remove this brain tumor. This photo series is used to education medical students and residents.Adam Cooper