Healthcare Photography – Challenging but rewarding

Healthcare photography.  One of the most challenging yet rewarding areas I focus on in my commercial photography business.  Aside from the fact that healthcare facilities are super busy places, there are a number of factors that make capturing authentic imagery difficult.

1. Patients come first.  This is not a movie set we work in here, it’s a living breathing organism with many parts.  The patients are numero uno.  The doctors a close second.  Their rights of way, privacy and time come first.  If we have to do a schedule workaround because an emergency surgery comes up, or the ER is jam packed with patients needing care, you roll with it.  You adapt.  My favorite quote is and always has been…I will find a way or make one, overcome, improvise, adapt.  That is pretty much the story of any photographers life, but in healthcare photography it’s taken to a whole new level.

2. People come to a hospital with a multitude of health conditions and are there for one reason only, to heal and be healed.  The last thing as a photographer, and conscientious human, that I want to do is to disturb the balance of comfort, caring, and privacy.  Our team has worked on a number of healthcare campaigns since 2008 and during that time it has been our goal to be as respectful of the patients, doctors, nurses and staff as possible.  Give them the privacy, treat their time as if it were gold and thank them for the good they are doing for the communities they serve.

2. Hospitals are designed for comfort and healing, not photography.  Warm and low lighting, soft and calming colors on the walls.  Not ideal to convey “healthcare”.  What do  you think of when you think nurse…blue scrubs right?  What do you think of when you think doctor…white lab coat or surgical scrubs right?  Well with warm lighting and decor, it’s a challenge to balance the color and feel of the shots.  Not to mention, the light that is typical in many, if not a majority of commercial facilities, is overhead.  Not ideal to shoot people unless you love highlighted hair with deep dark eye-sockets and poorly lit faces.  All that combined requires a special set of tools to capture believable imagery that people connect with and feels natural.  Enter years of experience and a diverse set of lights and tools to get the job done.

3. Tight spaces.  With facilities trying to do as much as possible in a limited footprint, the places we shoot are small.  I should use “subscript” font in the word “small”.  From patient rooms, to exam rooms to ER crash rooms.  Lighting is a challenge to begin with, now fitting all my gear to make “natural light” into a 10’x8′ room with 3 people…yeaaah.  So there’s that.  But again we get it done. We get creative. We make stuff happen…(continued)

4. Until we don’t.  Guess what, some things just don’t work out the way we want.  Trying to balance our desires vs reality is a challenge.  Sometimes I have a killer idea for a shot, you know the one…you’ve never seen it done elsewhere…it’s going to be epic.  Until, yeah…nope…stuff happens.  You planned on 15 minute setup and you get started and stuff just doesn’t pan out.  That’s where being prepared like a Boy Scout comes in.  Add to that, having a producer who’s able to help you re-evaluate and chart a new course.  It happens.  Never think it won’t.  It may not happen often, but when it does, if you’re not calm cool and prepared…you’re gonna crack…right in front of your client, the models and the whole lot would go to “hell in a hand basket”.  Stay composed, be flexible and most of all, be prepared.