Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice Practice Pointer


JJ竞技 2022 ; 378 doi: (Published 26 August 2022) Cite this as: JJ竞技 2022;378:e067663
  1. Timothy Zoltie , head of medical and dental illustration 1 ,
  2. Sigrid Blome-Eberwein , burn & reconstructive plastic surgeon 2 ,
  3. Sarah Forbes , primary care physician and GP partner 3 ,
  4. Mike Theaker , patient co-author 4 ,
  5. Walayat Hussain , consultant dermatological surgeon 4
  1. 1 University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  2. 2 Lehigh Valley Health Network, Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA
  3. 3 NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board, Leeds, UK
  4. 4 Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to: T Zoltie t.zoltie{at}

What you need to know

  • Covid-19 has accelerated the use of medical photography, with many specialist services requesting it as part of the referral process

  • Poor quality images may lead to misinterpretation and a delay in diagnosis or treatment, but training in medical photography for clinicians and patients is limited

  • Ways to improve the quality of images captured with mobile devices include taking both overview and close-up images, increasing light, and holding devices at an appropriate distance from the subject.

Despite widespread use of mobile devices for medical photography, 1 2 3 there is a distinct lack of published resources offering technical and practical advice to help clinicians and patients take images of a suitable quality for clinical use. Since covid-19, however, specialties such as dermatology and wound care now consider photographs a mandatory part of the referral pathway, and a basic understanding of medical photography principles has quickly become a requirement for many clinicians. Similarly, many patients now send images to their healthcare provider as part of a “virtual consultation.” Clinicians need to understand not only how to take good medical photographs in the consulting room, but also how to support their patients to do this remotely.

Accuracy in capture

The limitations of image quality in mobile device technology raise the question whether smart phones are suitable for medical photography. The answer is it depends. There are many factors to consider, in particular the purpose of capture and whether a standardised or non-standardised approach is required. A correlation study comparing on-site wound evaluation versus remotely viewed digital images in plastic and reconstructive emergency surgery concluded that efficiency in clinical decision making is less based upon the quality of imaging but on the timing and method of delivery. 4 On the other hand, a case-control study evaluating the importance of standardisation in preoperative and postoperative photographs concluded that …

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