Scientific photography ultimate guide: An introduction The best techniques and tips in 2021


Scientific photography

In 1839, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre announced that he had created a photographic imaging technology which was then called the daguerreotype, but later evolved into what we know as photography. At the time, people assumed photography would become used for architectural records, but little did he know that photography would become increasingly important to the world of science.

Rather than scrutinising celestial bodies through a telescope, scientists soon realised that they could use daguerreotypes to preserve a photo for indefinite observation, and astronomers took to the practice very quickly, capturing images of the sun for scientific analysis. Ever since the 1840s, photography has played a very important role in science.  

If you’re interested in learning more about the application of photography for science, in this post we will look at:

    • What is scientific photography?
    • What should I know to take scientific photos?
    • Types of scientific photography
    • Scientific photography camera kit
    • Scientific photography lens

Scientific photography


What is scientific photography?

While we typically tend to think of photography for taking portraits or editorial photography, we forget about the more practical applications of photography such as scientific photography.

Although it may not seem glamorous, scientific photography can be a stimulating and fulfilling career for photographers and is not just limited to the scientific field. As well as medicine and astronomy, scientific photography may also be used in business or by the military. Scientific photographers usually work as part of a team, employed by government departments, universities or research facilities.

Scientific photography is necessary for capturing subjects that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Two of the most obvious scientific photography examples are stars in the sky and a photo of a microscopic organism. 


Types of scientific photography

To give you an idea of how diverse scientific photography is, here are some of the types of scientific photography:

    • Astronomy photography
    • Biology photography
    • Fluorescence photography
    • Forensic photography
    • High-speed photography
    • Infrared photography
    • Photomacrography
    • Photomicrography
    • Schlieren photography
    • Thermography
    • Ultraviolet photography
    • Wildlife photography

What should I know to take scientific photos?

Is scientific photography fit for professional photographers? Yes, if you have an educational background in science.  Candidates applying to be a scientific photographer should have a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree in scientific photography, as a knowledge of science is required to work in scientific photography. Scientific photographers typically have background knowledge in biology, chemistry, or medicine. 

As well as a science background, photographic skills will be highly valued. Scientific photographers should have:

  • An extensive knowledge of photography
  • A clear understanding of the scientific field they are working in
  • A good eye for creating images that illustrate scientific data for use of scientists and medical experts


Scientific photography 2021


Scientific photography camera kit

It is not possible to provide a comprehensive scientific photography kit as different types of scientific photography require different equipment items. Here are a few items that a scientific photography kit may comprise of:

    • Digital camera modified for UV
    • Thermal camera
    • Infrared camera
    • Lens
    • Power adapter
    • Remote shutter release
    • TP filters
    • Polarizer filters
    • UV lamps
    • Halogen lamps
    • Tripods 
    • Laptop

Scientific photography lens

Again, it is difficult to define any singular camera lens, as it varies depending on the purpose of scientific photography. Wildlife photography may benefit from a zoom lens, whereas forensic photography typically uses a macro lens. As a scientific photographer, you would have to adapt to your field of science.


We hope you enjoyed reading about scientific photography!

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