Clinical photography

This page explains about the clinical photography service at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), why your doctor might ask for your child's photograph to be taken and what to expect.

What is clinical photography?

Clinical photography is the taking of photographs to illustrate a medical condition. At GOSH, we photograph over 4,000 patients each year, and the images are used to record their medical conditions. 

Why does my child need to be photographed? 

Your child’s doctor will have asked us to take photos to show your child’s medical condition. In some cases, it is helpful to have ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs, particularly if your child is having an operation or treatment. For some conditions, it is helpful to have a series of photographs taken as your child grows older. Photographs are also used for teaching or in publications, but we will always ask your permission before they are used in this way.

Who will take the photographs?

Clinical photography is based at GOSH. All our photographers are fully qualified and members of the Institute of Medical Illustrators. This means that they have to follow a strict code of conduct and update their skills regularly. Photos are usually taken in our studio but can also be taken in the operating theatre or wards.

Do I have to agree to my child being photographed? 

Yes, we will ask you to give permission for your child to be photographed by signing a consent form. This details how the photos will be used and how they will be stored. All our photos are stored securely on a computer database, which can only be accessed by people working at GOSH who have a secure username and password.

Can I change my mind later?

Yes, you can change the level of consent you have given for your child’s photographs. If you do not want them used for teaching or publication, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can alter our records. Please note that if a photograph has already been used in a publication or on a website, it is unlikely that they will be able to remove it if you later change your mind. 

What will happen when my child is photographed?

If your child is being photographed in our studio, your child’s doctor will ask you to come to the department on level 2, Southwood. When you arrive, please report in to our reception desk and then take a seat. We aim to take photographs as quickly as possible but please be aware that on busy clinic days there may be a short wait. As soon as we can, the photographer will come to meet you in the reception area and take you and your child through to our studio. If you would prefer to have a photographer of the same gender as your child, please ask us. We have both male and female photographers in the team but if it is not possible to meet your request, we can offer a chaperone to stay in the studio with your child or rearrange the photographs for another day.

When you and your child are in the studio, the photographer will set up the background and lighting to get the clearest shot possible. Your child may be asked to sit down, stand up or lie down, depending on the part of the body being photographed. He or she may need to remove some clothes or jewellery, or wear a headband. Occasionally, particularly if we are photographing inside your child’s mouth, we may have to use a lip retractor to keep his or her mouth open. We will always work as quickly as possible to get the best photograph.

What happens afterwards?

When the photographer has taken the clinical photographs required, you will be able to go home. The photographs are then annotated and loaded onto our database. In some cases, your child’s doctor will ask for printed copies to go in your medical notes.

Who will be able to see my child’s photos? 

If the photos are in your child’s medical notes, only members of your child’s healthcare team will be able to see them. Access to photographs stored on our database is strictly controlled with usernames and passwords.

Can I get copies of the photographs taken? 

Yes, you can order these at the reception desk but please be aware that there will be a small charge for prints or a compact disc (CD).

Compiled by: 
Medical Photography team in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Last review date: 
December 2014


Please note this is a generic GOSH information sheet. If you have specific questions about how this relates to your child, please ask your doctor. Please note this information may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals.