Photomicrography is photography through a microscope. The stuff that is
easily visible in a photomicrograph can't normally be observed without an
Bacteria, viruses, single-celled organisms and tiny detailed views of much
larger things -- like skin or microchips -- can all be captured by a photomicrographer.
Photomicrographs serve a number of purposes. They help scientists learn
about the microscopic worlds that surround us, they make those worlds easier
to understand, and they create a permanent impression of them.
"Recording images seen in the microscope onto photographic film allows
scientists to produce a hard copy for research records," says Michael Davidson,
In addition to being scientists, photomicrographers are also artists. Although
most of us aren't even aware that it exists, the invisible world that surrounds
us can be breathtaking.
While a photomicrograph is a technical document that can be of great value
to science or industry, a good photomicrograph is also an object of beauty.
Photomicrography can be used in many scientific, medical and educational
areas, such as:
- Medical research and diagnostics
- Ecology and environmental contaminants
- Agriculture and food-microbial processes
- Criminal investigations
- Forestry and forest products
- Educational textbooks, curricula and interactive CD-ROMs
Used in a teaching setting such as a chemistry laboratory, photomicrography
gives students new insights into chemical and molecular behavior and a greater
understanding of what chemistry involves. Rather than trying to understand
microscopic worlds from numbers, charts and drawings, students can actually
see what they are studying.
Although in the past, photomicrographers held positions in many academic
institutions, this is no longer as common.
"At one point, most universities had several staff members engaged in scientific
photography. Typically a professor, graduate student or researcher would come
to this group for help if their work required photographs," says photomicrographer
Ron Neumeyer. "Today, things have changed. Support staff have been cut, leaving
most scientists little choice but to become proficient in photomicrography."
Photomicrography encompasses the techniques of both black and white and
color photography. It's important for any photomicrographer to develop good
photographic skills. They must be able to translate what the microscope sees
into an image on film.
"To be a good photomicrographer, besides knowing the photography side of
the subject, you should have a good grounding in microscope technique -- the
preparation of specimens and different methods of illumination," says scientific
photographer Arthur Strange.
Photomicrography is a highly competitive field. Those with the best business
ability and the best reputation find salaried positions or attract enough
work to support themselves as self-employed photographers.
Depending on their position, photomicrographers may need to promote themselves
and manage the financial and business aspects of their career.
Good eyesight, artistic ability and manual dexterity are needed in this
career. Photomicrographers should be patient, accurate and enjoy working with