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How to Get Started in Ophthalmic Imaging: Part 1

Posted By Sarah Moyer, Friday, June 22, 2012
Updated: Friday, June 22, 2012


 (PDR-Photo Credit-Debra Cantrell, COA)

Have you stumbled upon the field of Ophthalmic Imaging?  Not sure where to turn to next?  You are not alone!  As Ophthalmic Imaging is a small field, it isn’t something that students hear about when they are discussing their career path with their high school guidance counselor. 

Many people have gotten into the field after having a career as a professional photographer shooting events, weddings, and portraits.  Other people find out about it because they have a sister-in-law who has a friend who has an Uncle Bob who has this really cool job taking pictures of eyes.  Some people stumble upon a college called Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and pursue a degree in Biomedical Photographic Communications.  Many people discover it as they are working as an Ophthalmic Technician and realize they are very interested in taking pictures of the eye as well.  Many Ophthalmic Technicians also work as Ophthalmic Imagers.  Some even cross over to taking pictures full time.  Many practices look to hire people with skills as both a Technician and an Imager.


(Susannah Held, past UNC intern, demonstrating her technique at the fundus camera )

So now that you know about the secret of Ophthalmic Imaging… where do you turn to next?  These are the steps I recommend:

  1.  Learn a little bit more about Ophthalmic Imaging  The OPS website has a great section on describing Ophthalmic Photography.  It’s a great resource to get a basic idea of what type of images we take.  Here’s the link:  Don’t forget to use the "More in this Section Tab” to see more! 
  2. Learn a little bit more about Ophthalmic Technicians When looking at Ophthalmic Imaging as a career, I also suggest you look into the career of Ophthalmic Technicians.  As there are many more Technicians in the country than Imagers, it may be easier to find a job this way.  In many offices Technicians are also using fundus cameras and OCTs so this may be just what you were looking for!  There is a website for Ophthalmic Technicians here:
  3. Find a mentor A list of very well respected Ophthalmic Imagers is below.  Contact one of them to ask any questions you may have about the work environment, local salaries (usually starting in the $30-$40,000 range), education, etc.  Figure out if this could be a fit for you. 
  4. Shadow someone Contact someone to see if they can set up a time for you to shadow them in clinic for 2-4 hours.  If you don’t find someone on that list that is near you, still contact them as we are a very small well connected field and they might be able to find someone local to you who could help out. 
  5. Find an internship If you are still interested after going through all of these steps, it’s time for you to learn more.  Most of us got to where we are through a combination of reading, attending lectures and workshops, and hands on experience through internships.  Many of us have a person or two that took us under their wing to show us the ropes that we still consider to be our mentor today.  This is the hardest part of breaking into the field as the majority of internships are unpaid.  Personally, I recommend a 12-16 week internship so that you are comfortable performing OCT, fundus photographs and fluorescein angiograms
  6. Find your first job! Once you are comfortable performing OCT, fundus photographs and fluorescein angiograms, it’s time to look for a job!  I strongly suggest finding a place that has a strong Ophthalmic Imager already working there so that you can continue to grow under the guidance of someone willing to invest in you. 
  7. Obtain Certifications The Ophthalmic Photographers’ Society offers two certifications:  the Certified Retinal Angiographer (CRA) and the Optical Coherence Tomographer Certified (OCT-C).  Not only do certifications make your name fancier, but they also declare that have a basic level of skill.  Certifications are sometimes an expectation of your workplace, sometimes a negotiating point for a raise and always something to be proud of!  Keep in mind certifications aren’t something you can get overnight.  The CRA requires two years of on the job experience and the OCT-C requires one year.  For more information, go here;    


(Bill Anderson and Amanda Ortega learning at the OPS Mid-Year Program in Chapel Hill                                      Photo Credit- Rona Lyn Esquejo-Leon, CRA )

See below for contact information for respected Ophthalmic Imagers who have offered to help you along your way.  Some have offered to be mentors, offer shadow time, and even unpaid internships.  Hopefully this information will help guide you with your aspirations to pursue this career.  Look out for additional information next week in How to Get Started in Ophthalmic Imaging: Part II.  If other Ophthalmic Imagers not listed are interested in helping someone new to the field, please post your contact information in the comments below. 



These respected Ophthalmic Imagers are willing to discuss the field of Ophthalmic Imaging with you!

Debra Brown, COT, COA

Denver, Colorado



Peter L. Breit, CRA

Director Ophthalmic Services

The Lankenau Hospital

& Bryn Mawr Hospital

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



Stephanie L. Burke, CRA, OCT-C

Imaging Consultant

University Hospitals Case Medical Center

Cleveland, Ohio


Karen McHugh, CRA

Ophthalmic Imaging Specialist

The Retina Institute of Florida

West Palm Beach, Florida

(561) 832-4411


Michael P. Kelly, FOPS

Director, Duke Eye Center Labs

Duke University Hospital

Durham, North Carolina

(919) 684-3139


Robert G. Shutt, CRA, OCT-C

Ophthalmic Photographer

Danbury Eye Physicians & Surgeons

Torrington, Connecticut

(203) 791-2020


Paula F. Morris, CRA, FOPS

Ophthalmic Imager

John A. Moran Eye Center

Salt Lake City, Utah

(801) 244-6290


Christye P. Sisson, CRA, MS

Associate Professor

Chair, Photographic Sciences

Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester, New York

(585) 475-4228


Mentors + Shadow:

These respected Ophthalmic Imagers are willing to discuss the field of Ophthalmic Imaging with you AND (assuming schedules work out) even let you visit their offices for 2-4 hours to see them in action!

Robert W. Cavicchi, CRA, FOPS

Joslin Diabetes Center

Boston, Massachusetts



Ditte Hess, CRA, FOPS

Director of Photographic Educational & Research Training Programs

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Miami, FL

(303) 326-6000 x6280


Mentors + Shadows + Unpaid Intership:

In addition to offering mentor-ship and shadow time, these respected Ophthalmic Imagers are willing to discuss setting up internships for you. Lengths of internships may vary, but a minimum of 4 weeks is recommended.


Denice Barsness, CRA, COMT, ROUB, FOPS

Technical Director

Ophthalmic Diagnostic Center

CPMC Department of Ophthalmology

2100 Webster Street, Suite 21

San Francisco, California

(415) 600-5781


Sarah Moyer, CRA, OCT-C

Director, Ophthalmic Imaging

University of North Carolina

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

(919) 966-1495



Sarah Moyer joined UNC's staff as the Director of Ophthalmic Imaging in 2006. Prior to working at UNC, Sarah worked as an Ophthalmic Photographer at Columbia University in New York City and earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Biomedical Photographic Communications at the Rochester Institute of Technology. In 2007, Sarah was elected to the Board of Education for the Ophthalmic Photographers' Society.In 2011, Sarah was appointed co-chair of the PDC.

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