Abstract Nuclear heating measurements in Material Testing Reactors (MTR) are crucial for the design of the experimental devices and the prediction of the temperature of the hosted samples. Nuclear heating in MTR materials (except fuel) is mainly due to the energy deposition by the photon flux. Therefore, the photon flux is a key input parameter for the computer codes which simulate nuclear heating and temperature reached by samples/devices under irradiation. In the Jules Horowitz MTR under construction at the CEA Cadarache, the maximal expected nuclear heating levels will be about 15 to 18Wg−1 and it will be necessary to assess this parameter with the best accuracy. An experiment was performed at the OSIRIS reactor to combine neutron flux, photon flux and nuclear heating measurements to improve the knowledge of the nuclear heating in MTR. There are few appropriate sensors for selective measurement of the photon flux in MTR even if studies and developments are ongoing. An experiment, called CARMEN-1, was conducted at the OSIRIS MTR and we used in particular a gas ionization chamber based on miniature fission chamber design to measure the photon flux. In this paper, we detail Monte-Carlo simulations to analyze the photon fluxes with ionization chamber measurements and we compare the photon flux calculations to the nuclear heating measurements. These results show a good accordance between photon flux measurements and nuclear heating measurement and allow improving the knowledge of these parameters.