Friday, May 25, 2012

How to Get AWESOME Lab Images

It's been said that "Good is the enemy of great." When you have something that's good enough, where's the motivation to get something great?

Well, I'm just a GP (about to start an ortho residency for 30 months), so who am I to talk about lab shots? Well, as someone who teaches clinical photography around the world, it's my job to look into every aspect of the subject. I've been using a great product for about 7 years and I'm happy to share it.

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We can now make lab images look way better than this traditional image

When you want to show images of casts or lab work, how do you shoot them? There are lots of ways to capture an image, and there's a progression that most people go through.

Maybe you simply put the object on the counter with a nice formica background. Not very pretty or fancy, but the job gets done. Perhaps you go so far as to put a nice bib underneath it instead. Not my favorite, but at least the funky formica design doesn't distract those viewing the image.  If you start to get "fancy" perhaps you decided to put down a piece of black velvet and you may have even gone one step farther and shot an image of the lab work on a mirror like one of those big shot lecturers.

Well, if you're looking to get great lab images and I mean GREAT, you have to consider using the Digital Lighthouse found at Photekusa.com. Yes, it means having one more step, but when you see the difference it makes, you'll understand why you used it. They come in a variety of sizes, and even the largest is only $149.

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The digital lighthouse helps give stunning lab images, especially if the object being photographed is metallic or translucent.

The concept is simple. Like a standard soft box used in portrait photography (see image below) using the digital lighthouse removes all glare from flashes.
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The digital lighthouse works a lot like this standard soft box by removing glare and shadows and giving a much softer look to the object being photographed.

The only pre-requisite is that your flash must be positioned outside of the white nylon box so that it can be softened. This is where I really love the Nikon R1 (or R1C1) because the two small sb-200 units can be taken off the camera and held outside of the box. If you shoot a Canon 14EX (or Sigma equivalent) you're only going to get light from one direction rather than two and you may consider another flash system for lab work. Photek sells two nice lamps that could take the place of the flashes altogether and you could have the whole setup ready to go at all times.

If you want to skip using flashes altogether, consider buying Photek's lamps.

In another blog post I'll show you exactly how to shoot an image using the flash option. The whole purpose of this post is to show you another way of looking at things. For instance, take a look at the following image taken with a regular flash setup without the digital lighthouse. It was taken a number of years ago and to make it fancier at the time, I used a piece of black velvet background.

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Notice the shadows all around the outside of the cast and more importantly, look at the glare coming off the metal pieces of the implant parts. Yes, the image is "acceptable" but we can do much, much better.

Look at the image of the wax up below. Yes, it is well lit and composed properly and it even has a nice velvet background, but it just doesn't "pop".

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Now, look at the following image of a soft tissue cast. With the addition of a nice Photoshop colored background (I always try to disclose non-global changes) you have what I think is an image that is way better.

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Or, take a look at this whitening whitening tray. It's really, really tough to shoot anything translucent because of glare and difficulty getting good depth. The lighthouse tackles that with ease.

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Using the lighthouse and photoshop for some dust removal on the black background and a very tough to shoot translucent object turns out pretty nice.

Take a look at this hybrid prosthesis...
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OK, this last image wasn't taken in a lighthouse. It was actually taken on a mirror using the R2 bracket and pocket bouncers, but that's for another blog... ;)

Remember, if you want to get amazing intraoral images, consider ordering my "Exceptional Dental Images Made Easy DVD" or my custom designed mirrors and retractors by clicking HERE.

Also, if you have any questions or want to see me tackle a particular topic, just click HERE and send me an e-mail through my website.

Best Wishes,

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Upcoming New Mac, Windows 8 and Dentistry: Your Images Had Better Be Great!

Apple is coming out with some pretty big changes to their computers  and new Mountain Lion OS and Windows is coming out with its' radical new OS Windows 8. So, the big question has been, should we wait or buy now? And, if the rumors about the new Mac screen are true, you better start thinking a lot more about shooting images that look awesome WITHOUT being cropped.

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The rumors are swirling and as we get closer there are more and more comments coming out. Just look at the recent online article which covers some of why you may want to wait. Click HERE to view it.

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Just one view of what Windows 8 desktop will look like

In the end, there is a really interesting article about the new Mac screen which poses some interesting possibilities for dentists. You have to see it. Click HERE.

Currently, a screen with a resolution of 1900x1200 is pretty good (2.28 Megapixels) but the possibilities of the new 17" macbook with a 3840x2400 (9.2 Megapixels) screen is simply mind boggling!!!! If this is true, we're about to see a paradigm shift in both the way we shoot and view images very, very soon.

If you're shooting an older camera, it is possible that you may not even have enough pixels to fill the screen. Of even more concern, if you rely on cropping your images to make them look nice, you also may not have enough pixels to fill the screen regardless of the camera you use.

Plus, your images had better be looking good. If you want better resolution (which you should), every little thing will be seen by you AND your patient. So, if your images aren't clear or poorly composed, they will look worse.

That is why, more than ever, it's important that you shoot amazing images with zero need for cropping. As technology increases, it will become more and more important.

To learn more about the acclaimed DVD that is helping dentists shoot the best images of their career, click HERE and change your practice forever.

Stay Tuned!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A New Flash Gives Great Dental Portraits Super Fast & Easier Than Ever

In the early 1970's, when I "borrowed" my dad's Minolta FT QL (released in 1966) and decided at age 6 that I loved photography, I had no idea that my hobby would evolve into this. Sure, like every photo geek I had my own B & W darkroom where I would enlarge images, always finding a huge clump of dust somewhere on the enlargement. It was my version of "Where's Waldo" but I kept on going with it and never imagined that one day people would hire me to come and teach them how to get great dental images. I blame it on my dad (both a photo hobbyist and dentist) but even with all of the photo toys that he had, I don't think that we could have imagined the actual functionality of many of the innovations available to the average person today.

I remember the days of setting up a couple of light boxes or umbrellas along with the use of a light meter and an array of equipment to capture really nice portraits. Worse yet, you needed a decent ceiling height to get good images and a lot of room to set the equipment up for different "moods". We still can do that today, but for the average dentist who simply doesn't have the budget or room to create a true studio, I introduce the Stellar Diva 18 inch CFL ring light.

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The 18" CFL bulb is bright but very cool and comfortable to be near.

What is it, you ask? It's a simplified way to take portraits. The concept is this: Set the light (less than $200) on a tripod or stable base, attach your camera on a flexible stalk (included) and you have perfect lighting. No softlights, no heat, no extra room (or budget) needed. Seriously. Just set it up, seat your subject in front and shoot.

Well, I took it over to a friend's office today to show it to him and we started shooting images. I chose to do things a little differently than they suggest and shot using an old Nikkor 70-300 lens from above , rather than attach the camera to the stalk. You don't need to do this, but I've always enjoyed thinking "outside the box", plus, I love the blurred background I can get using both a low f-stop and the zoom. I guess it's just my style.

Below are a few images and as anyone there can attest, once I set it up, it took literally less than 5 minutes to shoot all of the images you see below.  Are they as good as a $2000 setup with 3 lights? You be the judge, but remember, how good is good enough? With this system, I don't need extra room, it can be set up in the operatory in literally 1 minute and I'd feel fine putting these images up on my wall any day.

Remember, other than slight histogram adjustment and maybe a tiny bit of sharpening, there were no other changes to these images. There was no makeup or hairstyling and I just wanted to see what things would look like in an "average" setting. Scroll to the end of the 5th image and you'll see one more capability of this equipment...

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Do you know how hard it is to make your 12 year old daughter smile for dental portraits?!?!?

So, using the light on an angle to the smile, I wanted to see what things could look like without diffusers or bounce. Just the ring light and an oblique angle. I had never tried this before, but the possibilities are endless.

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This is just the ring light and my camera and nothing else. 

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Just having fun with an "artsy" anterior shot, but it can do so, so much more.

Only one piece of equipment, for less than $200 to get great portraits and up close shots? I'll be using this a whole lot more...