Sunday, February 28, 2016

Let's Show Great Images To Our Patients

I just typed in "Cosmetic Dentist" and visited a bunch of websites that popped up. I did what many patients might do and went to the "smile gallery" to see their work. It became clear to me that most were uninspiring and mostly very clinical. I can't imagine that any patient would get too excited about seeing images of a patient shot while they were in the clinic chair or against the wall of the operatory or a collage of clinical shots. I'm not posting most of the images I saw because it wouldn't be fair to show a patient's face, but suffice it to say that most of the images came up far short of what I would show on a website if I chose to show images on my website.

Do you really think that a patient will see this and say "Wow! This is the right dentist for me?".  Seems more appropriate for a board certification presentation.

Even when just a smile was shown, most sites of the "Best Cosmetic Dentists" (at least according to Dr. Google) showed images taken from incorrect angles.

If we're going to show off our work, let's at least shoot the two images from the same angle.
If we're going to show off our work to the general public, let's get AMAZING images that inspire folks. Honest, simple images that don't require patients having to go to a professional photographer (yes, most future patients can see through that marketing technique).

Click HERE to see a post I once did on how to get amazing portraits to grow your practice.

We all strive to do the best dentistry we can and we should also strive to have our photography match our outcomes.

All the best,

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why the Nikkor 85mm lens is a great (lighter and way less expensive) substitute for the traditional 105mm

I originally wrote this post almost two years ago, but I get the question so often that it seems appropriate to repost it.

It kills me every time a dentist writes to me something like: "I've got this great camera and lens setup that I got handed down from my brother when he got a better camera, but I can't get good images. Can you help me use it better?"  More often than not, they have a zoom lens such as an 18-200mm or 55-300mm or something like that. NONE, I repeat NONE of those lenses are appropriate for dentistry. They are not macro lenses, which means that you can never use them up close to the subject. Almost all dental photography (with the exception of portraits) uses macro photography. If you don't use a macro lens, your images will be out of focus.
This Canon 17-85mm lens is amazing to use, but the "-" between the 17 and 85 signifies it's a zoom lens and NOT appropriate for dental use.

All lenses for dentistry are macro, except Nikkor lenses (Nikon's subsidiary that makes lenses for Nikon) which call them "Micro". 

The brand you choose is important for the camera you use. For instance, if you use a Canon body, use a Canon (or Tamron or Sigma) lens. If you use Nikon, you can use a Nikkor (or Tamron or Sigma) lens.  In this post, I'm not going to get into the idea of why I'm not a big fan of using "off brands" of lenses. Buy all from the same brand, so that when something goes wrong, there's no finger pointing by one company to another. Hand it in to the repair center and let them sort it out. It's worth the extra few dollars you'll pay on the equipment.  However, here I am going to briefly discuss the type of lens you should use.

Basically, with Nikkor and Canon, there are only a few choices. For Nikkor, you can go with the 85mm or the 105mm. For Canon, you can choose the 60mm or the 100mm (the less expensive of the two 100mm lenses Canon makes is fine). The 60 mm lens is simply too tough to use in dentistry. The lower the number the closer you need to be to the subject and with a 60mm lens, for a shot of just the front teeth, you'll literally be 3 inches from the patient. Not good. The flash will never be in a position to work well. So, for Canon, you've got only one choice, the 100mm lens.
This Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is a great choice for Canon users. DON'T buy the more expense $1050.00 100mm Canon lens. You don't need it.
For Nikon, the 105 is an amazing lens, but at almost $1000 I simply cannot recommend it over the way smaller and way lighter  85mm lens , which costs half the price. In case you're wondering, photo quality doesn't suffer at all. I've shot both and can't tell the difference in ANY use of the image.

This AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G ED VR is an amazing lens at a great price for Nikon users.

Shot comparison of 85 vs 105mm Nikkor Macros. I can't see a difference and for an extra $500 I don't see the value.

One thing of note is that the lower the number (85mm vs 105mm) the closer to the subject you need to be to capture the same composition. So, you will need to be a little closer to the patient or, crop your images more when you're working through your digital process. 

Don't fall victim to buying the wrong equipment. As I said, I have DVDs to walk you through the entire process of buying, setting up and using your camera, flash and lens for maximum effectiveness, and minimal problems found HERE.

As always, I'm here for you should you have any questions or problems.

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Have Your Team Shoot Intraoral Images With Their Phone

When I travel around teaching photography and classes, the first question I ALWAYS get is: "Which camera should I buy?" Fair enough question, right? Actually, not really.

As clinicians, we've been trained in all sorts of equipment. We care about the brackets we use, the wire materials, scanners, technology, etc, etc.. Fortunately (or unfortunately for some) the camera you use will have far less of an impact on your images than your understanding of how to properly use mirrors and retractors. I've seen dentists spend upwards of $3000 on a camera setup and not have the foggiest clue about how to retract cheeks, position a patient or which mirror is best.  I've even had people show up to my courses with full camera setups still in the original packaging, hoping that I can show them how to set it up and use it (which I am always happy to do). My point is that it's not about the camera, flash or lens. It's about composition.

There are two components to every image: Lighting and composition. The first is easy to understand. Your image is either too light or too dark. How to get exceptional lighting is more complicated and I've previously discussed the role of lighting and its effect on depth of field on this blog, so I won't touch on it right now. Composition is how the image is set up. Can you see everything you want to see and nothing else?  In short, did you properly use the mirrors and retractors?

Even with this $2500 camera setup, notice that the composition doesn't lend itself to great patient education or case documentation. Truth is, it's really easy to fix.

My contention has always been that well composed images with a cheap camera allow one to capture better images than an expensive camera with poorly composed shots.  If you properly use your retractors, you're getting the lips and cheeks out of the way and light is able to get onto the subject. For instance, here's a shot of a maxillary arch (unedited except for cropping) taken with my OLD iPhone.

Yep, taken with an iPhone 4s, but with proper use of mirrors and retractors and good patient positioning techniques. Sure, the resolution is a little low, but it's a four year old 4s for gosh sakes! Newer cameras would look way better.
Sure, a more expensive camera would have better lighting or depth of field and I'm not advocating that you should use your camera phone for all of your dental images. What I am saying is that if you can get a great shot with your camera phone, without the fancy lighting systems or lenses, it's proof that you're using your mirrors and retractors well. If you're properly retracting the cheeks and tongue and positing your mirror in the right way, you'll allow enough light onto the subject that you'll get a great image with our fancy flash systems. If your image is too dark, it means that you're not retracting properly and you can quickly refine your technique.

Have your team shoot a set of images using their camera phones instead of your normal camera system. It'll make them focus (pun intended) on how to properly use the mirrors and retractors. It's about as pure of a way to shoot as there is and you can't hide anything and together you can objectively grade their images as I discussed HERE. If they can master the camera phone technique, then shooting with any $2000 camera system will be a breeze...if you know how to set it up. But that's another discussion. :)

Wishing you the best,