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,

1 comment:

  1. interesting, I share your opinion. I believe today exist very good cameras that can take photos acceptable in our profession. we should not limit ourselves only to use more expensive and heavy DSLR systems