“Are You in a Photography Rut with Your Clinical Photos?”
If you feel stuck with the mediocre results you’re getting every time you have to take photos in the operatory, I’d like to help you get back on the road and begin capturing images that are useful to you, your practice, and your lab. I've been working with cameras for a number of years, and while I certainly don’t consider myself an expert in the field of photography, I do have a certain proficiency with the medium and understand the fundamentals that go into making great images. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to study and learn from many professional photographers in various areas of photography. I’ve even managed to land a few paying jobs along the way, and with each of them I’ve grown and improved. I recently visited a doctor’s office to help them with their clinical photography, as it had quickly become apparent that they needed help in this area. The majority of the photos we received from them were out of focus, had inconsistent color representation, or were shot from odd angles. In some cases it was a combination of all three. Generally, with a hands-on training session, I’m able to have the doctor and staff up and running in about an hour or so, ready to shoot clinical photos with much improved results. Their understanding of photography is still pretty limited at this point, but they have the necessary knowledge to get the job done. But this situation was a little different than most – they were taking their photos with a camera phone. Although I’ve always said that the best camera to use is the one you have with you, camera phones are not the ideal “camera” to use for clinical photography. Having said that, there are some camera phones that far exceed the ranks of their peers, like the Nokia PureView 808 which has a 41 megapixel camera built in. That’s right – 41 megapixels! Don’t get your wallet ready just yet, chances are it won’t make it to retail stores in the U.S. This is just one more indication of how rapidly technology is advancing, but even this camera phone is not my recommendation for your clinical shots. Most offices I visit have one of two different types of camera systems – either a DSLR or a point-and-shoot camera. Point-and-shoot cameras are small, relatively inexpensive ($100-$300) and are great for casual photography. Some of the limitations inherent to these types of cameras are the lack of full manual control, small imaging sensors which aren't capable of producing highly detailed images, and a limited aperture range. Having a broader aperture range allows for greater depth of field (getting all the teeth in focus when shooting at small apertures like f25 or f29). DSLRs, while a bit more expensive, allow the photographer to change out lenses and use a dedicated macro lens for their up-close clinical photography. They have image sensors roughly 10 times larger than point-and-shoots and produce incredibly detailed images. They give the photographer the option of full manual control for creative freedom, the ability to manually focus on a subject, and are much better at balancing color within the camera. To demonstrate the differences between the two cameras, I took a photo of a patient with each and placed the images side by side for comparison. There are a number of visible differences in the two images. Both cameras were set to Auto White Balance (AWB) and the DSLR did a really nice job of balancing the colors. The point-and shoot, on the other hand, didn't do so well – the colors are too warm and the image has a slight yellow color cast to it. There’s quite a contrast in the amount of detail in the two images as well.