I think it was almost 10 years ago that I purchased my first digital camera. I used it to take pictures of friends and vacations, pretty typical of a 20-something. I never imagined that photography would be a skill that many dentists would embrace, not only as the primary way to showcase their work, but also as an extra-curricular activity. I remember when I was working as a dental assistant before I started school. The dentist was taking Polaroids of his veneer cases. Photography, like dentistry, has come a long way in the last decade, and more of us are starting to learn and acquire the skills needed to take great pictures.
Professional-level dental photography is something I have seen prominently presented at cosmetic dentistry meetings. These doctors work hard on their cases and want you to know it, so they display their composite layering skills at 24 megapixels. Beyond teeth, many even have portrait “studios” in their offices, complete with backdrops, umbrella lighting, and softboxes. Fresh young dentists are amazed, and want to take beautiful pictures of ALL of their patients. When they get back to their offices, they realize all they have is a gray wall to serve as a backdrop, unflattering lighting and an iPhone.
It took me a few years, but I was finally was able to get a DSLR camera, complete with a ring flash, in our office. (Until NYC real estate prices drop dramatically, the prospect of a photo studio is not looking too good.) Photography is a talent and a difficult skill to learn. Who actually reads the 100-page manuals that come with these cameras? I have only recently started to read the instructions that come with my bonding agent! I am thankful that the company I purchased the camera from deals with many clueless medical professionals like myself; they were able to preprogram the camera for me with two settings: intraoral and extraoral. They basically made it impossible for me to mess up the basic shots that I should be taking of my patients on a regular basis.
Over the past few months, I have been trying not to be lazy and take photographs of my work. The last thing a patient or dentist wants to do after prepping and temporizing is to sit there with mirrors and retractors, trying to get the perfect shot. The number one benefit so far has been being able to critically analyze my work. Regardless of how good you or your patient thinks something looks, evaluating your results in high-resolution really is a game-changer. In addition, showing patients clear, highly detailed photographs of their existing dental work can become a powerful treatment planning tool.
So far, that is the extent of my photography adventures. I am looking forward to taking some classes in the future and becoming more proficient at this skill. I am trying to improve the work that I am photographing and also to assemble a collection of before-and-after photos. Are there any books or great courses in dental photography that you would recommend? Any quick tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated. I hope to follow up with another post about this topic in the future.
Have a great week!
Lilya Horowitz, DDS