Monday, October 24, 2016

The Big Picture of Photography in Dentistry

In March, I embarked on a five-year journey to become a Master of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). This also was when I formally presented my first documented treatment case (since my residency nine years ago) to my MasterTrack group. Boy, was it humbling.

I had taken photos with the Nikon D7200. I found that I was having a love-hate relationship with this camera. I loved the quality of the pictures it could produce; I just disliked the fact that I couldn’t seem to actually take them. Of course, the goal of presenting our patient cases with photography is that we share our procedures and treatment plans and outcomes with our peers (to build on our knowledge and experience to better help our patients) — not to perfect our photography skills. But still, even as a novice, I wanted to take the perfect pictures.

With the Cadillac of all cameras in my hand, I went to work and snapped away. (Not that this was easy to do at the time, with six hands trying to help. Between me, my patient and my assistant, it was a team effort, though far from an easy one.)

Seemingly satisfied with the photos that I had taken, I went home. When I looked at the images, enlarged on my computer screen, I was horrified. The lighting errors, the mirror marks and the bubbles of saliva all seemed to appear out of nowhere, and no detail was spared. One miniscule artifact was now magnified several times over. I was so disappointed.

When it was time to take post-treatment photos, I was better prepared for what to expect. I was used to the weight of the camera, and I knew how to position my patient and where to aim. I was actually getting into the groove of intraoral photography, and the second time around went much more smoothly for everyone involved. I truly appreciate how wonderful patients are for tolerating the picture-taking process. Their cooperation goes a long way for dentists who are trying to perfect their photography in order to continually perfect their dentistry.

And so I cropped, pasted and proudly gathered all my hard work into my presentation for the MasterTrack group. It was clear, though, that I was still a novice at photography and still had much improvement to make. And that is exactly the point. We don’t become masters overnight. We have to earn that distinction through a journey and a process. We learn what we don’t know and with time and effort, we get better at it. I have no doubt my next photographs will be superior compared to my first few. I can only imagine what my case presentation in five years will look like.

Zeynep Barakat, DMD, FAGD


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