How to take educational before/after photos

March 21, 2012

In 1982 I walked into the executive offices of the world’s largest developer of beauty salons and spas. I wasn’t quite 30 years old but I was excited to meet with the senior staff of this prestigious company. I wanted to learn how dental beauty services could compliment facial beauty services.  I thought that there were some lessons I could learn. I could not believe they were going to actually meet with me.

In 1982 I walked into the executive offices of the world’s largest developer of beauty salons and spas. I wasn’t quite 30 years old but I was excited to meet with the senior staff of this prestigious company. I wanted to learn how dental beauty services could compliment facial beauty services.  I thought that there were some lessons I could learn. I could not believe they were going to actually meet with me.

I sat down, showed a video that I filmed about cosmetic dentistry using the Mission Impossible concept, looked at their eyes and saw they “got” what I was trying to accomplish. However, once I started to show slides from my lecture series on tooth bonding (veneers were developed the following year), the senior VP of Marketing for the company, Andrew, told me to stop. I still remember what he said, “This is disgusting. Come back in 6 months and show me how your services really impact patients lives.”

I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that I flew all the way to New York to be dismissed within minutes of starting my presentation. However, instead of being insulted, I thought about what Andrew told me to do. And in this article for Best Cosmetic Dentistry Practices I will share with you what I did wrong and how I learned to never make that mistake again. I believe there is a lesson you can learn from my experience. Later today look at the photos on your own website and see if you, too, are showing before/after photos that are not appealing from a prospective patient point of view. If so, make some simple changes to your website as well as to your photo album in your office. Check out some other websites from your colleagues. You will undoubtedly see photos that demonstrate dental changes that are “not appealing” from a patient perspective. The good news is that is easy to change.

The following are my suggestions:

1. Don’t show photos of incisal views that include nasal passages – and worse yet, nasal hair. Are you chuckling? Well, it’s sort of funny, but from a patient perspective, it’s kind of a turn off.

2. Don’t show close up photos of finishing and polishing procedures that include gingival bleeding.  It’s an instant patient turn-off.

3. Try to avoid the “T” zone in your After photos.  Quite frankly I never knew what a T Zone was but apparently I was good at photographing it.  Women in particular don’t like having After photos taken with T Zones showing. Ask your patient to apply some make-up or powder before taking your After picture.

4. Don’t take an overly animated Before photo. Here’s the scenario: your patient is excited to be here - eyes are sparkling -

Cosmetic dentistry done by Dr. Harvey Silverman, DMD

and there’s often even a positive glow of anticipation. An hour or two later, after completing your work the patient is tired. Their eyes are not dancing. The glow is gone. Thus the overall facial excitement of the patient may look better in the Before shot than in the after shot. Tip: Lower their enthusiasm level for the Before photo. Additionally, having comparable skin tones is desirable. Additionally, having comparable skin tones is desirable. It is not always easy to accomplish as this Before and After photo demonstrates (right).

5. If your patient is a woman, ask if she brought the same color lipstick with her.  If not, have her take off her lipstick for the Before picture.  Keep everything comparable whenever possible.

6. Shoot photos straight on and from a lateral perspective.  Notice a difference?  The photo looks more flattering when the patient stands at a 90 degree angle to you and turns her head toward the camera.

7. Don’t rely on full face before and after photos taken while the patient is sitting in the dental chair.  For a better perspective have the patient stand.

Before and after

Cosmetic dentistry done by Dr. Harvey Silverman, DMD

8. Crop the photos if necessary. Don’t photoshop. Cropping eliminates distractions that take away from the overall improvement you made.

9. Don’t show pictures with lip retractors. Many websites and photo albums show before and after photos with lip retractors. Save those for journal articles or seminars. Instead show Before and After photos of beautiful smile transformations, not of teeth with lips being retracted.

Learning to take good instructional Before/After photos is easy to do. As a result of the mentoring I received from the beauty developers I learned to take before/after photos that demonstrated how dental beauty enhanced facial beauty. Quite frankly I found out that once I changed my patient’s smiles, I changed their life. Some patient’s changed their hairstyle, others lost weight, the way they dressed and even changed their job.  I have heard it all – and more.

So the next time you do a cosmetic dentistry case take the time to carefully frame how you want to shoot before and after photos. Show how your work has empowered your patient with a better self-image. Capture it in his smile. Capture it in her eyes. Catch the glow, the aura. Take more photos than you need. And photograph each case that you do.

Please feel free to contact me (incrediblesmiles@aol.com) if I can help you jump-start your cosmetic practice or distinguish, differentiate or transform your office into a premier cosmetic practice in your community. As always, feel free to send me any questions you have. I will do my best to get back to you ASAP and might even answer your question in an upcoming issue in DPR. If you want to find easy ways to achieve excellence in technique or management/marketing for cosmetic dentistry, let me know and I will be happy to let you know if you are a candidate for our ONE DAY transformation program. Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can accomplish today.  That’s procrastination and procrastination is not a good recipe for success.

Cheers! I wish you all the best. Now get out there, take the best photographs you can that demonstrate how your smile enhancement services compliment the overall cosmesis for that patient and you will receive great personal satisfaction as you help change some patient’s lives.