January 8, 2019
It’s a well-recognized fact that before and after photos play an important role when patients are choosing a plastic surgeon. Yet a quick review of any number of plastic surgery practice websites reveals photo galleries of patients posing in inconsistent positions, under poor lighting, wearing a variety of mismatched undergarments. At times the image quality is so bad it is difficult to appreciate the surgical result.
The good news is, you can achieve big improvements with a few easy fixes.
The most effective action you can take is to become a stickler for consistent lighting, positioning, background, and framing.
If the goal is to showcase a surgical or non-surgical procedure outcome, then virtually the only difference between the before and after photo should be the result of the procedure. That means the post-op patient must stand or sit in the exact same spot, at precisely the same angle, at a consistent distance from the camera, and under the same lighting as he or she did for the initial photographs.
How exactly do you or your staff make that happen? Try these 10 tips:
1. Train all staff who take photos on clinical photography standards. There’s more to it than aiming a camera or iPad and pushing the button. Canfield Scientific has a free clinical photography webinar each month that details how to position a patient and frame the photo, as well as how to choose a camera and appropriate lighting.
2. If you don’t have a dedicated photo room, be sure that each exam room has a blue or gray wall or hanging backdrop that contrasts nicely with all skin tones.
3. Purchase a positioning mat or put markings on the floor to indicate where a patient is to place his or her feet for each of the standard front, side, and oblique angles.
4. Use photo software with a ghosting feature that allows the photographer to superimpose the pre-op photo onto the screen, to ensure the patient is in the exact same position for the post-op photo.
5. Provide patients with a hair tie or headband to pull hair back from the face.
6. Ask patients to remove jewelry, eyeglasses, and other accessories.
7. Provide makeup remover for patients having skin treatments such as dermabrasion, laser, or a chemical peel. Minimal makeup is otherwise ok.
8. For breast and body photos, ask patients to completely remove their gowns.
9. Decide on a tasteful photo undergarment and use it consistently.
10. Use a camera flash or studio lighting to illuminate the patient without casting shadows.
Once you’ve improved your photographs, give thought as to how and where you display them. A prominently featured gallery on your website is a must. And, don’t forget to view it from your tablet or phone to be sure it’s mobile friendly.
If you’re displaying before and after photos in the office by using cheap binders with photos shoved into plastic sleeves, it’s time to up your game for patient consultations. Create digital galleries using TouchMD or other editing software, or use an online service to create printed and bound photo books.
Update photos regularly and include patients of various ages, skin colors, body types, and genders. Prospective patients want to see before and after photos of patients who look similar to them. Include a short description of the patient’s pertinent background, goals, and the procedure performed to provide further context and relatability.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you to be sure you have the appropriate written consent on file for every patient whose photos you use. Ask a healthcare attorney review the consent form to confirm it meets legal requirements. Or, find a sample photo release available to members of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery at www.surgery.org.