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'After' portraits quick and slick

April 1, 2017
Think capturing your work on camera needs to be costly and time-consuming? Think again. Here's how to create a masterful keepsake portrait for your cosmetic dentistry patients the quick and easy way.

Think capturing your work on camera needs to be costly and time-consuming? Think again. Here's how to create a masterful keepsake portrait for your cosmetic dentistry patients the quick and easy way.

You just finished placing 10 stunning laminates and your grateful patient is giddy and giving you hugs and smiles. What better way to capture that happiness forever than in a beautiful portrait of the patient with his or her new smile! I know what you’re thinking, “I have another patient waiting for an occlusal composite.” Yes, dental offices are busy, but I am going to show you how to create a masterful keepsake portrait for your cosmetic dentistry patients the quick and easy way.


The key is to have the lights and background set up so there is minimal effort to photograph the portraits. First of all, you need a mini studio. Dental office space can be quite expensive, so dedicating a room for a studio is usually beyond the budget for most dentists.

In my office, I turn the hallway into an impromptu studio (figure 1). All it takes is a neutral curtain and a couple of wall-mounted softbox lights. The investment is minimal and the required extra space is zero. By mounting the lights permanently, you don’t need to waste time hauling out portable lights (figure 2).

Figure 1:Impromptu studio in the hallway

Pull the background curtain and you are ready to shoot. The main light is closer to the camera and the fill light farther away. Notice the placement of the reflector to reduce shadows.

Figure 2: Lighting permanently mounted

There is no need to lug lights out of a closet. The black bag hanging from the bracket holds the reflector, which conveniently folds up into a small circle.

A softbox is a photographic light with a translucent covering over the light source. It diffuses the light evenly, giving the resulting portrait an appealing, professional appearance. I suggest that you dedicate a camera and lens to your patient portraits and keep them in a handy place in the office so you can quickly grab the camera and snap patient portraits immediately. I chose the Canon EOS Rebel T6i and Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. Since you will be using the same lighting and environment for your shots, you can pre-set your camera so you will always be ready to shoot at proper exposure to get consistent results. Set your camera to manual mode and start with an f-stop at f/5.6, shutter speed at 1/250, and ISO at 100. Take a number of test pictures to tweak the settings for your environment.

I use two softbox lights (D-Lite2, Elinchrom) and mount them onto Avenger F815 brackets (Manfrotto) at a 45-degree angle over each shoulder of the photographer.

Picture time

Now for the fun part - picture time! Have an assistant pop on the softbox covers, pull the curtain into the hallway, and roll out a chair. I suggest that you take the actual photos. There is a special bond between photographer (doctor) and model (patient) that makes for an endearing experience for both. It only takes a couple of minutes for your assistant to set up. Even on a busy day, your camera will be set and ready for you to capture an important moment for your patient. Seat the patient on an assistant’s chair about a foot in front of the curtain. Have the person point his or her knees at about a 45-degree angle to the camera. This will naturally cause the shoulders to turn (figure 3). This helps to avoid a mug shot appearance. Then, shoot away.

Figure 3: Positioning

Pointing the knees at a 45-degree angle to the photographer will cause the shoulders to turn also.


It’s best to retouch the portrait before printing. Photoshop is a great program for touch-ups, but it can be complex and time consuming. Since time is of the essence, we use a program that is perfect for our needs called PortraitPro (Anthropics). It’s a simple-to-use yet powerful program. It instantly recognizes facial features and expertly reduces blemishes and wrinkles, enlarges the eyes, and adjusts the facial proportions for a much more pleasing result (figure 4). Within one minute you can have the retouched photo ready to print.

Figure 4: PortraitPro screenshot

The purple lines on the left can be moved to adjust various features. There are slider controls on the lower right that can tweak different aspects of the image.


Using the right printer is very important. Don’t try to get by with a cheap inkjet or color laser printer. Make sure that it is a professional photo printer that will produce great quality and give you expert results. I recommend the Canon Pixma Pro-1. Use the special heavy stock, glossy photo paper for the best quality. I print out an 8’’ x 10’’ portrait and put it into a frame for each patient to take home. The portrait can be printed by the time a patient is done checking out. It’s so heartwarming to see the thrill in your patient’s eyes when you present the portrait (figure 5).

Figure 5: Final product

Patients absolutely love the final product. It looks great on your website also.

You can also use the quality after-portrait along with your before-and-after close-up images on your website or in a PowerPoint for in-office consultations. People relate better to pictures of people than they do to pictures of teeth. On my website, I try to place (with patients’ permission) their portrait next to the close-up of their smile. This gives a prospective patient a better perspective of the results.

Acknowledgement: The author wishes to thank photographer and author Jill Wellington for her expert camera and portrait advice

Richard P. Gangwisch, DDS, MAGD, ABGD, earned his dental degree from Ohio State University. He is currently in private practice in Lilburn, Georgia, and is an assistant clinical professor at Augusta University College of Dental Medicine. He is a board certified general dentist. He is available to speak to dental groups on practice management and clinical techniques. He can be contacted at [email protected].


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