Thursday, August 14, 2014

The New DMD Photography Video Has Arrived!

The demand for it has been amazing, and although it's taken awhile we now have our training video up and ready!

While the actual in-the-clinic experience is great, we've always recognized that the time and expense can be out of reach for some. We've put that program in a fun 40-minute video that will change the way you use your camera and flash -- helping make intraoral, portrait, and shade-matching photography simple, affordable, and consistently perfect!

Here's the link that will get you there:

Plus, I'm always available on Thursdays (when I'm not on the road) at my studio in Portland Oregon for FaceTime chat (or Skype), answer questions by phone, or answer your email. 10am to 4pm PT:

We're developing webinars and other media services, too -- so stay in touch!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Passion for Production ~

....which is a fancy way of saying I love taking pictures. I've spent 40+ years practicing one form or another of photography as a profession: product work, portraits and weddings, medical and technical imaging. The one thread that runs through all that is my desire to keep making pictures. So I'm going to step away from the totally-technical topics I usually post on this blog and, from time to time, will talk about photography in general. Most of my dental clients enjoy photography outside of the office as well, so I hope this will have a broader and more enjoyable appeal.

The advent of digital photography had made the job of dental imaging so much simpler. The same can be said for photography in general. The pathways to creativity have never been so widely accessible, and this is due in no small part to the greatly expanded architecture of imaging devices.  Along with the incredible quality of digital SLR cameras and lenses (and I'm a long-time Canon devotee) there are so many other great devices that produce amazing results while being easy to use and very affordable, such as compact point-and-shoots, digital rangefinders, and new mirrorless cameras. Oh, and smartphones. I confess to being a devoted user of my iPhone. The 5s has an incredible camera.

I recently returned from an engagement in San Diego, one of my favorite places to visit. I was able to spend a few days sightseeing and looking up old friends. I usually walked about with only my iPhone, but was able to see and capture some really beautiful images.

The really great thing about using the iPhone was that I could manipulate the photos right on the spot -- I use some terrific photography apps -- and even send them right out to my friends to see via email or messaging (you know, so I could gloat over my good fortune and lovely weather with my siblings who live in cold climates!)

The two images above -- the egret and the pink clematis -- were both made on the iPhone. I did, however, take my Canon 7D with me when I could, as I still love the incredible pixel-depth and lens selection this camera provides me. The photo on the left is of the stairway in the Cabrillo lighthouse, and was made with that camera and the 10-22mm wide-angle lens.
In the clinic, yes, the appropriate tool is the digital SLR with a macro lens and ring flash.  The requirements for that kind of imaging are very precise.

But when you want to pay attention to that creative voice inside you? I can only defer to the great Steve Jobs, who, when asked what in his opinion was the best camera, answered "the one you have with you".
So here's a simple challenge for you: go somewhere, anywhere; near your home or someplace far away. Just stop, look around, and find something beautiful right there to photograph. You'd be amazed how easy that is.

Just have a camera with you.

Later, amigos.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

A (Very) Short Discourse On Monitor Calibration ~

One of the many issues we talk about in our workshops is how best to send your shade-matching photos to your dental lab. What I always stress NOT to do is to send a color print, or to manipulate the photo on your computer (making it lighter or darker, or tweaking the color, for example) before emailing it on. Why not?
You may have already experienced the problem first-hand. Have you ever tried to make a color print on your own printer, and found, much to your frustration, that the print you got looked nothing like the beautiful image you saw on your screen? It's because your monitor needs to be calibrated to ICC (International Color Consortium) standards. Your printer is already a calibrated device, but your computer monitor is not. It's not sending accurate color information to your printer.

It's the same way that those HDMI TV's at the department store all look a little different from each other, even though the same video is being shown on them. They're not calibrated to a common standard. So imagine then if you open your images on your computer and prior to sending them off, you make a series of adjustments that make them look better on your monitor. Your lab, which very likely maintains well-calibrated systems, sees something entirely different from what you see, making accurate color determinations all but impossible. And there's no profit in re-makes.

It's not that you necessarily need to perform this task on the monitors in your clinic, but rather, you need to be aware of the way in which you send color information to your lab. They may prefer you to email them, which is a fairly common practice, but to do so without opening them up and adjusting them beforehand.  (Re-sizing them is fine; that doesn't affect color information). Other labs I've worked with prefer receiving the actual memory card from the camera, which they will then open and adjust on their computers, returning those cards afterwards. Your camera is also a calibrated device, so this method ensures a very high level of color accuracy.

If you've taken some great shots with your DSLR camera and would like to begin making display prints, then by all means you should incorporate good calibration practices. It's not hard to do, and there's a number of good products out there to use. I'd recommend a trip to a good professional photography supplier for information and some tips. I personally use X-Rite software, but there are others. Load the software, follow the instructions as to setting recommended white point, gamma, and so on, place the calibration tool directly on the screen and let 'er rip. Modern LCD and retina screens hold a calibration much longer than the old CRT screens did; my habit is to check it once a month. Macs have a built-in calibrating program, but I haven't had as good experience with that as I have with the specialized software.

It's all about the color!

Later amigos!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why Learn Good Photography Skills? ~

What keeps me the busiest throughout the year?  More than study group presentations, more than email correspondence, more than face-time sessions, are my in-clinic workshops for dentists and their staffs. And it's not surprising why this should be: competent photography skills, particularly when used in shade-matching practice, saves you a lot of time and money.

Even the general practice benefits from using photography regularly. Research shows a higher rate of patient acceptance of recommended procedures in practices that consistently use photography.

The great news is that the required skills are really accessible to anyone, and the camera systems are pretty easy to master. Teaching those skills is what I am passionate about, and darn good at, too.

Shade-matching is where photography really proves its worth. There's no way that a written description, even including a numbered shade tab, can convey the amount of information that a good photograph can. The camera, flash, and macro lens systems we've talked about in many previous posts here make incredibly sharp and color-accurate images. This is pure gold to a dental lab.

My on-location workshops are typically around four hours, and involved a lot of hands-on practice chair-side. My goal is to leave behind a staff that is comfortable and competent with the camera -- its settings and operations -- and able to continue mastering the intraoral and portrait techniques that make for a successful practice.
The cost? Just about what one re-make costs your practice. And now there'll be fewer of them.

Oh and, yes, it's a lot of fun, too. Photography should be! So send me a note. Let's get together and make it work.

It's what I do.

Later, amigos!


Friday, November 15, 2013

Get Out That Camera! ~

The digital camera system you're using in the clinic is a wonderfully creative tool; it can do so much more  than the intraoral photos you make every day. Whenever I do a photography training session in the clinic,  I usually get asked a lot of questions about using the camera to have fun outside the office. And it is fun!

In this post we're going to look at just two little things you can do with your camera that will make a big difference in your photography: controlling the shutter speed and controlling the aperture.

Here's that Command Dial on top of your camera; you'll recognize it from our training sessions. When we're making intraoral photos with the Macro Lens and Ringflash, we leave it on "M" (Manual) so that the flash can create proper TTL exposures for us. Let's remove that flash and go outside to explore our creative possibilities!

Let's first set it on "Tv" (Time Value) so we can set the shutter speed to capture the action of a fast-moving subject. As long as the overall light level is pretty good (a nice sunny day) the camera will automatically select an aperture that will yield a good exposure.

On the right is an extreme example of that:  the water fountain on the Stanford campus. I wanted to see what it would look like if I "froze" the water droplets with a really fast shutter speed. I jacked up the ISO to 6400 to take advantage of as much light as I could, and used a shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second! Think about other kinds of subjects that could use fast shutter times, such as racing bikes and football players, or the fastest subjects of them all: your kids.

Here are a couple examples of going in the opposite direction; very long (slow) shutter speeds that capture the flow of moving water. Of course, such long exposure time usually requires a tripod to keep the image sharp overall. The river was shot at 1/4 of a second, and the waterfall at 1/3. In human terms those don't seem like overly long durations, but in photo terms those are long exposure times indeed.

Now let's go in the opposite direction and set the camera to "Av" (Aperture value) which will allow us to control depth-of-field through aperture selection, and the camera will automatically set an appropriate shutter speed. The higher numbers (f 22, f 32 for example) give us a lot of depth-of-field, which we need in images such as landscapes. We use f 32 for all our intraoral imaging for exactly that reason, too. If you look closely at that picture of the waterfall, you'll see that in terms of sharpness, everything from the bush in the foreground to the hilltop in the distance is sharply in focus; that image was exposed at f16.

But what happens when we go in the other direction?

Here's an image showing the least amount of depth-of-field possible; it was photographed at f2.8, which is the "widest" that particular lens could go. Other lenses (considered "faster") may allow for f1.8, even f1.2!

This kind of imaging creates a lot of separation between the subject and the background, making the subject stand out dramatically. Portraits are nearly always taken in this manner, for example.

I know this is a pretty cursory description of the relationship between shutter speed and aperture, and you probably have more questions now than you did before. That's a good thing! Explore and try things out. You aren't going to break the camera, and you'll discover amazing things about photography -- and yourself! -- in the process.

We'll look at some other creative, outside-the-office techniques down the road. And I hope that road is a long, scenic drive.

Later, amigos! 


Thursday, October 10, 2013

RAW files: What, Why, & When? ~

Whenever we've talked about digital files here -- setting the camera, printing them, emailing them, and so on -- we've been talking exclusively about JPEG (.jpg) files. And these JPEG's are great, they record a lot of visual information. Every digital camera out there shoots JPEGs, and every digital imaging program can open them.  So, end of discussion.

And yet, and yet.....

You keep hearing about photographers, and other visual professionals, professing their undying love for the RAW file instead. And I know some dental labs are starting to request their clients to provide them with RAW files, so it's probably a good idea to spend a couple minutes here and take a quick look at them.

All digital cameras have a menu setting, such as the Canon shown here, that allows you to select what kind of file you wish to produce. The one highlighted here is the large, minimally-compressed JPEG, which I always recommend when you shoot JPEGs. These files "see", or record, 256 discreet brightness levels (or shades), which is a good deal of visual information. If you work with histograms, either in your camera or in a graphics program such as Photoshop, you'll see they display all 256 of those levels.

In that same menu you also see a lot of other possible file selections: smaller, more highly compressed JPEGs, and several RAW file + JPEG combinations, which are useful if you want an untouched RAW file to send to the lab but want an easy JPEG to keep on your desktop or in your patient files. They take up more room on your card and take a bit longer to process. I usually only set the RAW file by itself, as I've indicated with a yellow arrow.

But what are you setting? Well, unlike the 256 brightness levels the JPEG gives us (which is described as "8-bit") the RAW file on most digital SLR cameras records in 14-bit, which is over 4000 brightness levels. This gives the photographer far more control over the image in post-processing.

And of course, therein lies the rub. More control also means more work, so work-flow considerations have to be factored in any decision to start using RAW files. Going through an extra step while processing a handful of images is one thing, but working on several hundred will be something else entirely. When you shoot a JPEG, you set the camera to do most of that work: setting the exposure, the white-balance, sharpness, tone curves, and so on.  But all of these things -- everything, in fact, except ISO and shutter speed & aperture -- can be manipulated after the shot is taken, using the appropriate software. This picture shows the RAW converter you would use in Photoshop CS6 and Adobe Photoshop Elements. This means, of course, that unlike the JPEG, the RAW file cannot be opened universally; it absolutely requires software capable of doing so. (After the file is opened and worked on, it can then be saved as a JPEG.) Therefore, while some dental labs are starting to look closely at using RAW files, due to the advantage of having so much post-processing control over the image (and thus color quality), many labs can't afford that additional workflow. So don't start sending them RAWs unless they specifically request it!

Those of you who have been in one of my workshops or seminars know how much I love photography and want to share that enjoyment. Here's a great way to experience it at a whole new level. Download a copy of Photoshop Elements 12 (you can get it on Amazon for around $89), take your camera out of the office for a weekend, and play around with RAW files. Shoot whatever you like and let Elements open them in the RAW converter, then see where it can take you.

Nothing wrong with a good, creative hobby! Although the next step would be leafing through photo catalogs looking at all those nice $2000 lenses....

Share your thoughts -- and your photos!

Later, Amigos.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Few New Cameras ~

I've been in photography for a long, long time and have over the years acquired a lot of stuff: cameras of all sorts, countless lenses, strobes, and so on. And yet, (unlike some of my colleagues) I really don't consider myself a "gear-head". I use what I need to get the job done.

...but having said that...

...I do like to talk shop every now and then. I've had a couple recent workshops where our conversations turned to the new cameras that are out there, since these dentists were looking to replace some older ones that really weren't performing well. So here, in no particular order, are some of the latest offerings from our friends at Canon and Nikon that are appropriate for your clinical imaging. (Bear in mind, I don't sell cameras at all, so I don't make a push for any particular brand or model.)

Canon Rebel T5i.  Canon's latest offering in their impressive Rebel line-up, it's an 18-megapixel camera that also shoots  full 1080 p video. The Rebel line of DLSR cameras are smaller and lighter (the body only weighs a little over 18 oz) so it's easier for your staff members to handle than some of the upper-end pro models. Look for retail pricing, with a kit zoom lens, of around $900.

Canon Rebel SL 1.  A brand-new entry from Canon, this is also an 18-megapixel model, but is lighter still than the T5i and more compact (around 13 oz for the body) yet has all the capabilities of its larger cousin. I think its design will make it easier for even those with very small hands to fit comfortably. Kits will retail for around $800.

Canon 70D.   This is a 20.2-megapixel "prosumer" model that will appeal to someone looking to do more with a camera outside the clinic as well as the day-to-day intraoral imaging. Consequently, a few more features, but also a little bigger (the body weighs a little over 23 oz) and more expensive (around $1200). Some of the in-camera imaging features won't necessarily translate into better clinical images but will impress a serious shooter, amateur or professional.

Just by way of comparison, here at our studio we shoot with the Canon 7D and the 5D Mk III.

To complete your system for intramural imaging, pair these up with the Canon 100 f2.8 AF IS Macro lens and either the MR-14 Ringflash or the MT-24 Twinlight.

Nikon D 5200.  I run into a lot of Nikon shooters in clinics (just returned this week from a workshop in Cleveland where we worked with a Nikon D3100) and this recent addition to Nikon's line-up is a 24-megapixel model with some nice features. I'm often critical of Nikon for having menu read-outs that are overly complicated for the novice user, but it seems they've nicely addressed that with the 5200. Weight is comparable to the Canon T5i, around 18 oz, and a comparable kit will retail for around $900.

Nikon D 7100.  Also 24-megapixels, this would be more of a "prosumer" camera, comparable to Canon's 70D: a few more features that will appeal to the serious shooter outside as well as inside the clinic. Thus a little heavier (around 24 oz) and more expensive (the body retails for around $1200).

To complete your system for intraoral imaging, pair these up with the Nikon 105 f2.8 AF VR Macro lens and the R1 Speedlight.

Clearly, these are the briefest of descriptions that only scratch the surface of all the features of these cameras. If there's a good pro camera dealer near you, it's worth the effort to go check these out in person.

Tell 'em Dave sent you.

Later, amigos!