Buyer Beware: Before and After Photos Can Be Misleading

22 Nov 2011 at 3:00pm

Guest Post by Dr. Jack Gunter

The best way to show the results of a cosmetic procedure is with before and after photographs. However, as with many things that are good, they can also be used in misleading ways. Because a nose can look quite different from every angle, it is particularly easy with rhinoplasty for post-operative results to look good in one photo, but not in actuality.

How do you know what you’re looking at is an accurate portrayal?

nose job before and afterFor true representation of a post-op rhinoplasty result, before and after photos should:

1. Show several views of the nose.

Often a patient gets a good result on the side view (this view is the easiest to show a dramatic result) but at the same time on a different view the nose may look worse.  The front view is the most important because it is the most often seen in personal conversations and photographs.

2. Be taken in exactly the same way

The pre and post-op of the same views should be the same size and have the same lighting, position and background. Preferably the patient should have no make-up on or, at least, the same amount of make-up on all the views. They should be taken with the same camera system.

Other things to keep in mind

  • A photograph taken in soft lighting with make-up and a portrait lens will look much better than one without similar conditions.
  • It is best for the patient not to be smiling. If the "before" view shows the patient smiling, so should the "after," and vice-versa.

Even in a surgeon’s office it is difficult to meet the above criteria. To do so a specific space needs to be set aside for photography, and all photos should be taken there. They must be taken by the surgeon or someone who is trained for this. Busy offices may need to have a part or full time photographer in the office. This is especially true for surgeons who are teaching on a national or international level.

Patients should be aware of the above when searching for a rhinoplasty surgeon. If before and after pictures are used by the doctor, ask to see several patients’ photographs. Make certain to see several different views of the same patient, and see that they meet the above criteria. Galleries that just show one or two views are worthless.

Photo credit: Dr. Gunter