How accurate are digital photography pictures of the nose taken at a consultations or just in general?

I asked my ENT dr. about this & he said pics always look different from real life caz color distortion, etc. For my nose, (medium thickness skin, middle eastern facial hue) using point-&-shoot camera or looking in mirrors, full lighting hides irregularities, making it appear better-looking while shadowed or lower-light pics bring out irregularities, making it look closer to "real life". Can my nose be more accurately captured in digital photography pics?

Doctor Answers 6


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Dear sanfra103, Digital imaging can be very helpful to show the patient their proposed surgical result and to make sure the patient and the surgeon are on the same page. It is even more important that the surgeon has the expertise to attain the proposed result. In my practice I often show patients before and after books as well as the imaged photographs to show how close in proximity these results are. Your nose can be captured accurately enough on the imaging to show you realistic changes taking into consideration your nasal anatomy and skin thickness and your surgeon will take into consideration all irregularities or asymmetries at the time of surgery. I have enclosed a link below of examples of ethnic rhinoplasty procedures as well as a video above explaining the imaging process for your review. I hope this is helpful. Best regards, Michael V. Elam, M.D.

Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 215 reviews

Accuracy of Digital Photos

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Digital photographs are "accurate" in that they show exactly what was photographed. On the other hand, the appearance of the patient in the photo can be influenced by the settings of the camera, the lighting, makeup, and other factors. 

There was a lecture I attended in the past, where a patient was shown "before and after" procedures. There was a dramatic improvement in pigment of the face, and wrinkles. We were then told that all the photos were taken at the same time but different lighting, camera settings, distance from the patient to camera were varied. Beware of before and after photos that do not look they were taken with exactly the same technique.

Thank you for your excellent question.

Best Wishes

David J. Kiener, MD
Sacramento Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Accurate digital photographs to give you the best consultation.

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Photography is a true form of art, including the ability to manipulate reality with lighting and settings. 

Medical photography requires standardizing the setting to consistently reflect the anatomy as clearly as possible.

1. High quality camera: high megapixel, full-frame.
2. Portrait lens. For less distortion and fine focus.
3. Studio lighting, because light from the room lights and sun distort the image.
4. Standard background because light bounces off the wall behind the patient.
5. Standard views. So you can compare before and after. You can't compare a side-view to a front view.
6. Dynamic views. Smiling. Because your face isn't at rest at all times.

I recommend seeking a consultation where photographs are performed at this high standard. Otherwise there is no way to compare before photographs to new after photographs. Once you know your exact starting point, it will be easier to plot a safe path to your goal outcome.

Victor Chung, MD
San Diego Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Digital photographs for rhinoplasty

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In our practice, we use digital computer imaging to show patient's approximately what they're new nose might look like. The side profile photographs work much better than the frontal photograph due to lighting and morphing facial features. Examining your rhinoplasty surgeon's photo gallery is more important to look at than  proposed digital images. For more information and many examples of rhinoplasty, please see the link and video below

William Portuese, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 155 reviews

How accurate are digital photography pictures of the nose taken at a consultations or just in general?

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Hello sanfran103,
Thanks for your question.
Actually simulations are just that, a simulation!  They are approximate representations of possible surgical outcomes.  I use them all the time, but for the purpose of patient education and preoperative planning.  A patient should always be certain that they understand that simulations don't warranty or guarantee a particular outcome.
Medical photography is used to standardize body parts prior to and after surgery for accurate scientific comparison of outcomes.  Shadowing, fluid shifts, color alterations, makeup, etc. can all alter a picture in a number of ways on a given day.  Don't rely on the simulations, but use them to better communicate your desires and expectations to your surgeon; all while understanding that you need to be realistic in these desires and expectations.
Good luck,
Dr. Shah

Manish H. Shah, MD, FACS
Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 64 reviews

Digital photography

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Digital photography can be a great way to help a patient understand the areas that a plastic surgeon can address in an operation. Some new devices like Vectra 3D imaging also exist that help simulate a possible result. They are however just a simulation and not always accurate! Consulation with a plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery who listens and understands your goals is a great way to start. Best, MMT

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.