Standardizing digital photography: It's not all in the eye of the beholder

G. M. Galdino, J. E. Vogel, C. A. Vander Kolk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Advances in digital photography have made it an efficient and economically appealing alternative to conventional photography. Nevertheless, as objective observers and clinical photographers, we must realize that all digital cameras are not created equal. Different digital cameras frequently used in plastic surgery practices (Olympus 600DL, Olympus 2500, Sony DSC-D700, Nikon Coolpix 950, and Nikon D1) were evaluated, using a subject photographed with each camera in the identical lighting conditions, to determine inherent differences in quality, color, and contrast of the resultant photographs. Three different lighting conditions were examined: single soft-box lighting, dual studio flash boxes, and operating room lighting with on-camera flash. The same digital settings (program mode, ISO camera default setting, high quality setting with JPEG compression) were used. Each camera was digitally color balanced using an 18 percent gray card. Raw and color-balanced images were viewed side-by-side. The macro-image capabilities of each camera were also examined. Conventional 35-mm photographs using a 105 macro-lens on Kodachrome and Ektachrome slide film were obtained for comparison. All of the digital cameras performed with noticeable differences, but they maintained consistency in the three different lighting conditions. Digital photographs differed most greatly with respect to quality and contrast, which was especially obvious once color balancing was performed. Marked differences in quality and ability were observed with respect to macro-image capabilities. Inherent differences in features among digital cameras produce dramatically different photographic results with regard to color, contrast, focus, and overall quality. With the increasing use of digital photography in plastic surgery journals and presentations, it must be recognized that digital cameras do not all display photographs of similar quality, especially when used to evaluate skin appearance. To standardize digital photography, the surgeon must realize that switching digital cameras is akin to switching film types. Standardization of digital photographs should include image resolution between 1.5 and 2.7 million pixels, ISO default setting, color balancing with an 18 percent gray card and software, consistency in focal distance, JPEG compression of medium-to-high quality, and backgrounds of medium blue or 18 percent gray.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1334-1344
Number of pages11
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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