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Posted By Rachel A. Hollar CRA OCT-C, Friday, July 27, 2012
Updated: Friday, July 27, 2012

Photographers, of all stripes, have a little (or not so little) box-o-tricks that they draw from often in order to shape/manipulate/control the reflected light rays they are capturing. Reflector cards to bounce light into shadowed crevices, tinted reflectors to warm or cool the light and diffusers of all shapes, sizes and tints to spread and soften light. Q-tips, cotton balls, tooth-picks, syringes, spray bottles, fishing wire, mirror shards, tape, plumber’s putty…. Are all commonly found in a studio toolbox.




Take food photography for example. Soooo many tricks are utilized to present the viewer with a final, mouth watering image.

That ice-cream you see, mashed potatoes or, more commonly, Crisco, corn syrup and powdered sugar mixed with food coloring. Chocolate syrup; try motor oil. Those yummy cherries, sprayed with hairspray, or Vodka to keep them from looking too shiny. That melted marshmallow topping; Elmer’s glue (also used as ‘milk’ in cereal).



The scrumptious meats we drool over in advertisements (or retch, depending on what you eat), let me fill you in on some of those secrets…. Steaks or burger; you are looking at a piece of raw meat, chicken and fish as well, with copious amounts of vegetable oil brushed on to make them look hot from the grill or oven. The meat is warmed up just enough to loose any stiffness. The outside of burgers and steaks are brushed with brown shoe polish to give it a cooked appearance. Hot metal tongs or skewers are placed on the meat to achieve those perfect grill lines. A handheld torch is used to crisp up the edges until they glisten and drip with meaty goodness. Mashed potatoes are injected under the skin of chicken, before the torch is used, to give it the fresh, hot, plump and juicy look.



Cotton balls, soaked in water and then nuked for a minute or two are perfect for adding steam to an image. Incense, cigarettes or modified steamers can also be used. (Now-a-days it is MUCH easier to obtain those perfect plumes of steam using Photoshop rather than relying on the fickle nature of the elements.)



As a disclaimer, food imaged for the purpose of informing the consumer of what they can expect to find in the package they just bought HAS to be that food itself.  If you are buying a box of ice-cream cones, the ad on the box will always utilize the real cone. Anything else you see included with the cone is probably contrived.

In ophthalmology we also make use of many tips and tricks to achieve the desired results in our images. Artificial tears for dry eyes. Q-tips for those long long lashes (or eyebrows). Q-tips for the raising of eye lids themselves as they valiantly strive to block our light from those sensitive eyes.  For the excessive blinkers, having them count to, say 5, in their mind between blinks buys time to take a usable image. For children or those older individuals who are less then co-operative when administering eye drops, placing the drops on the outside of the closed lid and then having the person SQUEEEEEZE their eye tight then open wide quickly can get the job done, drop in.  For those patients who are, um, nasally gifted, having them turn their head slightly to the side can make all the difference when trying to maintain the proper working distance.




We have tricks to deal with poorly located floaters (look left then right then back at target, quickly). Nystagmus or other movement issues (and people always told me those video games were a waste of my time – HA!). We have tricks to distract children (tell me what colors you see after the light flashes…). Fixation issue? No problem! Look at my ear, look at the spot on the wall behind me, look at this clock hour, etc…

The list goes on! I am sure each practice utilizes their own unique problem solving solutions – If anyone has a few they would care to share the rest of us will listen attentively :)



Rachel Hollar, CRA, has been a member of the OPS Professional Development committee since 2011. She transferred into the biomedical photography program from photo advertising at RIT. Rachel started working at the University of Rochester Eye Institute following graduation in 2007.

Tags:  blog  education  funny  Meaningful Use  PDC  school  Study  Tips  Tricks  Work arounds 

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Brandi N. Hardy CRA OCT-C COA OSC says...
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2012
Patient not keeping their head against the headrest? No problem! Just drop the table down a little bit, it will force them to lean forward and in.

Dropping the table and having the patient lean in also helps for those *ahem* bustier patients and takes little pressure off the front allowing for scan with less movement.

Sometimes with patients that are a little more "gifted" up top, using a clipboard across the front of the headrest can help when doing fundus photos so that you're not uncomfortable pressing into their bosom.
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