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The Hollywood Tricks of Surgical Photography

Wow!  Don’t these lower lids look great in the “after” photo?  The bags in the “before” photo are gone!  Evidence like that makes you want to sign up with that surgeon right away, doesn’t it?

Before you book that surgery, I’ll let you in on a little secret. There was no surgery done. Surgeons can boast of movie-star results with photography tricks that rival Hollywood with the use of lighting, body position, camera angle, and make-up.  If done subtly, the tricks are difficult to detect.

The downward tilt of the head in these eyelid “before” photos creates shadows, emphasizing the bags under the eyes.  An upward tilt of the head in the “after” photo makes the bags disappear! Make-up improves the results a bit more, but even without make-up the results would be dramatic.

There are lots of other tricks.  For example, an ad might state a patient had a facelift, but in reality the patient also had laser skin resurfacing, eyelid surgery, and a chin implant.  When comparing that set of results with another more honest surgeon’s facelift results, which do you think will look better?  You got it!  The patient who had the additional unmentioned procedures.

Excellent surgical photography has the following qualities:

  • A consistent background with a color that contrasts with the subject.  Blue works well.
  • Consistent, bright light that is the same in the before and after photos.
  • A camera angle that looks horizontally at the part of the body being observed.  If the camera is higher or lower than the subject, the view is distorted.
  • Consistent and precise body poses.  For example, a profile shot of the face should be a true profile: the eyebrow towards the camera should be fully visible, and the opposite eyebrow should be out of view.
  • The patient should wear photo panties for the body shots, and the image should not show street clothing or jewelry, which are distracting and can obscure important landmarks.
  • All surgical procedures performed should be listed.

There are many more tricks, but the few mentioned here alert you to pay close attention to the details.   If the results really are good, why would a surgeon resort to dishonest photographs?

Contact us online to learn more about our Santa Rosa Eyelid and Facelift practice.

Dr. Heather Furnas

About Dr. Heather Furnas

Inspired by watching her plastic surgeon father operate in African bush hospitals, Dr. Heather Furnas followed in his footsteps, training at Stanford and serving on the Harvard clinical faculty. She and her husband, Dr. Paco Canales, practice together in Santa Rosa, California, where they raised their two children. (To learn more about their practice, visit She believes an informed patient is more likely to be a happy patient and is committed to providing that education. If you have any suggestions for topics you'd like to learn more about, she would love to hear from you!

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