Common Medical Conditions

How to Take Pictures for Online Health Queries

Written by Dr. Arvind Guru and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Image: How to Take Pictures for Online Health Queries

Here a picture will say a thousand words, but only in a mysterious language of medical literature. Though images of affected areas of the body may not completely replace the need for in-person examination, in most cases, if rightly taken and when considered in the appropriate context these can:

  1. Cut down on the number of non-productive visits to a local health facility, before you are prepared in your mind for undergoing treatment.
  2. It can be a great replacement for in-person evaluation for many skin lesions.
  3. Can guide you to seek help early, if there is some problem waiting to happen.
  4. Easily monitor the progress or the healing of wounds and skin lesions.
  5. Can decrease the associated awkwardness or anxiety of multiple private part examinations.

Take Pictures Bearing the Following Things in Mind:

1) There is no better light than daylight to take pictures, including selfies. It is diffuse and neutral in colour.

  • In case of both documents as well as body regions, try to take pictures in a well lit room with ample daylight.
  • If sunlight is not possible, use the brightest lit room. Fluorescent white light works better than yellow incandescent bulbs.
  • Try to avoid flash, especially with a mobile phone. You can use a study or table lamp if you need more light. In case of private parts, where flash is usually required, use a proper camera in macro mode (the flower symbol) and not a mobile phone.
  • Megapixels do not matter much, until the picture is around 5 to 8 MP. Do not use special effects and filters, most cameras and phones in auto modes work well enough.
  • If you are digitizing your documents with a scanner, then a scan at 200 dpi for documents and 300 dpi for pictures would be more than sufficient for most purposes. Save your files as .png or .jpg files. Scanner gives best results for glossy papers.

2) Wash or clean the area thoroughly before you take a picture.

3) Try to take someone’s help in taking pictures especially for the back. Stand straight or lie down with your arms by the sides while taking a picture. Rotated pictures can be very confusing. In case you cannot take someone’s help, use a selfie stick or a camera on a stand and timer mode.

4) Wide field of image helps in orientation of the picture. If you have a problem near your belly button, take a picture to include the whole abdomen extending from lower chest and include the groin. You can take a further close up after the wide view picture and post both pictures.

5) In case of eyes, ears, limbs, joints, hands, feet, etc., the field of picture should contain both the sides of body, for example, if you have issue with one knee, put both the knees together and then ask someone to take the picture. In case of documents, image the whole page including date and institution, lab name, and place.

6) Take a picture of the site of the problem or lesion by placing a measuring tape by the side of lesion. Place the measuring tape in centimetres around 10 cm from the edge of the problem lesion. Do not use a metal ruler as it will shine and glare will obscure the markings. If using a plastic ruler, paste a strip of white paper behind a transparent ruler to make its markings prominent.

7) The background of the image that would help to bring out the contrast better is grey or dark bluish colour. This is because most cameras are automatically set to designate around 15 % of colours in a picture as being grey.

8) The best angle for taking a picture of a document is.

  • Place the document straight and flat on an even surface like table, bed, floor, etc.
  • Stand towards the bottom edge of the paper with light coming from the top side or left side of document. Here an open window with daylight or a table lamp works perfectly.
  • Take a straight overhead shot of the document with your mobile phone. You can use the so called scanner applications (in batch mode), in your phone to convert all pages of a report into a single pdf file as well. The biggest plus point of these application is that they allow you to straighten the angled corners of the page images very easily. Also, these have automatic basic contrast enhancement features.
  • Imaging glossy paper is a bit tricky. Here the precaution is, if the light is falling on the left side of the paper document, while taking the picture, angle the camera towards the same side as light source, that is towards the left itself. This way you will avoid catching a glare of the glossy or photo paper.

9) But for the body regions, the best angle is not straight, but a spot-on view of the site.

  • Best case would be one picture straight spot-on and two more images, one each from the opposite sides of the body, slightly around 30 degrees off the direct spot-on view. This is required to show the depth or height of the lesion.
  • If this sounds too complicated for you, then just take one image slightly off the direct spot-on.
  • Else, take multiple angles and then select the ones that you think most closely and comprehensively represents the lesion.

10) Making a brief HD video is also possible, provided the website accepts it.

Regarding Privacy Concerns:

  • You should always cover your date of birth, address, and contact information in your documents with bookmark prompts or a marker, before taking the picture. These can be covered digitally as well. For body parts, other than the face (for which you can wear shades) rest all, including private parts, is very hard to identify uniquely.
Last reviewed at: 07.Sep.2018



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