Refine Your Dental Photography

Written on 03/25/2018
Masoud Abu Zant

A Quick Guide to Quality Images


Purchasing the most expensive camera system will not necessarily help to create better photographs. The user, with proper training, is the determining factor that can make a very expensive or an inexpensive camera perform well.

Photographers use many different cameras, devices, and tools to create amazing images. Dental photographers use much of the same equipment, in addition to various dentistry-specific tools, to create stunning photos. The following tips discuss some of the many items available to help assist practitioners in creating quality dental photographs and better dentistry.

The user…is the determining factor that can make a very expensive or an inexpensive camera perform well.


Tip 1

A large preview liquid crystal display (LCD) screen on the back of the camera simplifies the process by enabling instant visualization of the image for verification of proper positioning, focus, and illumination. This is a valuable component to ensure that you capture the perfect image; if you haven’t, you can immediately recognize the mistake and take additional images to correctly capture the best image.

The LCD screen can be set up to show the recently taken image for evaluation, or it can be modified to allow additional information to be shown


Tip 2

The histogram setting on the camera  is another valuable tool  for  instant  evaluation of the exposure characteristics of the images taken. This allows for more  fine-tuning  of the camera settings for exposure, flash, and lighting. This important information ensures that the exposure settings were correct; and if they weren’t, corrections can be made prior to moving on to the next photograph.

The histogram setting shown, which provides important information regarding the overall exposure of the image, can be utilized after capturing an image or by programming it to automatically appear after capturing an image


Tip 3

A full-frame sensor allows for improved image quality and true 1:1 life-size images. Typically, a camera with a larger sensor costs more, but it provides better im- age quality in reproduction. When you are aiming for a specific magnification ratio, a full-frame sensor al- lows for more exact usage of the magnification ratios shown on lens housings compared to a crop camera sensor, which forces the user to back off magnifica- tion ratios to achieve the same magnification effect.

Example of an image taken with a full-frame sensor.


Tip 4

A dual-output JPEG and RAW setting allows for original legal documentation but also provides a converted JPEG file for immediate use without having to create the file manually. The ability to utilize the RAW file to create other image file types in the future and maintain the original unaltered data, as well as the utilization process of a JPEG image, is very desirable.

The instant creation of two file types saves time and allows for legal documentation


Tip 5

Having a WiFi SD card (Eye-Fi; Mountain View, CA) in your camera allows for the instant transfer of images or video via a wireless network to your computer server, saving precious time compared to traditional card readers or cables. Transferring data regularly from this card also ensures that you will always have enough available memory in the camera. These convenient cards save time, allowing you to be more productive.

Fi WiFi SD card works in most modern digital cameras and comes in various storage sizes and speeds.


Tip 6

Using rechargeable batteries in your digital camera is significantly more cost-effective than relying on dispos- able batteries. This practice is also more environmentally friendly and convenient; you can recharge the batteries on site when needed instead of running out and having to purchase disposable batteries. The online price for a char- ger kit with eight batteries is typically only four times the cost of a two-pack of disposables—an expense that can be recouped very quickly.

Using rechargeable batteries can reap significant cost savings versus traditional disposable batteries


Tip 7

A wireless flash is a convenient and recommended accessory. Metz (Metz-Werke GmbH & Co. KG; Zirndorf, Germany) makes wireless flashes that are compact, lighter, and easier to manage than traditional flashes mounted on the camera.

Metz MS-1 is a wireless flash stand-alone product that can attach to a lens and offers the traditional ring/dual-light combination for many camera systems.


Tip 8

Polar_eyes (Photomed Int’l.; Van Nuys, CA) is a visualization and communication tool that can help the dentist and laboratory technician to better evaluate tooth shades, making color match- ing for direct and indirect restorations easier. By using polarizing filters over the lens and flashes in a quickly connecting system (via tiny magnets), it offers speed and convenience. Polar_eyes has different shapes to connect to virtually any dental ring flash system. This device removes spectral flash from the teeth, allow- ing for better color evaluation.

This example of an anterior 1:2 image highlights how useful the color evaluation can be when using polar_eyes compared to a standard flash system. Notice how much better the visualization becomes when evaluating the incisal characteristics and color


Tip 9

The Nikon SB R200 external flash (Nikon Corp.; Melville, NY) is available in lightweight cordless and wireless versions that can be easily positioned on the lens or on different brackets for more versatility, compared to a traditional combination ring flash. It can also be used as an individual “slave light” for portrait photography. The convenience of affixing flashes in many different positions  is  desirable  when taking portraits and intraoral/extraoral photographs.

Two Nikon SB R200 external flashes positioned on the lens housing


Tip 10

Canon 270EX II wireless flashes (Canon Inc., Melville, NY) can be attached to an R2  bracket for more convenient flash positioning. Additionally, they can be taken off the bracket and used as a “slave light” for portrait photography.

Canon 270EX II wireless flashes attached to R2 brackets provide versatility in flash positioning for any lighting needs.


Tip 11

The R2 bracket is a versatile brack- et for individual flashes. It utilizes a standard camera mount thread screw to attach to the base of most cameras and allows for immediate repositioning of external flashes from either very close to the lens (for intraoral illumination), or moving more than a foot away from the lens (for extraoral illumi- nation and portrait use).


The R2 bracket can be positioned close to the lens for intraoral photography. Within seconds, the flashes can be repositioned by moving the bracket arms to take extraoral and portrait images.


Tip 12

Intraoral contrasters (PhotoMed Int’l.) are most often created from anodized hand- held metal devices that can be used to en- hance photographs by blocking out vari- ous tissues that distract the eye. This makes final images look like they were shot by a professional. Contrasters come in many different sizes and shapes for masking the oral pharynx, tongue, lips, and nose to create more pleasing images. Flexipallette (Smile Line, in partnership with Styleitalia- no; Saint-Imier, Switzerland) offers anoth- er line of unique contrasters that have the same function and appearance as the anod- ized metal variety, but are unique in that they are the only flexible type available and are softer to the touch.

The use of intraoral contrasters can instantly enhance the overall image, making it look more professional by blocking out distracting teeth and tissues. Notice how an image (a), after using a contraster (b), looks more professional (c).


Tip 13

TS Retractors (TCS Aes- thetics; Laguna Niguel, CA) are simple, small de- vices that allow for easier positioning of the lips when  taking  intraoral 1:1 photographs with intraoral contrasters or when capturing images with various intraoral mirrors. These retractors allow patients to open wider because they do not bind as much of the tissues during opening.

Standard retractors do not allow the patient to open as wide, produce a limited space in which to work, and create more tension on the lips.


Tip 14

Standard universal short, plastic, double-ended retractors are still mandatory for 1:2 retracted anterior images. They provide two convenient and quick size options for different mouth sizes and can be fabricated from metal or plastic. They save time and the expense of not having to own or locate a different-sized set of retractors when taking intraoral photographs that require retractors.

Whether the patient has an average-size or small mouth, or limited opening, the same retractor can be used by simply using the opposite end of the retractor


Tip 15

Flash diffusers offer an inexpensive means to create portrait-style images when space or finances are limited. Several companies make similar products. The image to the left shows examples from Opteka. LumiQuest also offers three similar styles (mini soft box, pocket bouncer, and 80- 20); as does Zeikos (ZE-SBD, Zeikos Universal Professional Pocket Digital  Camera  Flash Bouncer, and ZE-SD26).

Examples of different flash diffusers from Opteka (SB-1, FB-50, FS-80).


Tip 16

A double-sided (with a dark color on one side and light color on the other), portable, and collapsible muslin cloth backdrop is a relatively inexpensive accessory that can be taken anywhere and set up conveniently for portrait studio photography, even in confined areas.

Collapsible, double-sided, and portable muslin backdrops are versatile and provide two color options in a single item.


Tip 17

Digital image management software offers us- ers the ability to categorize and title each im- age and create searchable tag words for easier image archiving and retrieval. Each image can be tagged with valuable information, includ- ing specific procedural term, type of cement or bonding agent, ceramic, and date completed. These applications can range in price from free to several hundred dollars, with excellent programs available for less than $100. Recom- mended products include Adobe Lightroom 4 (Adobe Systems; San Jose, CA); ACDSee 15 (ACD Systems; Seattle, WA); Photoshop Ele- ments 11 (Adobe Systems); and Google Picasa (Google; Mountain View, CA). Each of these products offers various levels of image retriev- ability based upon tags created by the user.

Digital image management software can simplify the process of storing and retrieving large image databases.


Tip 18

A basic collapsible reflector can be used with a backdrop or color wall virtually anywhere within an office and with minimal space requirements. Reflectors help to add more light from one or more existing sources to various areas of the face, resulting in less need for additional lighting.

A basic collapsible reflector, available in different colors, can help direct more lighting toward the face when taking portraits.
Digital image management software can simplify the process of storing and retrieving large image databases. Pictured is a screenshot of ACDSee 14.



Mastering dental photography techniques is just one important step in capturing and documenting a case. The tips presented in this article are just a few of many that can help to enhance our skills and the quality of our photographic documentation

By :

Dr. Snyder is an Accredited Member of the AACD. He practices in Laguna Niguel, Calif

Disclosure: The author is a stock shareholder in TCS Aesthetics.