Baseline Settings for Dental Photography

The following is a baseline for the settings of a dSLR camera for use in dental photography. You may need to refer to your user manual to determine how to make the adjustments for your specific camera. Though some (myself included) use a modification of these settings, they will get you up and running with decent results.

ISO: 100, 200 or 400 - the lower the number, the less noisy the image, but the more power your flash will need to output. Most modern dSLRs produce images at ISO 200 and 400 that are nearly indistinguishable from those shot at 100.

Shooting mode: Manual (M) – I am a big believer in using the manual setting because using aperture priority (Av) will change the shutter speed to something ridiculously long (like 15 seconds) if the flash is not charged up when the shutter is depressed on some Canon models. Also, setting the shutter speed to its highest setting nearly eliminates the influence of ambient light, which can cause a shift in the white balance.

Shutter speed: 1/250 – as per above, this will nearly eliminate the influence of ambient light on the image. Most modern dSLRs have 1/250 as the highest shutter speed available when shooting with a flash.

Aperture: f/32 – in the mouth at 1:3 magnifications at f/32 (assuming a 100mm lens and APS-C sensor) the depth of field is only 22mm (with 11mm in front and 11mm behind the plane of focus). Some of the Nikon Macro lenses go up to f/45, but diffraction softening starts to become a bit of an issue at this level. At the same magnification, at f/22 the depth of field is only 16mm.

White balance: set to “flash” – this is one of the more delicate settings in dental photography. Much improvement can be made by utilizing a color temperature meter or setting a custom white balance using a gray card. The flash setting for white balance on most cameras is a fairly good starting point.

Drive mode: single – Unless you run an external battery pack most flash units will require a few seconds between exposures, which will only allow you to take one shot at a time. I do use an external battery pack and have therefore set the drive to continuous for the use of auto-flash bracketing.

Image quality: Large Fine JPEG – many advanced shooters prefer shooting in RAW (and with good reason), but unless you or the ceramist is going to take the time to fine tune the RAW image, most are better off in JPEG.

Focus Mode: Manual – The mouth is generally too dark to allow autofocusing mechanisms to work effectively. Using autofocus also changes the magnification setting, making consistency difficult.

That should get you started. If this seems confusing, photomed does a great job of presetting your camera and dialing it in for dental photography.