The Best Flashes for Intraoral Dental Photography

Intraoral Light Distribution

Lighting is a key factor in creating a successful image in dental intraoral photography. Why? It determines not only brightness or darkness, but also tone, mood and the atmosphere. Therefore it is necessary to control and manipulate light correctly in order to get the best texture, vibrancy of colour, and luminosity on your subjects. In order to truly take control over your dental digital photography, you should understand the way light works.

Dental Intraoral Photography: Why Light Distribution is so Important?

Ambient light is never enough to make your dental photography great, especially when it comes to dental intraoral photography. Getting enough light on your subject – teeth – can be difficult.

If you shoot at a low f-stop number like f/1.8, you’ll have a very thin depth of field in your images. Your intraoral photographs might look out of focus and blurry. The solution to this is using a macro flash. The flash dedicated to macro photography can open up a whole new world for you when it comes to macro lighting.

What flash for dental intraoral photography (which is a type of macro photography) offers the best overall lighting?

If you’re looking to take intraoral pictures, getting bright, even lighting is a must. And you’ll likely need a flashgun. So what flash for macro photography will give you the best chance at the shots you want?

Pop up flash build in your camera – Speed light or Studio flash heads – can work well if you are shooting portraits, but intraoral photography needs a specific kind of light. Bright light is essential for intraoral photography because you want to reveal as much detail as possible. What’s more, you will also likely be shooting at small apertures in order to increase the depth of field (the area in focus) within your image.

Well chosen flash is a necessity in these situations. This is why you need a specific source of light: There are two types of artificial lighting systems for the intraoral macro photographer, Ring light and Dual flashlight.

Dental Intraoral Photography: Ring Light and Dual Flash

Ring Light

Ring lights are one of the most common lighting solutions for macro photography because they are the best combination of price/performance available. They have two sets of lighting sources (the light ring is divided into two independent halves), so you can adjust the power of each half individually. They have some limitations which can be explained in the following two points:

  • They produce a circular catch light, although this is a fantastic look, it becomes annoying to have bright circles bouncing off any shiny subject that you photograph
  • They are not recommended to use for colour transfer
  • They need a lens adapting ring

Aside from these limitations, ring lights tend to produce fairly well-lit images. In terms of the quality of light, I would recommend it to a beginning dental photographer.


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Dual flash

If you are looking for a solution which will give you more control of the light like studio light setups (used by portrait photographers), you should think about a Dual Flash. Studio light setups usually use a minimum of three lights (the main light, a fill light, and a background/accent light) for portraiture.

Such a complex setup makes it easy to control how the shadows and highlights fall on a subject, leading to more effective photos. Controlling the light and shadows is the easiest way to show the tooth texture – so important in intraoral photography.

Using a Dual Flash gives an easy way to position the direction of light coming from the two flashes; also you can control their power. When used with appropriate diffusers, the quality of light from a dual flash can be the best option.

The biggest drawback to a dual-flash solution is their price and that they demand bigger skills; therefore, I would recommend them to a more experienced photographer than to a beginner.



Light Distribution in Dental Intraoral Photography: Tutorial

Understanding the Light Distribution in Dental Intraoral Macro Photography is a key to be a good dental photographer. But this is just theory! How does it work in practice? On the video below, you can see how the light is changing when you use a different source of light, and when you manipulate them.

In this lesson our expert shows flashes for intraoral photography and explains:
  • why a pop-up flash can ruin a picture with a shadow
  • why a big flash proves that the size doesn’t always mean success, especially when it comes to macrophotography
  • why a ring flash is one of the two best choices and how a close light can change the effect
  • why a dual flash gives you the widest possible area of your work and why the bouncers matter
  • what should you spend your money on and why
Watching the lesson about intraoral photography will once and for all dispel your doubts. This is one of the necessary steps if you’re aiming for becoming a master in dental photography!
If you feel that flashes are still a mystery, check out our Flash Fundamentals dental photography course!


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