How to take studio style dental photos

I have been using the humble Ring Flash for years. It is how I was taught and how any beginner should be taught for dental photography. The lighting from a ring flash is shadowless and perfect for posterior quadrant shots and mirror shots. The ring flash is versatile and my main workhorse… but the problem is that the light is very harsh – you often get a white specular reflection on the anterior teeth also known as ‘hot spots’:

Flat and bland anterior photography with a MR-14EX II Ring Flash that costs £600 (for Canon body) and 100mm f2.8 Macro Lens

I had always wondered how to take truly beautiful, studio-style, dare I say ‘sexier’ dental photographs. I finally learned from various sources, but the investment for flash brackets (see below photo), twin flashes, bouncers, or even studio style umbrella or 70cm softboxes was eye-watering and I was concerned about how much space it could all take!

A Nikon set up with OWL Bracket (to hold the flashes on the side) which itself costs 300 USD (but has great reviews from colleagues), and flashes (additional cost) with the white bouncers (also extra).

Looking at the above photo of bouncers mounted on brackets, as an associate working in 2 smallish surgeries, I would struggle for space and also during transportation. I needed a better (and easier on the wallet is always a bonus) solution.

Thanks to some tips for Dr Miguel Ortiz, I was able to find a solution to getting softer, sexier dental photographs without breaking the bank and without taking up too much space:

Without a bracket, just two standalone speedlights with a silicone bouncer produces lovely, soft, studio style images on a budget

Here is what I have and how the flashes are held and positioned (video):

Here is the full set up I use alongside my Canon 60D body and 100m Macro lens – also compatible with Nikon:

  1. 2 x Wireless Speedlights – one for each side – ESSENTIAL – £60 each so £120 total (compatible with Canon and Nikon)

2. 1 x Wireless flash trigger for Canon – this goes on the camera body and activates the flashes – ESSENTIAL – £35 – Link for Nikon version here

3. 2 x Selens Flash Diffusers – these are the white silicone bouncers to produce the soft light – ESSENTIAL – £27 each so £54 total

4. Aluminium stands for the lights (not essential as they take up room, but good if you need to take photos without a nurse) – OPTIONAL

5. 2 x Flash holders for the stands (you do not need these if you do not get the stands – it is to allow the flash to mount on to the stand) – OPTIONAL

The total investment (assuming you already have a suitable camera body and lens) for the essential components is £209 – which is an absolute bargain considering you cannot even get a bracket for that much!

Here are some pros and cons of this set up:

  • Great Photos as you can see above – really lovely studio style soft light
  • Excellent value – dirt cheap AND tax deductible
  • Can be hidden in a cupboard (which is what I do!)
  • Not fixed to a bracket – no need to purchase, transport and fiddle with brackets
  • Easy to transport
  • Will take practice to become consistent as there is no bracket
  • Will need a nurse with a good attitude to hold the flashes OR use the stands
  • The brand of the flashes is not official Canon or Nikon (hence the lower price)
  • You will need to play around with your camera settings a little until you are happy with the style of photography produced (I’m happy to help)

I hope that helps. Do share your photos with me on my Instagram, would love to see them!

Further reading