Shade Photography

Taking great shade photos for colour matching is imperative to give us the best chance in achieving the desire result. Although any photo is better than none, too often we receive photos that still leaves us guessing. Around 80% of photos we receive are VERY hard to work with.

Here are some examples.

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5

Fig 6

Fig 7

Fig 8

Here are the main problems with these photos.

1. Incorrect or no retraction (Fig 1, 4, 6 and 8). It is very important that there is sufficient retraction for us to fully see the teeth we are matching. All the way from incisal to cervical. The other issue with incorrect retraction is that it can create a shadow (Fig 1) which can cause an incorrect shade tab selection to include in the photo.

2. Photo is not close enough to the teeth (Fig 2, 5 and 8). Although smart phones can take good photos, zooming in doesn’t always give us the details, such as translucent edges, crack lines or any other characteristics.

4. It is best to take the photos at the beginning of the appointment. Teeth usually dehydrate during the process and take on a frosty appearance (Fig 7).

3. The biggest issue with most of these photos in that the shade tab is not at the same depth or distance to the teeth we are matching (Fig 2,3 and 5). If a shade tab is closer to the camera it will appear brighter. If a shade tab is behind the teeth, it will appear somewhat grey. This is a common fault almost every shade photo we receive.

Tips for great shade photos

1. Allow 2 – 5 min at the beginning of the appointment to take the photos. This is very important because teeth can dehydrate during preparation to the point where the natural tooth colour can change (usually brighter).

2. Be familiar with your camera and what settings work best, including the distance away from the face. From experience, an Iphone works best at a 2.5x zoom. So have it ready at this setting.

3. Place the correct size retractors and ask the patient to hold the handles (or a nurse can do this). At the very least, please ask the patient to hold the lips away from the teeth.

4. Position the shade tab(s) in the same line as the target shade and shoot.

5. Repeat step 4 either with different shade tabs or adjusting the camera angle to minimise reflection. Do this as many times as you feel necessary.

6. After preparation, take a photo of the prep, including either a stump or shade tab in the photo. This is one of the most important photos and is mostly overlooked. It is particularly helpful when it is a dark RCT stump or a post and core.

7. When ready, send the photos with some details (especially patients name) using your prefered method such as email, dropbox or any other means.

Some examples below:

Fig a

Fig b

Fig c

Fig d

Fig e

Fig f

Fig g

Fig h

Fig a and g were taken using an iPhone.

Fig c,d,e and f where taken using a 15+ year old SLR camera.

Fig b and h were taken using a later model SLR camera.