In the Picture: Seb Evans Reviews Photography Course Led by Tim Zoltie

Seb Evans is the editor of, assistant editor of Dentistry magazine and editor of Dentistry Scotland. Originally published in Dentistry Scotland, Seb gives an unbiased insight into The Photography Course; "Dental Photography, Portraiture & Video in Everyday Practice" and encourages dental professionals to book onto Tim Zoltie's In-Practice Training Days.

If you’re confused by aperture, can’t tell the difference between in-focus and out of focus and haven’t heard of bokeh, chances are you’re not all that into your photography. But since the advent of digital dentistry, photography has become an essential part of practice.

In fact, the first step in digital dentistry and digitising a patient usually involves purchasing a DSLR camera.

Timothy Zolte - Course leader, Head of the Medical & Dental Illustration Unit at the University of Leeds School of Dentistry, and Director of UK company, Clinical Photography UK; and Laura Abbatiello - award-winning clinical & dental photographer.

Despite this, it’s usually assumed dentists know how to take the perfect picture and there aren’t many places to turn if you’re looking to learn how to take a picture of a patient’s smile. DB Orthodontics, however, is here to help. With Timothy Zolte and Laura Abbatiello hosting, DB Orthodontics held a number of photography focus days for beginners and intermediate levels around the UK.

The days aimed to cover:

  • Demonstrations on key pieces
  • Use of ISO, aperture, shutter speed, colour balance
  • How to undertake standardised extra oral and intra oral photography
  • Tips on the advantage and use of clinical and non-clinical video
  • Video workshop on capturing patient testimonials
  • Consent, legal and ethical issues, including information governance and file naming
  • Use of editing software and what constitutes photographic manipulation.

Aperture, shutter speed and ISO

To start with Tim covered what aperture, shutter speed and ISO is, and the differences between them. With cameras dotted around the room, delegates were given the opportunity to learn how to change each of the settings and see what impact this will have on the image.

When it comes to dental, Tim explained that dentists need to use a small aperture (higher F number), which would provide the appropriate depth of field to see both the front teeth and back teeth all in focus. With the shutter speed and ISO value all linked, these will then need to be adjusted to ensure the image looks appropriate. Too grainy – your ISO value is too high, and if your images are always blurring – the shutter speed isn’t quick enough.

                Large aperture                                                                Small aperture             

Next, the lecture moved on to framing your patient. Although it’s worth spending the time getting your settings right, Tim and Laura pointed out that the most important thing is keeping everything consistent, that way you can compare like for like photographs.                                                                

There’s no point comparing a before and after picture, if the lighting is all different, the patient is standing at different distances away from the camera and the angles are completely changed. Tim pointed out that one of the easiest ways to keep everything consistent is to have the floor marked up, so the picture is always taken from the same place, and the patient always stands the same distance away from the camera.

Mark the floor to avoid simple mistakes such as size differences in before and afters.

Delegates were also introduced to all the tools that are essential for taking the perfect dental photograph. From contrastor sets to cheek retractors, DB Orthodontics supplied all the delegates with takeaway tools for them to get started and try out some of their new skills when they got back to the practice.

‘Excellent course’

Delegates left full of positive reviews:

  • ‘Detailed but not overwhelming, just what you need to know’
  • ‘Really useful content in understanding the basics of photography and camera settings’
  • ‘Excellent course – well done on presenting a difficult topic in such an easy to follow manner’
  • ‘Couldn’t fault anything. The venue was great and all arrangements (lunch, snacks etc) so well organised. Karen was just amazing and super supportive.’

There are many basic principles that are important to learn for dentists looking to take images of their patients. If you’re struggling to find the answer, DB Orthodontics will be offering the opportunity for Tim to visit your practice and teach the team everything they need to know to get started.

Book today

For more information on DB Orthodontics' In-Practice  Photography Training call coordinator Karen Hiscoe on 01535 650579, email or visit