If you go to the hardware store, the paint department will often have a display showing how colors look very different under different types of light sources. This phenomenon is called metamerism. And what is true for house paint is also true for tooth color, which is why lighting conditions in the room are important considerations when considering shade photography.

It is true that the dual flash on your DSLR camera will help correct inaccuracies for the photo. However, in the initial determination of the shade when you are looking at the patient with the shade guide in front of them, here are some things to keep in mind.

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Room Lighting

Make sure to take shade photography in a room installed with 5,500K color-corrected, full-spectrum lighting. Doing so is critical to getting accurate shade photographs.

Pre-Op Photos are Best

Always take shade photographs pre-op because this is when the teeth are fully hydrated. As a patient keeps their mouth open for procedures, their teeth begin to dehydrate rapidly. When dehydrated, teeth:

  • Lose their translucency
  • Appear brighter
  • Appear lighter

Shades taken post-op are seldom accurate, and it is impossible to determine how much the shade will change.

Avoid Bright Lights

Shade photographs under operatory lighting are never accurate. That is why you should always move the operatory light away from the patient and never have it shining on their face. Additionally, make sure the patient is in diffused light. 

There should be no:

  • Bright lights
  • Direct shadows

Make sure you also consider bright lighting from window sources. Use a shade to cover windows if necessary to block excess light on sunny days. Also, be sure to have enough corrected lighting for rooms without windows, windows that are covered, or on cloudy days.

Be Aware of Colored or Tinted Office Windows

Colored or tinted windows will change the lighting in a room and thus skew the color in photographs. If you have tinted windows, cover them with a neutral-colored blind.

Ditch the Colorful Gloves

Although you may not be aware of it, the color gloves you use in your office can affect what you see. Plus, the color of the gloves will reflect on the teeth. When taking shade photographs, only wear the following color gloves:

  • Light blue
  • White
  • Neutral

Show the Shade Tab

Always have a shade tab represented in the photo. Even if it’s a difficult shade to determine or lighting variations are present, having a point of reference gives the lab a standard to compare the teeth to.

Remember, a consistent setting helps remove some of the variables that frustrate accurate shade matching. So, look at your lighting and see what can be changed. These small changes can make accurate shades more predictable, repeatable, and excellent.