Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • General
  • Published:

Colour fidelity: the camera never lies - or does it?


Digital dental photography has rapidly evolved into one of the most powerful tools in the dental world from documentation of dento-legal information to communication, portfolio creation, advertising and marketing. Human memory has been described as terribly short and decidedly fickle. Photography provides the solution to this, aiming to capture in an image the precise picture seen by the naked human eye. Accurate and true reproduction of colour in an image is one of the most important elements in dental photography. Dental photography can mistakenly be viewed as overly technical and unreasonably complex. We present a simple and innovative, yet incredibly inexpensive, way to faithfully reproduce colour in an image. The importance of file format is explored alongside the risks of image manipulation, teledentistry and the consequences of misleading advertising campaigns.

Key points

  • Introduces and emphasises the importance of colour fidelity in digital dental photography.

  • Presents a novel and affordable method of colour calibration that can be used anywhere in primary and secondary care.

  • Discusses the process of image manipulation, exploring the difference between ethical and unethical retouching of images.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Purbaya R. The purpose of photography. 2010. Available at (accessed March 2020).

  2. Goldstein R E. Digital dental photography now? Contemp Esthet Restor Pract 2005; 9: 12-15.

  3. Ahmad I. Processing Images. In Essentials of Dental Photography. 1st ed. pp 251-293. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2019.

  4. Ahmad I. Digital dental photography. Part 2: purposes and uses. Br Dent J 2009; 206: 459-464.

  5. Allen E, Triantaphillidou S. Introduction to Colour Science. In The Manual of Photography and Digital Imaging. 10th ed. pp 77-102. London: Focal Press, 2011.

  6. Orr C. Photography: Digital and Analogue. In Freedman G A (ed) Contemporary Esthetic Dentistry. pp 51-71. New York: Elsevier, 2012.

  7. Ahmad I. Digital dental photography. Part 1: an overview. Br Dent J 2009; 206: 403-407.

  8. Latour B. Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

  9. Callon M. The sociology of an actor-network: The case of the electric vehicle. In Callon M, Law J, Rip A (eds) Mapping the Dynamics of Science and Technology: Sociology of Science in the Real World. pp 19-34. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1986.

  10. Ahmad I. Digital dental photography. Part 8: intra-oral set-ups. Br Dent J 2009; 207: 151-157.

  11. Sikri V K. Color: Implications in dentistry. J Conserv Dent 2010; 13: 249-255.

  12. Ahmad I. Digital dental photography. Part 5: lighting. Br Dent J 2009; 207: 13-18.

  13. Guinness H. What is a 'Stop' in Photography? 2017. Available at (accessed March 2020).

  14. Snow S R. Assessing and achieving accuracy in digital dental photography. J Calif Dent Assoc 2009; 37: 185-191.

  15. Hein S, Zangl M. The use of a standardized grey reference card in dental photography to correct the effects of five commonly used diffusers on the colour of 40 extracted human teeth. Int J Esthet Dent 2016; 11: 2-15.

  16. Ahmad I. Technical Concepts and Settings. In Essentials of Dental Photography. 1st ed. pp 251-293. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2019.

  17. X-Rite. ColourChecker Passport Photo 2.2020. Available online at (accessed March 2020).

  18. Ahmad I. Digital dental photography. Part 6: camera settings. Br Dent J 2009; 207: 63-69.

  19. Tam W K, Lee H J. Dental shade matching using a digital camera. J Dent 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.jdent.2012.06.004.

  20. Hein S, Tapia J, Bazos P. eLABor_aid: a new approach to digital shade management. Int J Esthet Dent 2017; 12: 186-202.

  21. eLAB. Changing shade management in dentistry forever with eLAB. 2020. Available at (accessed June 2020).

  22. Invisalign. iTero Element scanner. 2020. Available at (accessed March 2020).

  23. Morosini D. Is Instagram bad for your teeth? 2019. Available at (accessed March 2020).

  24. MacDonald B. Why Dentists should be on Instagram. 2018. Available at (accessed March 2020).

  25. Ahmad I. Digital dental photography. Part 9: post-image capture processing. Br Dent J 2009; 207: 203-209.

  26. Sommer D D, Mendelsohn M. Pitfalls of nonstandardized photography in facial plastic surgery patients. Plast Reconstr Surg 2004; 114: 10-14.

  27. Ettorre G, Weber M, Schaaf H, Lowry J C, Mommaerts M Y, Howaldt H P. Standards for digital photography in craniomaxillofacial surgery - Part I: Basic views and guidelines. J Craniomaxillofac Surg 2004; 34: 65-73.

  28. Terry D A, Snow S R, McLaren E A. Contemporary dental photography: selection and application. Compend Contin Educ Dent 2008; 29: 432-462.

  29. Ahmad I. Digital dental photography. Part 7: extra-oral set-ups. Br Dent J 2009; 207: 103-110.

  30. Bissett J. Illegal teeth whitening on the rise. 2020. Available at (accessed March 2020).

  31. Shin Y, Kim M, Im C, Chong S C. Selfie and self: The effect of selfies on self-esteem and social sensitivity. Pers Individ Dif 2017; 111: 139-145.

  32. Sampson A, Jeremiah H G, Andiappan M, Newton J T. The effect of viewing idealised smile images versus nature images via social media on immediate facial satisfaction in young adults: A randomised controlled trial. J Orthod 2020; 47: 55-64.

  33. Advertising Standards Authority. ASA Ruling on HiSmile Pty Ltd t/a HiSmile. 2019. Available at (accessed March 2020).

  34. Wander P, Ireland R. Dental photography in record keeping and litigation. Br Dent J 2014; 217: 133-137.

  35. Shufflebotham R. Understanding Camera Raw. 2011. Available at (accessed March 2020).

Download references


The authors are grateful to John Hess at Filmmaker IQ and X-Rite, Inc. for use of their illustrations. The clinical images are attributed, with thanks, to Dr Noren Hasmun, Dr Claire Elcock and Professor Helen Rodd, School of Clinical Dentistry, University of Sheffield, UK.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thomas M. Hodson.

Ethics declarations

We have no conflict of interest to declare.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hodson, T., Donnell, C. Colour fidelity: the camera never lies - or does it?. Br Dent J 229, 547–550 (2020).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links