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10th April 2017

How David Smith created his own in-lab photography studio

Many dental technicians face the problem of having a lack of photographs of their clinical work. It is so important to keep a stock of different types of work you do – for yourself, for your website, and for your clients.

My greatest advice to you is to capture reasonable photos by creating a semi-permanent studio in your laboratory. Because of this, I have constant access to a facility which allows me to take pictures of anything I need and anything interesting. Having a catalogue of my work has become invaluable.


Follow these steps to set up your own in-lab photography studio.


A studio

Our ‘star’ pieces are usually very small, so we only need a small studio. My first was a large box with a piece of cloth for background and an anglepoise lamp. My present ‘high tech’ studio is a fold away tent kit I bought from eBay for about £25. It folds away flat and has a built-in background and walls that let diffuse light in.


A light source

Light is crucial for taking close pictures as it improves the depth of field and the resolution of the picture. In other words, more of the subject is in focus. Arranging the light sources can make the picture very interesting especially if you are trying to capture translucent materials, which we often are. I usually prefer the light diffuse so if you are using spots shine them from outside the tent.


A tripod

Keeping the subject and the camera very still is really important. These mini tripods are quite inexpensive; though it does need to be sturdy enough not to move when you take the picture.


The camera

Most of the work you will be doing here is close up so chose a camera that can do this:

  • Being able to manual focus I find useful as in really close work the background and foreground quickly become out of focus and this allows you to choose.
  • Try and zoom in once you’ve selected your shot to check you are in focus then zoom back to your shot.
  • It needs to connect to the tripod.
  • Being able to remotely take the picture is useful and prevents camera shake (self-timer, remote cable or remote control).
  • A camera with macro mode will open the aperture to allow a lot of light in ad stay in focus with the subject and not the background.
  • Some compact and SLR cameras have macro lens attachments and these can be useful too.
  • Flash is sometimes more of a problem than a help so being able to disable it is important especially if you have interesting external lighting.
  • A high-quality setting with many megapixels so your pictures are not grainy.


Having said that, you still don’t have to buy a very expensive camera. The ultimate option would be to buy a digital SLR camera and use a dedicated macro lens, but there are many very good compact cameras which achieve good results and are much less expensive. Decide your budget and remember the list above of attributes if you are discussing in the camera shop.



David Smith is a judge of the prestigious Laboratory Awards, the UK’s only award ceremony to solely recognise the excellence of dental technicians and laboratories in the UK and Ireland. He is managing director at Pheonix Dental Castings and a council member of the GDC. You can read more about him in an interview with Laboratory magazine. 


Already got great photography to show off? Enter the Laboratory Awards for free and have your work recognised >

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