The future of Dental Photography, an Interview with Louis Hardan

It is hard to believe that these images were made with a mobile phone, some years back, we wouldn’t have imagined technology would advance to this extent. Now it’s here, and, in terms of evolution and technological advance, this is just the beginning, which is already outstanding.


Macro capabilities of mobile devices are breaking boundaries, managed with the right lightning, the outcome can be exceptional.
Q: You created a new term, and a new school, a new perspective for the future. What is MDP?
A: MDP stands for Mobile Dental Photography. It’s a new method created in 2013 that allows all dentists to properly use the cameras of their mobile phones to take high quality dental photos. Given the fact that more and more colleagues are showing us their pictures in mobile devices, we thought back in early 2011 that a tendency was clear and some action had to be taken.


Any light source can be useful and must be taken into consideration. Here for this artistic shot with hard light coming from the dental unit we were able to express emotion in this smile.
Q: If there was one thing you would want us to know about you, what would it be?
A: I am a professor and head of department of aesthetic and restorative dentistry at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon. I am also an active international member of Styleitaliano group but most importantly I am a man with great passion for photography even before dentistry.
That is why it has been one of my greatest accomplishments to integrate my two passions in the world of MDP.


These kind of images, in our mind and in the mind of many dentists were only possible with high-end Reflex cameras and expensive photographic flashes and equipments, today this is possible with the mobile phone and a diffused light.
Q: Share with us your favorite image and why.


A: I chose this picture because it is one of my first taken using MDP, and it shows that by simply changing the light we can have different outcomes. Here I had many revelations, not only that my cell phone had an amazing macro lens, but that light was acting as a static flash, I could see the final outcome all along and that many things were possible from now on.
Q: What inspired you to create MDP?
A: My inspiration came from Jordi P. Manauta and Gaetano Paolone who invented “Smile Capture” and helped very much in the development and success of “Smilelite” for shade matching with Smile Line. So I thought, why not use mobile cameras for all kind of dental photography, not only for the technical and color reasons, also because almost every dentist has a smartphone and it can be a simple way to take pictures in their everyday practice.


Little things change from classical photography and mobile photography. Accessories such as mirrors, retractors and the way that the assistant should help remain basically the same.


Mobile photography can be of big help for dental students, extraoral work, models and materials.
Q: Where do you think MDP will end up in the future?
A: I don’t know where MDP will end up but I am sure that MDP can be the future for all dental photography applications such as diagnosis, treatment planning, legal documentation, lecturing, publishing and artistic pictures as well. I’m positive it will end up in the everyday and high end dentistry.


Originally conceived for scanning documents (such as the driver license) the macro lens of the best mobile phones have great capabilities. And they are still evolving to be extreme versatile lenses without the aid of other extra lenses.


Applying the same principles of classical photography, we can obtain similar results with mobile photography. And it keeps getting better.
Q: What has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?
A: A lot of people, especially great dental photographers like Daniel Capello, Paulo Monteiro and other great people that made dental photography a true piece of art. If it wasn’’t for them and for the help, support and continuous advice of Jordi Manauta (my partner in the MDP project), Prof. Nada Naaman the dean of my dental school and all Styleitaliano group, MDP would still be in the Inkwell… just still a dream today.


Given the fact that the Diaphragm of mobile cameras is so small, but their aperture is so wide, the final outcome gives a very adequate depth of field without losing much detail. There are infinite advantages of the cell phone cameras to take into consideration.
Q: Do you post-produce your images?
A: Most of the time I don’’t do any alterations, but sometimes I can crop the images or turn them into black and white pictures if needed. Just for didactic or artistic reasons.


Playing with light and angulation can unveil many things such as texture. Here’s an example of editing, just cropping and removing saturation.


Cropping can be of help, the same as in classical photography.
Q: What advice you would like to offer for a new dental photographer?
A: It is very important to read about the basics of photography, to understand how cameras function and what accessories are needed to produce high quality pictures.
Practice is everything, try and keep on trying to have great pictures and when you are using your smartphone it is very important to treat it like a camera and not like a phone in order to succeed.


Mobile dental photography uses the same principles as classical photography. Unfortunately many of those principles are not yet able to be controlled manually from the phone, but there are some tricks to overcome these issues.
Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of MDP?
A: My favorite part is that everyone has a smartphone so MDP can be available and accessible to every dentist. With MDP you can see the result of your work before taking the pictures since we are using a continuous light unlike DSLR where the flash will only go on when taking the pictures and the final result will be displayed after the picture is taken.
But mobile cameras still requires digital zooming or a cropping process for the pictures, and we cannot manage the shutter speed in the cameras.
Of course some cameras are better than others due to the evolution of smartphones.
And all the success of MDP depends on the expertise and knowledge of the photographer.


Macro shot of a posterior tooth without mirror.


Direction of light and light source change everything, form the texture, to the angles, to the shape and the details.
Q: In the future, and not only talking about dentistry, will mobile photography beat DSLR?
Theoretically not, it is impossible due to size issues, but if we compare the technological evolution of mobile cameras vs DSLR cameras in the last 5 years, mobile cameras are crushing DSLR solely based on specifications info. I’d better not express my opinion on this one, but just sit back comfortably, grab a popcorn and see what happens!


Extraoral pictures are another subject we can highly exploit the advantages of the cell phone cameras.


High close up of extraoral shots give plenty of detail, not only because the quality of the sensor, but because of the f Stop that mimics more or less the values of the “sweet aperture” which is somewhere between f16 and f22 of the Reflex cameras.
Q: And finally, please briefly describe your photography style.
Light is everything, it doesn’’t matter which camera you have, if you are able to control light, the results are going to be outstanding!
I’m still in the quest of my own style, and after seeing so many amazing pictures on our FB group, I think I’’ll take a little longer to keep finding it.


The use of diffused light is of great interest for high quality pictures. Probably this kind of images inspired me the most in classical dental photography and in mobile dental Photography.