September 14, 2015 at 3:03 pm #1752
Every fossil is different and needs to be treated in a specific kind of way. We can take photos in the field, or in a self-made studio, or in a professional studio — all we have to do is follow a few guidelines. In this forum, we will discuss the proper placing of fossils to get the correct standardized views, different techniques of light exposure to highlight the intricate features of fossils, etc. Please feel free to share your personal experiences as well!
I would like to shoot a tutorial about imaging fossils. Any suggestions on what topics are needed and what questions I might need to answer?September 14, 2015 at 10:15 pm #1773
I have found that in the world of photography, the biggest variable is the customer’s expectations. In most of the cases of fossils, that customer is the collector – but it can also be an institution. Some people are more critical than others of the end product. There are many who accept fuzzy poorly-lit photos, figuring “that’s good enough.” The world of digital photography and computer assisted photography has gotten us to a point where we can take bad images faster than ever. The good news is that the results can be seen instantly, but if the photographer doesn’t know what to do to correct the problems, we get nowhere. Having said all of this, my message to anyone wanting to take quality photographs of fossils or anything else is to start with a course or books on basic photography to learn techniques of lighting, f-stops, the color of light, depth of field, etc. Books specific to macro photography are the next logical step but the basics must be learned first. From the equipment standpoint, people need to understand that megapixels aren’t the only controlling factor in photography.
This is a good idea to put into a tutorial.
Jack KallmeyerSeptember 15, 2015 at 9:01 am #1807
Dear Jack @jkallmeyer,
Thank you so much for your very enriching comment, that is exactly what I have in mind. I would like to start with the basics and go step by step from there. That way I would like to take everybody through the “mysteries” of photography. I know that a lot of collectors and fossil enthusiasts are not familiar with all the different possibilities modern cameras and even the iPhone or other smart phones offer. The first lesson should be about simple imaging with relatively simple cameras: How can I get good images with a simple setup. Questions about the right light exposure, the correct positioning and so on … I would also give some advice in “post-shoot” photo manipulation with programs like Photoshop etc. Then I would like to go further … more professional cameras, better tripods, light boxes, correct usage of various camera setups (shutter speed, balance, etc).
What other topics are of interest for the myFOSSIL community?
RonnySeptember 15, 2015 at 3:14 pm #1830Suzanne GalligherParticipant
I’m very glad to see this as a Forum now – thank you! Jack @jkallmeyer makes some very good points. At some point in the future, I would like to take a photography course to produce those high quality images that a museum would want. I think this is the direction to head over time. For most club members, they are going to use what they already have on hand which is the camera on their phone. Perhaps starting here will get the most number of members to try it out. How can we get the best photos possible using what we carry around with us every day? Once this has been mastered, then introduce them to the next level up and so on. For me personally, if it starts out too complex (or too long), then I’m not going to read it. As a busy mom of 3 kids with all their extracurriculars and all the volunteering I do to support those activities, there’s just no time…
-SuzanneSeptember 15, 2015 at 11:04 pm #1840
Cell phones can be used to take photos of fossils, but one has to understand the limitations of the equipment and how to compensate for those limitations. That’s why my original post emphasized learning basic photography skills. Cell phone cameras and lower-end digital cameras all have a delay from the time you press the shutter or touch the screen until the photo is actually taken. These cameras also have slow shutter speeds in general. Both of these limitations can give your photos motion blur. In order to get around this, you need to be steady and ideally brace the camera against something solid.
Other than a basic photography class back in the 1970’s, I learned most of what I know from reading. I would suggest getting a book on basic photography and reading small bits of it before you go to bed every night. You’ll start picking up things as you go and you can always ask questions.
My son has been taking some outstanding close-up photos of live insects recently. I accused him of using a DSLR. He used his cell phone. He has the advantage of having learned photography by using high-end equipment and that has allowed him to make good cell phone photos. He even has a National Geographic nature photographer interested in his work.
JackSeptember 15, 2015 at 11:25 pm #1841
I primarily photograph small fossils (Ordovician invertebrates around here), so I use a copy stand. It’s not an expensive one but it works ok. I have used a Bogen Tripod in the past – mine has an outrigger attachment that allows the camera to be positioned about 2 + 1/2 feet off center from the column. I have used multiple flashes and single flash with a reflector. I don’t do available light unless I’m in the field. My preference is having the fossils against a black background (see my fossil image posted on this site, or the crinoid section of the Dry Dredgers website at http://www.drydredgers.org); a black background makes the images really pop. The black background also eliminates distracting shadows alongside a specimen. I used to photograph a scale in the picture, but have recently changed to putting a scale bar in using Photoshop Elements.
I am interested to see your tutorial take off.
JackSeptember 16, 2015 at 10:55 am #1854
@jkallmeyer and @sgalligher –
You are totally right about the cell phone cameras, Jack, but the modern cell phone cameras are getting better and better every day. Furthermore, there are some tricks you can use to make the pictures better. One example: you can use a selfie stick to fix your phone and use it as a stand (just attach it on something solid with duct tape or zip ties), and you can also use the remote at the stick or a timer to snap the photo. That way you avoid touching the trigger at the phone or shaking it. These are just some aspects I would like to present at my first photo tutorial and there are several others that can help people with limited equipment possibilities. I also recommend using a black background (just like you Jack ;-)) — but only for light-colored fossils. I use a light grey background for brown or blackish fossils. I prefer to use velvet because the texture of velvet reduces reflection in the photo. I always use a scale bar like the one I posted yesterday. All users are welcome to use it. After shooting the images, I manipulate the pictures with Photoshop CC, from the professional Adobe Suite, but PS Element is very good too. PS Element allows one to do most of the manipulating processes used to increase the picture quality. In PS I also add a clean scale bar according to the one at the original picture. That way you make sure that the PS scale bar has the correct size.
I feel we are making a quite good progress in this forum and I think the upcoming tutorial will help a lot of people, both the rookies and the more professional photographers as well, to increase their skills. I am looking forward to working together with you guys on that.
all the best,
RonnySeptember 16, 2015 at 10:56 am #1855
ahhh … and thank you for your help!!!!September 21, 2015 at 3:30 pm #2114
Sorry for the long delay in replying. My PC went down and I was in major panic mode.
I wanted to comment on background color again. You mention using gray backgrounds when photographing black subjects. I still use a black background. I just posted a black on black photo on the fossil section of this site for your consideration. Maybe there was enough “non-black” on the specimen to make this possible. The set up for the photo is a single flash with a white fill card on the opposite side.September 21, 2015 at 3:37 pm #2115
Thank you Jack for your comment. Yes you are right, in that situation it is still possible with a black background because it is not blackish enough 😉
Especially with tiny real black and somehow opaque objects with less refections at the surface it will be very hard to distinguish between the fossil and the background. In these cases a dark grey background is your only chance to get good images. The image of your recently uploaded graptolite is very nice btw.
Thank you for that. We need more such high quality images.
RonnyOctober 7, 2015 at 9:56 pm #2223
I’m getting ready to try something new in fossil photography for me – whitened specimens in black and white. I’ll need this type of image for a paper I am working on. I’ve got the whitening materials and “equipment.” I may have to experiment with techniques.
JackOctober 9, 2015 at 11:19 pm #2235
that sounds very interesting. I assume you will whiten the objects? What technique will you use for that? I did some special preparations with shark teeth where the taphonomic process has discolored the teeth in a way that it was disturbing the morphological informations in a simple image. I had to whiten the teeth with magnesia oxide fog. With that method you can cover the teeth with a very thin and delicate bright white film and all the disturbing discolorations are masked … all you get is the pure morphological information. If you want to know more about it I can give you the work routine. But first I am very interested in your method. Please tell me more about it.
All the best
RonnyOctober 9, 2015 at 11:44 pm #2236
I am whitening the specimens with Ammonium Chloride as shown to me by one of our local professional paleontologists. I have yet to do this myself. The basic method is to heat the powder in a glass tube where it forms a white vapor. A squeeze bulb at one end is used to “blow” the vapor out the other end of the tube where it condenses as a thin film on the fossil. The coating can be removed by the humidity of your breath.
I am surprised that you are able to use Magnesium Oxide as my experience with that is as a refractory and heat conductor used in the manufacture of heating elements for electric ranges and industrial equipment. I would not expect it to vaporize under heat as I described above. Are you using a different method?
JackOctober 12, 2015 at 6:01 pm #2265
I have used a stripe of Magnesium and heated it till it burned, then I had to swing the fossil through the white smoke. The smoke covers the objects surface with a very thin layer. That film is easily removable with a fine brush. You can use the method for very tiny objects … works very well.
all the best
RonnyOctober 12, 2015 at 6:08 pm #2267
Ahhh Jack … I forgot to mention that you should not look into the bright white flame … but I’m sure you already know that 😉October 12, 2015 at 6:28 pm #2268October 14, 2015 at 11:32 pm #2291
Ah! That makes sense now with your explanation of burning Magnesium ribbon.
I checked and the Magnesium ribbon and what I use, Ammonium Chloride, are both available from Amazon. In your ultimate tutorial you’ll probably have to have cautions about safety as both methods require fire and the magnesium burns very brightly as you mentioned.
JackOctober 15, 2015 at 3:31 pm #2292October 17, 2015 at 11:12 pm #2314
Jack, yes I definitely will have to have some safety instructions in my upcoming tutorials for cases like that. Thanks for reminding me about it.
all the best
RonnyOctober 17, 2015 at 11:16 pm #2315
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