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Gatorman

Photographing Fossils

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Gatorman

I would like to know how everyone takes pictures of their fossils, some members seem to crop the photo's and label them. What programs do you use? And how do you crop the image so cleanly?

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ebrocklds

when i photograph my fossils i always use a white board with a non reflective surface. i also make sure that i get as much natural light as possible, but not direct sunlight. the camera i use is noth9ing special, a pentax optio s7, but it has a very good macro and is 7 megapixels. after i get the picture onto the computer i use photoshop to fine tune the colors and contrast and crop the image if necessary. labels and arrows can be added as well.

i am sure that there are many other programs that will do the same thing.

brock

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Harry Pristis

Do you have editing software that came with your camera or with your scanner? Use the image-editing software (or download shareware at http://www.irfanview.com/ ).

You can be as creative as you want to be with the software, but the following basic things will improve anyone's images.

LIGHT IT UP. Use as much ambient light as possible to reduce shadows. Halogen bulbs are better for photography than tungsten filament bulbs. The new compact flourescent bulbs come in a "daylight" (6500K) version that you can use in any (non-dimming) fixture.

BRIGHTEN AND CONTRAST. BRIGHTEN the image until the fossil appears slightly washed, then adjust the CONTRAST until the fossil is bright and sharp and is a good color-match. Practice this until you get a feel for it.

CROP, CROP, CROP. Again, use the image-editing software to crop the image to only what is pertinent. Leave only a narrow margin around the fossil. The more of your kitchen counter-top in the image, the smaller the fossil image will be.

REDUCE THE FILE SIZE. The images directly from a camera usually are too large for posting directly to a forum. You can constrain the proportions of your image to produce exactly 500 KB (I routinely use 700 - 800KB for my images now). Save in JPEG format.

<><><><><><><><>

Okay, now FORGET incandescent lighting! These new compact flourescent lamps (CFLs) are the answer! The "daylight" lamps at 6500Kelvin are the ones to use, not the "soft" light you might prefer elsewhere in the house. Get 'em at WalMart for under $4.00 each.

I use a 100watt-equivalent CFL (which actually consumes just 26watts) in a white plastic reflector for close-up work. I usually hand-hold the reflector, moving it to optimize the features in the image. The 26watts produce only minimal heat which is a real plus. I've retired my 500watt incandescent photo lamps.

I use a fixture with two 24-inch flourescent tubes ("daylight" rated at 5000Kelvin) for background lighting to cut down on shadows.

I find that black matte fabric is the easiest backround to use. In my case, I use a square of old neoprene, fabric-faced wet-suit material. The black eliminates problems with shadows. Dark colored fossils may be a problem on the black background -- not enough contrast between fossil and background. In some cases, you might be able change the black background to a lighter color using editing software.

I work on an ironing board. With its adjustable height, the ironing board keeps photography from becoming stoop labor.

I use a tripod for the camera. Actually, I have one that is just six inches high, with retractable feet and a swivel fitting for the camera. A tripod stabilizes the camera for crisp focus.

<><><><><><><><>

Once you are making decent-quality images, you can do more creative things with your editing software. This image below is actually a composite of two images. Here's how I did it:

Using my software (Adobe PhotoDeluxe), I manipulated each image separately, doing everything but sizing them. I then copied and pasted each image to a blank image, adjusting the "zoom" and spacing of each. At that point, I added the label and scale. Then I finished the composite image by scaling it down to 450Kb.

I save the finished image in JPEG format on a 3.5 floppy disk (better, a flash-drive). I may retrieve this image from the floppy disk (flash-drive) to post it somewhere. If I like how it looks on the Internet, I may save the image to a CD.

If you go to the trouble of making a good image, you should save it. You never know when such images might again be useful in making an insurance claim, or selling the item later, or simply to post again to a different forum in the future.

---------Harry Pristis

post-42-1190400126_thumb.jpg

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Gatorman

Harry, I'm pretty sure the forum will take photo's larger than 500kb now, it should take any attachments up to 2mb, but it is preferred that the members do resize their pic's to 500kb or smaller so that those on dial-up connections can view the photo's faster. Most pictures if resized from its original size to 1028x764 will be under 500kb and that is the ideal picture size as most people have their monitors set up at that resolution.

Also, how do you measure your fossils? I heard of a way you can put a scale in a picture based on the pixels per inch, how could I do this as I do not have an accurate scale.

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Harry Pristis
Harry, I'm pretty sure the forum will take photo's larger than 500kb now, it should take any attachments up to 2mb, but it is preferred that the members do resize their pic's to 500kb or smaller so that those on dial-up connections can view the photo's faster. Most pictures if resized from its original size to 1028x764 will be under 500kb and that is the ideal picture size as most people have their monitors set up at that resolution.

Also, how do you measure your fossils? I heard of a way you can put a scale in a picture based on the pixels per inch, how could I do this as I do not have an accurate scale.

Yes, Anson, I see that the 500kb was the max for the earlier forum software. I'll edit that remark.

I don't understand what you mean when you say, "Most pictures if resized from its original size to 1028x764 will be under 500kb and that is the ideal picture size as most people have their monitors set up at that resolution." It sounds like you're saying there is a "standard resize."

I'm a bit backward on this 'puter stuff, but I thought the operator has to select the size of the image in pixels or in inches or in kilobytes. I don't see how monitor resolution and the size of a pic are related since 72 pixels per inch is the max over the Internet anyway. (Pictures for printing are a different story.) Have I missed something?

What I do with Adobe PhotoDeluxe is to reduce the image first to 72ppi, then to adjust kilobytes by changing the inches. I am finished when the image is at 72ppi and 700 to 800Kb and is some reasonable size in inches.

<><>><><><><>><><><><>

Keep in mind that the Internet accommodates only 72ppi so this is the ceiling on resolution for posted images. As I understand it, using the full capacity of say an 8 megapixel camera is useful under two circumstances:

1. You want to make poster-size prints.

2. You want to crop most of the image file to produce a "close-up" of some portion of the file.

<><><><><><><><><><>

The best way I've found to put a scale bar into a pic is to:

>Measure some obvious aspect of the fossil

>Draw a line in the pic along the axis of measurement

>Add the measurement along the line.

I finished the image of the muskrat without such a scale, and couldn't conveniently go back into the image to add the full line measurement. In order to add the scale in that case, I had to do a proportion.

Remember in Algebra I? a:b=c:d which reads thus: "a is to b as c is to d" If you know three of any numbers in a proportion, you can generate the fourth number.

Let's say you have a shark tooth that is 2.5" on the longest side, but when you make an image of it, the long side in the image is 3.5". You want to put a scale to show 1.0" in the image. You merely plug in the numbers into the formula and do the simple math.

2.5" is to 3.5" as 1 is to 'd'

(multiply the "means" and the "extremes -- the two numbers closest together and the two numbers furthest apart in the formula)

2.5":3.5" = 1.0":'d'

= 2.5 x 'd' = 3.5 x 1.0

= 2.5 x 'd' = 3.5

= 'd' = 3.5 divided by 2.5

= 'd' = 1.4" (In other words, 1.0" in hand is 1.4" in the image)

All you need to do at this point is draw a 1.4" long line anywhere in the image and label it "1.0 inch". I use a transparent ruler to measure the line as I draw it on the screen. Or, you can just include a coin in the original photo. :P

-----Harry Pristis

post-42-1190425303_thumb.jpg

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Harry Pristis

(re-posted here from another thread...)

I sure wish I could help you with your ID question, but I cannot fully open your Super High Quality (SHQ) images.

A portion of the image does open, but not the full SHQ image. Nor can I simply scroll left or right, up or down, to see the image -- the image just doesn't fully open.

When I make a SHQ image with my six megapixel camera, the resulting image is 39 inches wide by 29 inches high. I have to reduce the image size with my editing software to even work with it conveniently.

You can produce excellent photos with the Standard Quality (SQ) setting on your camera. (See some of Worthy's recent posts.) If you are going to post images that are not edited, that is, images directly from your camera, SQ is the camera setting you should be using.

I'm going to cross-post this to the photography thread under "Fossil Media" in the hope that others will see it.

--------Harry Pristis

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Gatorman

Harry, how do you crop your images? Do you trace them with the extraction tool or do you use the magic wand? or do you just crop a box and just happen to have both images on the same background?

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Harry Pristis
Harry, how do you crop your images? Do you trace them with the extraction tool or do you use the magic wand? or do you just crop a box and just happen to have both images on the same background?

Anson, usually I crop both images tight by dragging a box. Then I copy and paste both into a third, blank image which I keep stored in the editing software.

Once I have both images imbedded (with text) into the blank the way I want them, I crop the composite by dragging a box.

Once I have the composite cropped, it is just a matter of sizing the new composite -- 72ppi, 800Kb(or so), and a reasonable size in inches.

The black background is produced from a black photo background (neoprene wet suit material). I use the same color setting in a "change color" ("magic wand"?) tool, to get a uniform background. Using this tool, I could make the background any color I desire.

----------Harry Pristis

post-42-1191628589_thumb.jpg

post-42-1191628629_thumb.jpg

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Gatorman

:Cave Man: I still don't get it. When you drag your box around the fossil, does it crop a box or just tight around the fossil? My software either does a box or it has the magic wand that selects areas of similar color which doesn't work very well for automatically cropping photo's.

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Harry Pristis
:Cave Man: I still don't get it. When you drag your box around the fossil, does it crop a box or just tight around the fossil? My software either does a box or it has the magic wand that selects areas of similar color which doesn't work very well for automatically cropping photo's.

Hi, Anson . . .

My software only drags boxes to crop. I imagine that there are other ways to do it, though.

I've deconstructed this recent image so that you can see how it was put together from rectangular, cropped images. The text and the scale can be in different rectangles.

My experience is this: Find an editing program that seems logical to you, then just go ahead and use it frequently -- make all the mistakes. That's a great way to learn.

------Harry Pristis

post-42-1191631691_thumb.jpg

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Gatorman

:Bonk:

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Harry Pristis

Okay, Anson, now show us your your first composite photo!

------Harry Pristis

post-42-1191801759_thumb.jpg

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Gatorman

I'll have to take some pictures first.

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Uncle Siphuncle
I'll have to take some pictures first.

Guys

I shoot lots of fossil images as well, but I am much less sophisticated in my methods than some of you guys. First of all you must consider your intended use of the photos. I use them to document my finds and spit out a monthly report for friends and family as well as for my own records, sort of a "fossil diary" so to speak. These reports tend to contain 100-200 images per month and since I'm too lazy to set up a website I email them. To keep the reports under 10 megs I shoot for cropped JPG images around 40-100 KB each.

To add interest to these reports I like to shoot lots of outcrop and in situ images. This allows others to learn how to recognize cool fossils when partially or mostly obscured by matrix or sediment, then see them after prep. I think this visual progression really aids in developing shape recognition skills in the field.

For scale whether in situ or prepped, I like to throw a quarter in the picture depicting the state where collected.

I'm often seen on the tailgate of my truck at work on lunch hours photographing fossils. There are several reasons for this. First of all I agree that natural lighting is often the best, but by the time I get home its already dark. Some fossils look great between fingertips when photographed against a blue sky. Sometimes specimens show up well with no flash; at other times a flash helps even in broad daylight. Also, this allows me to spend more time with my fossils without my wife standing there with hands on her hips, tapping her toe on the ground while I play caveman in the garage (again).

I'm too lazy to do much photo editing, so I try to get acceptable images with standard camera settings. While I detest a fake looking permanent gloss on my fossils, some look best for photos that way so I wet them for pictures. I experiment often with backgrounds and really let the fossil dictate the background color for proper contrast. In general I tend to favor medium to light colors for the fossils I find locally. However holding them in my hand seems for photos tends to prevent over or under exposure so I go that route often.

Certain fossils with extreme surface relief like a prominently horned ammonite or echinoid with huge tubercles and/or deep ambulacra benefit from directional lighting to cast shadows and accentuate detail. For this I use a black velvet background, set up the camera on a tripod, and then move my shop light around until I get the desired directional effect. Sometimes this leads to a cool, artistic presentation.

To get the desired file size I often zoom out a little and then shoot photos in 3 megapixel mode. This allows me to end up with a 40-100 KB images that hopefully don't look too grainy when viewed normal size on screen or printed on 8.5 x 11 paper.

For significant specimens I shoot multiple images from different angles, with different lighting and different backgrounds, then choose the better images. I may underutilizing Photoshop's capabilities, but at this point I just crop and save as a JPG. While I'm typically too lazy to drop text into the image, I capture pertinent info in the filename. For example,

Kco Dakoticancer australis 2b Site 348 092707

To me means the following:

Kco = Cretaceous Corsicana formation (as taken from the Geologic Atlas of Texas)

D. australis = genus and species

2 = second such specimen found that day

b = second image taken of that specimen

Site 348 points to my site log where full details of the site are documented

092707 = date of collection

Perhaps someday I'll take this more seriously and spend more time producing publishing grade images like Harry's but lately I've been working with too many specimens to be able to dedicate much time to any one image.

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JimInAugusta

Answers to a post in the ID section got me thinking about macro photography. I like things to be as simple as possible. Looking up a few sites on macro I initially stumbled upon groups that go gear heavy which rendered wonderful results but wasn't the path I wanted to follow.

I then found these two sites.

http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/07/how-t...oto-studio.html

This describes a simple DIY light box that allows perfect light to be obtained for less than $10. It consists of a cardboard box, tissue or tracing paper and an interior light source like work lights.

http://www.naturephotographers.net/article...2/je1002-1.html

This describes a very small, lightweight, flexible fold up light defuser that when used in pairs helps even out harsh exterior light when shooting in situ with a small tripod. In short you can have a studio in a backpack.

I may play with the box idea this week. If it shows promise I will post a few photos.

Jim

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Guest Cris

Sounds interesting, Jim... I'm looking forward to seeing how your experimenting with the box thing goes..

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Gatorman

I'm very interested in this box idea also.

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Mike Owens

Ditto on wanting to see the light-box results. Also, a question. How do you use a diffuser? Do you set your camera on timer & hold the diffuser between the subject & your light source? :Cave Man:

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JimInAugusta
Ditto on wanting to see the light-box results. Also, a question. How do you use a diffuser? Do you set your camera on timer & hold the diffuser between the subject & your light source? :Cave Man:

I honestly dont know but the picture in the article would suggest that. I have a friend who is a professional photographer. I will have to ask her a few questions.

Jim

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Mike Owens
I honestly dont know but the picture in the article would suggest that. I have a friend who is a professional photographer. I will have to ask her a few questions.

Jim

I have found one, but don't want to buy till I know more about how it works. Look forward to your response.

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JimInAugusta

I finally grabbed a big box out of the trash for the light box. I have a roll of wide tracing paper from my boat building hobby. I think I can find the time tomorrow to cut out the sides of the box and tape in the tracing paper. The end result should look like a frosted window which I guess will diffuse the light evenly. My shop lights may be too harsh in color but I will give it a go and post a few odd objects like a tooth, ring, watch, bug or two. Mainly telling you to put pressure on myself to just do it! LOL

Jim

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ebrocklds

well i will check back tomarrow and see how they turn out. (thought i would add a little more pressure :D )

brock

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Mike Owens

PRESSURE! PRESSURE! PRESSURE! PRESSURE! PRESSURE!

:T-Rex:

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Harry Pristis

Shuko

March 24, 2008, 01:18 PM Post #4

Remember though, just because you CAN upload BMP files doesn't mean you SHOULD. bmp files are not web-friendly at all, and people with slower connections have a hard time viewing them. Depending on the implementation of the site they appear on, your images could cause the page to load very slowly for people. When sharing photos on the web, it's always better to go with a more compressed format, so it's easier on peoples' connections. Additionally, since this forum allows attachments, it's easier on their bandwidth costs if you upload images with smaller file size (aka jpgs over bmps).

_______________________________

Anson

March 24, 2008, 01:58 PM Post #5

Very good advice Shuko .jpg is preferred over anything else.

This is such good advice, I quoted it here from a thread in a different sub-forum.

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kauffy

ok, because my camera died i attemptedtoday to make some photos using a load of different methods and trial and errors....i dont think they turned out too shabby! what do you guys think....any tips or suggestions for the future?

they are in my vert gallery.....im not sure if i did the pre molar one right :S

cheers chris

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