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AW: Specimen photography guide (Was: The myth of coding from specimens firsthand and the untapped resource of photos)



> > Does a good online howto for osteological specimen
> photography exist for cases where ammonium chloride is not
> an option?
> 
> Well, there is this tutorial on SV-POW!:
> http://svpow.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/tutorial-how-to-photograph-big-bones/

Already quite helpful (the lighting bit mainly).

I might add that I found the following useful: DO NOT try to hold your breath 
when photo'ing without brace or tripod. Rather, breathe deeply and slowly a few 
times, and take the photo between breaths. Your thorax will be relaxed, and 
this helps to keep those pesky minimal tremors that mess up photos at longer 
shutter times quite a bit.

I have taken crisp photos this way with shutter times of up to 1/4 second. Most 
of them are still crap, but about one in 3 or 4 comes out excellent. It's easy 
to avoid gross blur even then by the "zen mode" mentioned in the SV-POW! post, 
but as soon as you're tensed up there will be some minimal tremors which will 
blur enough to make photos less nice than they could be.

(Those that have manually loaded a DNA sequencer with a single-tip pipette 
probably know what I mean.)

In more sophisticated cameras, also pay attention to white balance. It is best 
to photograph with manual settings and use user-defined white- balance if your 
camera allows to (most semiprofessional and better DSLRs should, but these 
probably won't be available for less than 300 bucks even secondhand). It's not 
that crucial for fossils, but the "yellow tint" you often get from auto white 
balance is a well-known problem. 

Achieving perfect reproduction of color is harder with digital cameras than 
with film cameras, as is achieving perfect lighting; the latter can be 
ameliorated by the tips in the post above, as well as (in the more 
sophisticated cameras) by not using single-point lightness measuring. 
Especially if your light sources are not the best and if the object has a lot 
of very light and very dark areas, it is not easy to get really good results 
otherwise.


Regards,

Eike