Quality photography promotes effective assimilation of fossils into the scientific record and improves public visibility of museum collections. Major components of the RHOI mission are increasing the visibility and importance of affiliated projects and institutions, and sharing scientific data in a timely fashion. Image production is thus a cornerstone of the integrative mission of the RHOI.
NEVER SHOOT MORE THAN ONE SPECIMEN PER FRAME UNLESS THE PHOTO HAS A SPECIFIC PURPOSE. Images with multiple specimens cause problems for downstream database management. Unless you have a specific use for a multiple specimen image, never take one. It does not save time, it wastes it.
Two major factors affect image quality: camera and physical setup.
CAMERA AND LENS
Many consumer-grade digital cameras are adequate for the task of web-presentation at 72dpi (dots, or pixels, per inch). For publication, however, shooting with a camera capable of much higher resolutions is best. Scientific publications generally require images of at least 300dpi at their actual printing size. In other words, if the published image will be 3 inches by 4 inches, the image should be >300 dpi when scaled to these physical dimensions. It is advisable to plan images for eventual publication at a size of 8 inches by 5.5 inches, or one half standard page size. In simple terms, images should be at least 5 megapixels (5 million pixels) when they are captured. It is important to fill the image frame with the fossil subject to maximize the resolution captured from the actual specimen.
Cameras vary in settings available and not all provide adjustable irises, but, if adjustment is possible, keep the f-stop above f8 (f32 or higher is preferable). Set the shutter speed only after setting the aperture. Remember that small apertures (high f-numbers) require slower shutter speeds.
Lenses with low focal legths distort specimen dimensions. If possible, always use a lens with a focal length greater than 80mm.
Use the camera’s timer to avoid the vibration that is inevitable when manual shutter release is employed. Refer to your camera's user manual for details about manual settings.
Always store digital image files in an uncompressed format like TIFF or RAW. Never store images as JPEGs (JPG) as image quality will suffer substantially.
Digital images should be organized and labeled WITH THE SPECIMEN NUMBER AND VIEW as soon as they are downloaded from camera to computer. For example, you might label an image UCMP_91135_RLAT, for UCMP specimen number 91135 in right lateral view. These conventions allow easy databasing and searching. Backups should be made as soon as possible. Please refer to the HERC/Middle Awash Image Naming Protocol for an example from the Middle Awash Research Project.
LAYOUT AND SETUP
(Click to enlarge)