Monday, 4 February 2013

The photographer's workbench: a guided tour

We thought you would like to see how we obtain most of the images for the project. This photograph shows you the typical working setup. 

1. Camera - we use a professional digital SLR and a range of macro lenses. The lens hood is very important - as well as protecting the front of the lens, it cuts down on flare from the light.
2. Copy stand - we can quickly move the camera up or down without moving it in any other direction. Trying to do this with a tripod would be far too time consuming.
3. Light - we use a bank of fluorescent tubes positioned at the ten o'clock position to provide standardised lighting for the specimen. Heat output from the lights is minimal, as is the UV component of the light.
4. Assorted reflectors, small weights, foam pads etc. - we use the foam blocks to position the specimen, and reflectors to fill the shadows before we take the photograph.
5. Tipping stage - by tipping the specimen by 4° either side of the horizontal position, we obtain a pair of images which can later be assembled into an anaglyph. White copier paper provides a cheap and easily replaced background, and the grey scale allows us to record dimensions and check colour balance at the same time.
6. Cable release - allows us to release the shutter without shaking the camera and ruining the picture. We are also able to use the camera tethered to a laptop to control it.
7. Brushes and blower - we can use these to carefully remove loose dust from the surface of the specimen and the background.
8. Type catalogues and other reference material - we like to refer to previously published material wherever possible to check details as we work.
9. Notepad and pencil - for recording information, it is preferable to use a pencil in museums, as there is no ink to risk staining valuable records or objects.
Simon Harris
JISC 3D Fossil Types Project Photographer


  1. This is very interesting to see! doing a similar project with my university, it's nice to see how things differ between the way I do it, and the way professionals do it.

  2. Hi -
    Do you want to say a bit more about your setup?