Ask Erowid

Ask a Question

Find an answer:

View By Category

Search Ask Erowid
Search Vaults

Enter a keyword in the search field above to look up a question or answer on a specific topic.

Off-Site Psychoactive Question Resources
  Ask Dr Shulgin

Resources at Erowid
  Plants & Drugs
  Freedom & Law
  Mind & Spirit
  Arts & Sciences
  Library / Bookstore
  What's New
  About Erowid
Do you have suggestions for how to take good photos for submitting to Erowid?
Q: I want to take photographs of psychoactives for submitting to Erowid and wanted know if you had suggestions for how to take the best pictures?

A: We love to get submissions of good photos of psychoactive plants and chemicals. And there are definitely some rules of thumb to help in taking high-quality pictures that will be most useful:
    The best file types for submitted photos are JPG, TIFF, or PNG. GIF is not an appropriate format for photographs.

    The files should not be compressed much. This means that submitted photos should have fairly large file sizes so that there is little data loss. Depending on software, JPGs can be saved with a level of 1-10 or 1-12. A higher level (8 or higher) is best for our purposes.

    Larger is almost always better. Each photo should be 800 pixels x 600 pixels at an absolute minimum. Ideally, they would be 1200 x 800 or larger. As long as the images are at least 800 x 600 pixels, then the resolution (600 dpi, 300 dpi, etc) doesn't matter.

    Appropriately saved images are usually between 200K and 4 MB apiece. Files larger than 4 MB should only be necessary for extremely high quality images.

    A key feature of a good-quality photo is to make sure it is in sharp focus. If you are using a digital camera, take several shots of each setup. Changing the distance of the camera from the subject between photos can help ensure photos that are in focus. After taking the photos, delete any that are even slightly out of focus. If they aren't sharply in focus, they are pretty much garbage.

    Advanced - Digital auto-focus technology often looks for horizontal or grid patterns to 'grab' onto and thus may not work as well for photographing plants, especially with lower end cameras. Cameras with the option to manually focus are a good idea for any serious photographer. Brighter light makes it easier for cameras (and eyes!) to focus.

    Getting good focus takes experience with the camera and patience.

    Another key feature of good photos is lighting; details are difficult to see in a dark photo. Good, bright lighting can make it a lot easier to get sharp focus. Close-up photos often come out best if you move to a bright room and turn on all the room lights (and/or set a lamp nearby) before taking the picture.

    Advanced - Try playing with different lighting, with and without the flash, different levels of shadow, etc. Flashes can make close-up shots TOO bright.

    If you see a lot of graininess in the final photo, you probably didn't have enough light (or the exposure was set wrong). Color of light also makes a big difference in the final shot. Digital cameras will adjust white balance on the fly and this can make colors come out very different. Try alternate settings on the white balance and try changing lighting sources.

    Cheap clip lamps, cheap halogen lights, diffusers, and reflectors can all help fill in lighting. There are some nice, fairly cheap, collapsible reflectors sold at camera stores (dual sided, some silvered, some just white, some with a gold tint). Using a reflector is definitely an advanced technique, they can really help increase the quality of a photo. For macro shots, flash rings are really the best, but they can be expensive.

    Cluttered photos are seldom good. A basic rule is to make sure that the object you're photographing is sitting in a clear space with a simple background. Obviously this isn't always true...but it's good rule of thumb. Dirty dishes in the background of a photo really don't help.

    When photographing small objects like pills or powders, a couple of pieces of paper can act as a good background. Make sure the background isn't the same color as the object you're photographing. White and black backgrounds are good defaults.

    Advanced - "Depth of field" is how much of a particular photo will be in focus. A short depth of field means that only items at one particular distance from the camera will be in focus. A long depth of field means that both close objects and distant objects will be in focus.

    Depth of field is set by changing the "Aperture" on a camera. The Aperture is measured in "F-stops": F2.8, F4.5, F8.0, etc. The larger the F-stop number, the longer the depth of field.

    If you're taking a closeup photo of a flower and one part of the flower is in focus and other parts are not (and you want them to be), then your depth of field is too short. Changing the aperture to a higher F-stop can help bring the rest of the flower into focus.

    But aperture also affects the brightness of a photo. Setting a long depth of field will generally make a photo darker.

    Once you've taken photos, make sure to look at them on your computer before submitting them. It's difficult to tell whether a photo is in focus on the small screens available on many phones and other pocket devices. It's a waste of everyone's time to submit low-quality photos, especially of common substances. So take a few photos, look them over, and select the best before submitting.

    We appreciate submissions, which can be made through our Image Submission Form.

Asked By : Mike
Answered By : earth, fire
Edited By : fire
Published Date : 6 / 8 / 2003
Last Edited Date : 11 / 18 / 2011
Question ID : 3051

Categories: [ General ] [ Erowid ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

(content and html © the Vaults of Erowid. Please ask permission before publicly reproducing.)