HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE IMAGING AS APPLIED TO PALEONTOLOGICAL SPECIMEN PHOTOGRAPHY
Paleontological photography is a time-intensive process. Collections ranges, exhibit spaces, and outdoor field settings present challenging lighting regimes, many specimens have complex 3D shapes and are often fragile and difficult to move. Even in ideal conditions, the complexities of photography may result in inferior or inadequate coverage of specimens.
Recently, software supporting High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDR), a technique first used in the special effects industry, has become widely available. This technique can solve or mitigate many of these issues and has the potential to improve images beyond traditional practices. HDR combines multiple exposures of the same subject into a single image file that represents the full range of dark to bright present in the real world, as opposed to the limited dynamic range used in traditional image formats.
These files can then be automatically processed to reduce unwanted shadows and glare, increase local detail, and preserve information that would otherwise be lost to rounding and clipping errors. Tests performed in real-world situations show that HDR practices reduce the need for equipment in many shooting situations to a camera and tripod. Because HDR images can be re-exposed to adjust lighting issues, it can eliminate or reduce the need to set up and adjust equipment and specimens.
We tested HDR practices and four software applications that support the technique, and found a consistent improvement over traditional paleontological photographic practices in difficult lighting situations.
Keywords: photography; High Dynamic Range (HDR); image enhancement; surface relief; museum collections; exhibits
PE Article Number: 12.1.1T
Copyright: Society for Vertebrate Paleontology March 2009
Submission: 31 July 2008. Acceptance: 1 December 2008