How to Take Photographs for Use with Identification

Help with identifying the species your ants

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How to Take Photographs for Use with Identification

Post: # 14088Post Batspiderfish
Tue Oct 18, 2016 6:04 pm

How to embed photographs:
How to embed YouTube videos:

While myrmecologists largely depend on wordy descriptions and keys to make proper identifications, these are written by trained professionals with an excellent grasp of ant anatomy. If you are not one of these people, then we absolutely need photographs to make an ID. Videos should be avoided, because the image quality is often low and it is too difficult to crop or zoom.

Now, I know that ants are small creatures. Some ants are so tiny that you probably can't see them too well without a microscope. You do not, however, need a macro lens to take good pictures of ants:

For cameras, reversing most any normal lens on an SLR will unlock impressive macro capabilities. SLR's and cameras with built-in lenses can use the twin coupling method, which only requires a similarly sized lens and some way to attach it to the front the primary lens (i.e. an appropriately-sized coupling ring, although I've done this with electrical tape and rubber bands before).

For phones, you can use the lens coupling principle, buy a macro adapter, scavenge a lens from a laser pointer, or use a water droplet. Some phones will have decent macro capabilities out of the box, thanks to their wide-angle lens.

Ok! Now, the second most important part of good close-up images is proper lighting. Don't use normal incandescent/CFL bulbs to light your macro photos: Use a flash, use natural daylight, high-intensity LED's, or some other bright source. Queens don't like light very much, but one 5-minute session of bright light is not going to harm them.

Make sure that the background contrasts with the ant you are photographing! If you are taking pictures of a brown ant in front of a brown background, we might miss out on a lot of details! When you take the photographs, make sure that the ants are in-focus! It really doesn't matter how close you're getting if nobody can see the ant clearly to begin with! Don't bother submitting photos where the ant is out of focus, partially out of view, or otherwise obscured.

Look how close this person got! Just, no -- don't do this to us. If your picture looks fuzzy like this, try again and back up a little if you need to.

Here is a picture of a similar species to the queen above. While it is not particularly close, we can at least see the shape of the queen clearly, and most of us could probably recognize the genus.

To make it even better, crop out all the worthless space. With adequate resolution, you can even use cropping to get the same magnification that was impossible to achieve by being physically closer:

Now that we know about image quality, what sort of photographs do we take?

Let me start off by saying that unless you are taking pictures of the bottom of the head, do not use underneath-shots of ants for identification purposes. There is very little down there that can be used for ID. For inspiration, do it similarly to

Pictures of the front of the head!
Pictures of the profile of the body!
Pictures of the top of the body!

These basic angles will be enough to identify most ants. Depending on the genus, somebody may ask for more specific pictures, but photographs like those will generally get the job done!

So, in closing, get as close as you can while retaining a clean, usable picture.
Use adequate light to show off fine details like scultping and hair coverage.
Take multiple pictures of the queen from multiple angles, including the front of the head, the side of the body, and the top of the body.
Rules & Requirements for Identification:

How to take pictures for identification:

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Re: How to Take Photographs for Use with Identification

Post: # 14115Post Jharrell23867
Wed Oct 19, 2016 1:48 am

This should probably get a sticky... Great thread...
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