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Mineral Photographyspecimen supports.

24th Nov 2010 10:44 GMTStephen Eglinton

I am curious as to ways and means folks have employed to support their specimens for photography.


24th Nov 2010 11:28 GMTRalph Bottrill Manager

I have had to get a paid job to support mine ;)

24th Nov 2010 11:57 GMTBranko Rieck Expert


I nearly fell from my chair laughing about your answer!


24th Nov 2010 13:21 GMTRalph Bottrill Manager


you obviously need some support too!

24th Nov 2010 13:31 GMTScott Sadlocha


I have used mineral tack in some cases, but then the glass needs to be cleaned occasionally when moving on to a new specimen when the old mineral tack spot can be seen. Also, I have used just about anything I can find around my desk in some situations where I am just grabbing for something that might work.

24th Nov 2010 13:38 GMTRalph Bottrill Manager

On a more serious note, blue tac is wonderful, but anything goes as Scott says, as long as you cannot see it in the screen.

24th Nov 2010 14:52 GMTMatthew Barrand

Im the same, any non staining putty works fine but just be careful with delicate specimens. Also make sure that the putty doesn't get 'inside' the crystal matrix as it can be a massive pain to try to get out.


24th Nov 2010 15:52 GMTIbrahim Jameel Expert

I usually put tack at the base, but some specimens are too heavy or bulky for tack alone. Sometimes I tack an acrylic base to the table, right behind the specimen, as a pedestal. Those work pretty well... Sometimes a pen cap, a piece of paper folded many times over... once a small aquamarine crystal.

Whatever the case, I find that it works better if you tack the support to the table too...

24th Nov 2010 16:08 GMTAlexander Carrington

This is slightly a different subject, but Ibrahim, I was looking at your mineral photos, and was wondering how you got the white background for the pink fluorite with pyrite from huanzala, Photo ID: 243261. I have been taking photos, and want that kind of background. Was it photoshopped? if so what program? Thank you.

24th Nov 2010 16:22 GMTJohn Truax

wrong thread srrrrrrry!

24th Nov 2010 16:54 GMTIbrahim Jameel Expert


It was photoshoped (Photoshop CS3). I use a combinatoin of the "Magic Wand" and "Polygonal Lasso" tools to get all of the background, then i convert that part of the image to black and white (Image => Adjustments => Black & White) and then tweak the brightness and contrast till it looks white enough, but not absurd.

If I dont, the background comes out gray or brownish (despite having a perfectly white background) from a combination of the digital camera's software adjusting to the lighting type and brightness...

The whole fix takes about 35 seconds per image, once you get the hang of it.

I'm sure there's a better way of doing all this, but i don't know it.


24th Nov 2010 17:44 GMTDon Saathoff Expert

My kid's old Lego any kind of support!

Don S.

24th Nov 2010 18:13 GMTPaul Brandes Manager

I'm with Ibrahim and Scott on this as well. When I'm shooting photos, I will usually try to lay the specimen flat on glass and shoot. If it needs support, I have used a multitude of things such as blue tack, toothpicks, "small" blocks of wood, other small specimens, etc...; whatever is normally within arms reach and I know won't appear in the photo is fair game. Someday I should photograph some of the more outrageous and unusual items I have used and how I've used them to take specimen photos.

24th Nov 2010 18:29 GMTJean-Michel Trillaud


As I have many Staurolite crystals (single ones, not twined), and many sizes of them , I use them as kind of an edge to support the mineral to be photographed. Depending the rock size , I adjust the 'Staurolite-support' size.

Or I stick some wax on the glass on which I put the rock. After then it's easy to clean.


Jean-Michel Trillaud

24th Nov 2010 21:25 GMTStephen Eglinton

Very quick with the wit Ralph... nice one!


24th Nov 2010 22:22 GMTStephen Eglinton

Thank you all (Ralph, Scott, Matthew, Paul, Jean, Don, and all) for your advice.

I'll have to become more inventive... thanks for your ideas.

Tack is so versatile as a support medium, but my main concern with the stuff is the applying to and removing from specimen matrix. Every time with its use, you "eat away" at the matrix, as in the crumbly matrix of a Cumengeite specimen... i would be a nervous wreck using tack more than once on my "stabilised" Cumengeite (at $3,500). I only ever like to apply tack once to a specimen... in positioning a specimen to its permanent display base.


24th Nov 2010 22:42 GMTMaggie Wilson Expert

Here's my functional if not your typical photo studio. It is sitting on a glass topped coffee table. When I take my photos, I sit on the floor with legs outstretched under the table - not typical by any means, but easy on my back and I am as stable as I'm going to be - I can hold the camera resting it on the floor of the box if I need to.

The box is a large plastic storage tub with the hinged lid removed. We spray painted the interior to enhance reflected light. At the bottom left hand side of the box are three pieces that I use for supporting my subjects. The mineral tack and plastic mineral display stand I rarely use. What I do make good use of is the small wedge-shaped styrofoam. And often I don't use any support other than the curved portion of the backing - shown in this shot as a black piece of thick art board flexible enough to bend into place - held at the bottom by thumb tacks and at the top by the ridge of the tub. I use thin sheets of artists' sketch paper on top of the black - and interchange the backing as suits the mineral, but the majority of my shots are done on white.

I also make great use of editing software to eliminate any grotesque and intrusive supporting bits. Not always, as you can plainly see from the shots I've posted. Lately though, I have become more sensitive to what features make a good picture, and mineral tack is not one of them!

25th Nov 2010 04:10 GMTAnonymous User

On a slight tangent, I hate blue mineral tack. I only use white, and hate to buy a specimen with the blue goo on it.

10th Dec 2010 04:18 GMTJamey Swisher

Museum Gel also works great and it is transparent/clear. ;)

22nd Dec 2010 11:56 GMTStephen Eglinton

Maggie, sorry for the long delay in replying... been so busy of late. Thank you for your write-up.

Very interesting rig. I take it that you are happy with the results. Must be quite satisfying obtaining wonderful results from your own creation, and without it costing you too much.

I am at the stage of designing my own rig, i've something in mind, hope it pans out... mind if i employ some of your ideas? Think i have an idea that replaces Mineral Tack as a support.

Thanks again Maggie.


22nd Dec 2010 12:09 GMTStephen Eglinton

Myself as well Ken, but there isn't much else on the market as in removable adhesive for mineral specimens.

But what i really hate is the hot glue.


22nd Dec 2010 12:27 GMTStephen Eglinton

Apologies as well Jamey, just getting back to people now.

I bought 2 jars of Museum Gel / Quake Gel to use specifically as a replacement for Mineral Tack. My experience with it was dismal... it wouldn't hold and maintain the weight of my specimens. Even my thumbnail Euclase crystal with hardly any weight in it, kept (slowly) toppling sideways. I gave up in the end and returned to using Mineral Tack. Seems to me that the gel is fine for bonding, but useless as a support.

Regarding your experience with the Gel, AM I USING IT CORRECTLY !???


22nd Dec 2010 13:18 GMTMike Royal

Reading the comments on min tac i have to agree its a pain to remove so I've been using femo modeling material (clay) it doesn't leave a mess and makes a nice removable stand when baked after the shot


22nd Dec 2010 13:24 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

I still prefer hot glue (for anything with a non-friable, non-porus matrix that isn't terribly heat sensitive).

It's strong, it's easy to remove.


22nd Dec 2010 15:57 GMTMaggie Wilson Expert

Hi Steve - the rig is very satisfactory - it does what I need it to do - others may blanch at the crudeness of the components (MacGyver, wouldn't!) and sometimes the distance from the floor to upright is a bit challenging after an hour long photo shoot.

Good luck with your setup! Let us know how you make out.


22nd Dec 2010 18:24 GMTAnonymous User

I use white sticky-tack, a product made for hanging posters on the wall. Similar in consistency and holding power to mineral tack, without the horrible color.

I hate hot glue, especially for TNs that someone has mounted to the open-celled foam insert in a perky. As everyone knows, hot glue is only good for securing steel arrow points to wooden shafts....

31st Jan 2011 04:42 GMTJamey Swisher

Never had an issue with the Museum Gel not holding things. I use it all the time with no issues. I think you experienced issues because you are using hot lights probably. The warmer the gel gets the less it holds and will eventually turn into a puddle until it cools back down. I use heatless and low heat lighting setups or keep the lights far enough away.

21st Dec 2016 20:32 GMTJake Trexel

That is what I found to work both for macro and microscope photography.

21st Dec 2016 22:49 GMTAlex Homenuke Expert

re - white background

Try photographing with a light box (like a slide viewer) for a base. Takes care of shadows and you can use coloured film to change the background colour.

23rd Dec 2016 16:28 GMTEd Clopton Expert

Rubber erasers of various sizes are handy as quick, spur-of-the-moment props--they are non-slippery, don't scratch or damage specimens or surfaces, and don't leave residue.

To hold things in position for repairs (not just specimens, but figurines, pottery, etc.) I sometimes nestle them in the desired orientation in a bowl of hulled (not pearled) barley that I reserve for that purpose. The object can be stood at whatever angle will hold the glued part in place by gravity while it sets up. The barley grains are rough enough to hold most objects in position without sliding around (better than rice in that regard); they are soft enough not to scratch surfaces; and they are large enough not to get into crevices (or to be retrieved with tweezers if they do). I don't use this method often, but sometimes it's just the thing.
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