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Improving Mindat.orgReason for User Gallery Only

3rd Sep 2019 16:11 BSTCharles D Young

I understand that there are numerous reasons for assigning a specimen to this status.  However, it would be good to know why so that, if it is something trivial, it could be fixed.  Perhaps there is some comment from the review staff as to why this decision was made but I have never been able to find it.  If there is such a thing perhaps it could be pointed out or made more obvious?


3rd Sep 2019 17:01 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

With the volume of photos uploaded daily it can be a challenge to do this. We do have a system internally of recording some of the reasons why a photo has been rejected and I will make this visible as best I can to people, but this may take a little while to implement as I have a big backlog of other important things to deal with - sorry!

3rd Sep 2019 17:32 BSTDavid Von Bargen Manager




Out of focus

3rd Sep 2019 17:45 BSTCharles D Young

That helps a lot!  Thanks.  I'll try to focus these better.  One issue is that I am using a closeup lens that has a shallow depth of field.  I am still trying to figure out how to get the best closeups without spending a fortune.

3rd Sep 2019 18:13 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

How old is your camera? WHat is the resolution?  If you have a relatively modern camera you are best off trying not to be so close up and instead crop into the picture to get a smaller, but sharper, image

3rd Sep 2019 19:19 BSTKevin Conroy Expert

You can also experiment with f-stop settings to see which works best for you.   Here's a good article about getting better focused photos:

3rd Sep 2019 21:07 BSTJeff Weissman Expert

I also see that you can improve your lighting, making sure you camara setting matches the light source, and avoid LEDs unless they are broad spectrum for photography. Also, very difficult in some of the images to make out the details of the minerals of interest.

3rd Sep 2019 21:22 BSTHarjo Neutkens Manager

Charles, as I wrote in a reply to your previous question; you could try to experiment with stacking software to counter the shallow depth of field. Most photo edit software has a basic stacking function but best would be to go for Helicon Focus or Zerene Stacker. I still use the freeware CombineZ but I think Alan Hadley's website is no more in the air...

4th Sep 2019 03:39 BSTCharles D Young

Thanks for all the advice.  I have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150 12 megapixel.  I am using a halogen light source that has both a dual gooseneck and a ring light, but I can only use one at a time.  I usually use the ring light because it illuminates from directly above on my microscope.

I have matched the white balance to the halogen source using 3700K.  The standard lens only allows me to zoom in so far and for the smaller specimens it is not enough.  When I crop it looks grainy.  That is why I got the closeup filters, which have helped a lot.  My more recent photos have a lot more resolution.

I suppose the next step is to get a telephoto lens that should help me get more depth of field (I think?).  The only issue I have with that is the size and distance.  I like to take a full view with the camera and then some microscopic shots with the microscope camera.  It does stacking nicely BTW.

I could spend a lot of money for more professional equipment and get better results.  At some point I may just throw in the towel and be satisfied with User Gallery Only.  Thanks for the help in any case!


4th Sep 2019 08:59 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

Your camera is not the problem.  Check here to see what photos other contributors have uploaded with the same camera model:

Some tips:

1. You need MUCH better lighting and some clean (perhaps black) backgrounds.

2. Try setting to f/8 and slow shutter speed and, of course, use a tripod and set the countdown timer so that when you press the button it waits a few seconds before firing the shot, this way reduces vibration.

You shouldn't need to buy other lenses or equipment, you just need to learn to get the most out of what you already have.

4th Sep 2019 13:24 BSTCharles D Young

I do use a tripod with the delay timer.  I'll try f8.

I was trying to use my microscope halogen lighting to save time and space but now I think to get optimal results I will probably need a separate light box with diffusion for the fx150 camera full views.

Of course, many of those photos are mine, including ones marked for User Gallery Only.  This one in particular has me curious.  It is beautiful but I am thinking it was treated with a clear lacquer.  Is that the reason that it is not for public viewing or do I just need to improve the picture?


4th Sep 2019 16:30 BSTCharles D Young

Ok, I tried f8 and slower shutter speed.  I could never get as good a picture as when I just set the camera on automatic macro mode.  For being so small I actually don't think this is a bad photo.  Oh, well.  Thanks for trying.

2 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm

4th Sep 2019 16:56 BSTHiro Inukai

I would like to suggest the following tips for your photos, irrespective of gallery membership status.  I think that your photos are quite nice, but there is always room for improvement, and for myself at least, a lot of the enjoyment of photography comes from the process!

1.  Try more diffuse lighting, and more powerful light.  A cheap camera flash diffused through a sheet of frosted acetate can do wonders for achieving more uniform lighting and maintaining good color balance.  It doesn't even need to sync with your camera--as long as your camera has a "bulb" mode, all you need to do is take the photo in a darkened room, set for an f/8 aperture, and adjust the flash power to match the required exposure, rather than the speed of the shutter.  Curve the diffuser in an arch over the specimen by affixing it with tape to the left and right.  If you can't get a separate flash, use your existing continuous lighting.  Many digital cameras have a manual white balance adjustment, which lets you take a photo of a white object (e.g. piece of paper) under the lighting you want to use, and the camera uses this result as a reference for what "white" is supposed to look like.  If you go with continuous lighting, more is better, and more diffusion is better.  Just avoid mixing light sources with different colors, like incandescent with fluorescent.

2.  Use a cleaner platform and/or background, without distracting textures or color casts.  Something as simple as a plain white sheet of paper will work.

3.  Small specimens need more sophisticated/specialized techniques and equipment to photograph.  Try to nail down your shooting setup on larger specimens first before delving into macro work.

4.  Slightly increase the exposure of your images.

4th Sep 2019 17:24 BSTCharles D Young

Thanks, Hiro.  I'll definitely keep your tips in mind if I decide to go back and redo a lot of these User Gallery Only.  Using a cheap flash with a diffuser sounds like a good idea!


5th Sep 2019 02:43 BSTGareth Evans


I do like your fascination with radioactive minerals. The first two mineral specimens I got was a large Uraninite (solid piece) weighing 1100 grams and a very nice Torbernite both from the El Sherana mine way back in the early 60's. 

Most of my minerals are photographed on my desk. I use some strong (natural light) bulbs, and I reflect the light off my ceiling to diffuse it. It works well in most cases, but I still have problems photographing some minerals - and some chemical elements.


5th Sep 2019 16:51 BSTCharles D Young

The only problem now is that the system won't let me upload the new photo.  It thinks it is a duplicate!

5th Sep 2019 16:57 BSTDavid Von Bargen Manager

I think this may be a bug between the Discussion system and photo upload.

5th Sep 2019 17:15 BSTCharles D Young

So can you override this manually or should I delete my message with this photo?

5th Sep 2019 18:11 BSTCharles D Young

Gareth,I backed into this hobby by first getting interested in radioactivity and cosmic rays. Then I just happened to live in Tucson where the largest mineral show in the world takes place every February. So one thing led to another...I think I have finally made some progress. After much experimentation and watching youtube videos on macro photography I learned about the iA mode of the camera. In this mode you have little control since almost everything is automatic. For instance, you can't set the white balance. Nonetheless it seems to do a remarkable job. This was taken with a cheap 4X macro filter lens and dual gooseneck fiber lights with a halogen source.Charles
This is a copy of the message I had to delete because the attached photo was causing me to not be able to replace my image.

5th Sep 2019 18:13 BSTCharles D Young

Deleting the message with the photo did not help.  I still can't upload the replacement even though it has a different name.

5th Sep 2019 19:08 BSTCharles D Young

Ok, I think I managed to delete the new photo but when trying to upload it to replace the old it still claims there is a duplicate.

5th Sep 2019 20:06 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

If you want to upload a new photo to replace an existing one you should not post it to the messageboard first.  

Posting to the messageboard stores it as a new image. You can edit that image and enter the correct details, then we can remove the old one if you prefer.

6th Sep 2019 01:39 BSTCharles D Young

Ok, I understand that now.  I thought you were asking me to delete the new photo so I did that.  It no longer shows up in my list of incomplete uploads.  However, it is apparently still somewhere in the system because it is detecting it as a duplicate.  Sorry for the trouble, but I don't know how to proceed except to take yet another photo and hope that the system does not detect it also as a duplicate.

6th Sep 2019 15:23 BSTCharles D Young

Ok, I solved it.  I uploaded an uncropped version of the photo that the system accepted.  Then it allowed me to upload the cropped version.  Evidently the system has a means of comparing images and if they are not sufficiently different the latest is declared a duplicate?  Anyway, if the system rejects an image as a duplicate the solution is to upload an image completely different to replace the original and then upload the new one.

9th Sep 2019 21:41 BSTCharles D Young

Could I get a hint as to what is wrong with this photo?  It seems to be in focus and has good white balance.  Do I need to lighten it up? I could do that in the photo editor.


9th Sep 2019 21:52 BSTHiro Inukai

More light.  Specifically, more front-facing light in addition to your current top-down light.  At least twice the amount of illumination you currently have.  Get it as bright as you possibly can.  As for the camera settings, have it meter for the rock, not the background.  Expose for the rock.  Slower shutter speed, keep the shutter open longer, and reduce the ISO (sensitivity) to reduce image noise.

9th Sep 2019 22:09 BSTRuss Rizzo Expert


Do you use reflectors?  I think that would help with your lighting issues as well.  If you are not already, using multiple lamps would help too. 


10th Sep 2019 00:16 BSTCharles D Young

Ok, the halogen source that I am using with my microscope will allow either an overhead ring or dual gooseneck.  I switched to the latter and put one above and the other in front to the left.  It is all very tight with my camera lens very close to the specimen.  Is that any better?

10th Sep 2019 03:11 BSTRuss Rizzo Expert

Yes, that's a good start.  You would benefit from reflectors too.  They would help even out the lighting of your specimen. 

You can also experiment with different color backgrounds.  In addition to white, you could try gray and black.  I don't use the same color background for every specimen I photograph.  The color(s) of the specimen determines what background I use.

I'm sure many others here have pointers for you as well.

10th Sep 2019 03:18 BSTHiro Inukai

What I don't understand is why your image is so blurry.  It's not motion blur, but almost like the focus is off, or there's too much diffraction, or it's heavily cropped.  Would you be able to set up your camera and specimen exactly as you intend to photograph it, and then take a photograph of the whole setup from different angles with a different camera?  What I want to see is how close the lens is to the subject and how you've lit the subject.  Then, show us what f-number, shutter speed, and ISO settings were selected.  This I think will go a long way toward helping us help you better.

10th Sep 2019 13:30 BSTCharles D Young

The glare from the two halogen goosenecks is so bright that the rock is not visible except in the camera's screen.  I am using a 4x closeup filter to get closer than is possible with no filter.  I am doing manual focus that enlarges on a small spot for precise adjustment.  I am using a 2 sec timer to avoid motion.
f-number, shutter speed, and ISO

f-8.0, 1/200, 100

The white balance is set to 3700K for halogen.  I have a little light box but it is only possible to use it with the overhead ring light because of the cramped conditions.  It does not seem to help anyway.

10th Sep 2019 14:03 BSTThomas Lühr Expert

My setup is quite different than your's, but the problems with the lighting are the same. The photo shows you my solution. 
Your main issue is not to use a proper diffused light, thus are the parts of your specimen that are not exposed to the direct light way too dark or those that are exposed will be overexposed.
I am using a ring from a plastic coffee cup or from white paper or bubble foil, foam foil etc. In the photo are visible two of four LED-lamps (each 9 Watts) to the left and the right - both in off state.
The specimen is hold in position by a box with lentils (rice or other weak granular stuff will also do).

10th Sep 2019 17:04 BSTCharles D Young

Thanks for the good idea of using a translucent white plastic container as a diffuser.  I did a similar arrangement and got this result.  I think it is better.  I am using f8 to get maximum depth of field. 

10th Sep 2019 18:17 BSTHiro Inukai

Now that I see the setup, I think I can understand why you're getting the results you're getting.

1.  You don't need such a fast shutter speed.  Your camera is on a tripod and there's not that much shutter-induced vibration to cause motion blur at the magnification you are shooting.  You could probably shoot as slow as 1/10 s but I'd say 1/60 s is definitely safe.  Try using the same setup, f/5.6 or f/8, 1/100s, ISO 100.  Your image is at least 1 stop underexposed.  The image needs to be bright enough that I can't see the texture of the white object you've placed the specimen on.

2.  You are shooting at f/8 at a magnification of at least 1:1, assuming the specimen is approximately 2 cm length.  This is an effective f/16 or smaller aperture, which can lead to a soft image due to diffraction.  Yes, your depth of field is larger, but image sharpness overall will suffer, especially for an imaging sensor with a very small pixel pitch, which may be the case here.  To test whether diffraction is limiting imaging resolution, open up the host lens to f/2.8 if possible, set manual focus on a part of the subject where there is fine detail, and shoot.  Compare the plane of sharpest focus in that image against the stopped-down f/8 image.  If you see that sharpest parts of the f/2.8 image is sharper than the corresponding parts of the f/8 image, you know you're losing sharpness to diffraction.

3.  You are using a +4 diopter (close-up lens) on a lens that is probably not well-suited for such work.  If this diopter is not an achromat, you will see chromatic aberrations, especially in specular highlights in the image periphery; moreover, the diopter is probably the main reason why the image is not sharp.

4.  Position the gooseneck of at least one of your light sources so that it is right up next to the lens barrel, and pointing right at the subject.  What I keep seeing in your images is a strong backlight, as if you're almost lighting the rock from behind.  I want to see the light repositioned so that it's shining directly on the front of the specimen.  Yes, this is tricky if you have no working distance (the space between the front of the lens and the specimen), but in such a case, you would need a different lens to photograph the subject at the magnification you desire.

Macrophotography is not easy even with the correct tools, so without the right lenses and lighting, it can be downright frustrating.  Diopters are not ideal because the resulting lens system has severely reduced working distance, making illumination impossible; moreover, image resolution is strongly dependent on the quality of the diopter and the host lens.  Extension tubes are not an option with your camera because the lens is integrated.  The ideal solution is to use a dedicated macro lens for such close-up work.

I know this is a really long post but I hope this helps.

10th Sep 2019 19:47 BSTCharles D Young

Thanks for the patience and detailed instructions!  I carefully did 1 and 4 and removed the +4 diopter so I figure that 2 and 3 no longer apply.  I think the results are about as good as I am going to get without a dedicated macro lens.

I set the exposure time to 1/80 and exposure bias to +1.  The aperture was selected automatically to be f/4.5.

I think the other thing that made a big difference was the light diffuser.


14th Sep 2019 15:33 BSTCharles D Young

Ok, here is another.  This one is even smaller (1 cm).  Is the issue still the focus or the lighting?  Or do I need to reduce the putty?

14th Sep 2019 16:29 BSTCharles D Young

I decided to substitute a photo from my microscope instead.

18th Sep 2019 16:22 BSTCharles D Young

I hate to be a pest because everyone has been so helpful.  I feel like my photos have steadily improved based on the advice given here.  I am at a loss though why so many of my photos are still User Gallery Only.  I understand about the ones from The Earth and perhaps the gamma spec data (although these are just children).  If someone could take a look at the others and give me a hint then I might be able to improve them.  Thanks.

18th Sep 2019 16:49 BSTDavid Von Bargen Manager

The two photos above still seem to have a very strong yellow content to them (I am guessing that you are not using a tan background.) White balance again or using the wrong color temperature. 

18th Sep 2019 17:37 BSTCharles D Young

I assume you are talking about the Francevillite. I am using 3700K with a halogen source.  The microscope view is using an overhead ring fiber optic.  The other is taken using a white plastic container to diffuse the light.  Perhaps that is adding the yellowish tinge.

I am really asking about many of the photos in my User Gallery Only.  For instance, is this photo really not good enough?

18th Sep 2019 17:39 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

It's not easy to do things right, but you are improving and you're getting there! As David said if you get your white balance sorted out you'll be in a good chance of having things approved. Note that fixing the white balance should be a simple task with an image editor using your existing photos.

18th Sep 2019 17:55 BSTJennifer Cindrich

I think after looking at a lot of your photos I still think lighting may be an issue especially on the stones that are very reflective. Here I have taken an example for you to see. I used a sample of pyrolusite. In the first photo I have only direct light. In the second,(which I will post next)defused light  with coffee filters, which I think may work better than plastic. Play with how many you use starting with one filter per light. 
As you can see, when you zoom in on the photo without diffused light it makes the photo less detailed. Also, I have the iso turned down to my lowest setting in the second photo, with the diffused light. Its a big difference. 

18th Sep 2019 18:00 BSTJennifer Cindrich

and this is with both diffused light and iso turned to lowest setting..

18th Sep 2019 18:07 BSTJennifer Cindrich

and this one, even more adjusted. These photos are in no way acceptable even still, as I just took them quickly with my phone to show you the difference that just the proper lighting makes. This was to note for you the changes it makes in the detail of the stone.

18th Sep 2019 19:53 BSTThomas Lühr Expert

You have also give attention that the brightest parts of your object not get overexposed. Decrease the shutter time accordingly. The dark parts can later be brightened while editing (but it is impossible to darken overexposed glare). If your camera can show you the histogram then it would be a great help. Ideally, the "chart" should go over the full with of the diagram and not reach both ends of the diagram.
In general, diffused light makes the "chart" wider.

Also I recommend to edit your photos with a program that gives you the opportunity to change the histogram in a non-linear way with 'curves'.
Photoshop and GIMP  do that.
Online are many tutorials available for those.


18th Sep 2019 19:18 BSTCharles D Young

I did not have a coffee filter handy but I found some white gauze that seems to work well.  This also makes it a lot easier to position the camera and lights compared to putting the specimen in a plastic container.

I have updated the
photo and it looks better to me.  The ISO is 100 and f-stop f/8.  If this is acceptable I'll redo the other User Gallery Only photos as well.  Thanks!

18th Sep 2019 21:04 BSTThomas Lühr Expert


I could not find that mentioned photo in your gallery. The best will be anyway to insert the photo here. And if possible the old phot too for comparison.

18th Sep 2019 21:22 BSTJennifer Cindrich

I could not find it either

18th Sep 2019 23:51 BSTCharles D Young

Sorry.  It was right above in this thread.

25th Sep 2019 21:56 BSTRory Howell

Like others said above, I think the lighting still needs improved (maybe more light sources and position camera a little further away?).  Some improvement could come with simple editing though - I just used the very basic editing tools with MS photos to edit this one - you could do more as Thomas says above with Photoshop using curves

29th Sep 2019 20:33 BSTCharles D Young

Thanks for the advice, but I don't think your edited version looks as good as the original.  The Keiviite-Y is washed out and the whole specimen looks lighter than the actual one that I have in front of me.  I'll see if I can find an app that will show me the curves.  Thanks.

25th Sep 2019 00:52 BSTCharles D Young

I hate to be a squeaky wheel, but if this is approved I'll go back and redo others with the same technique.
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