This page will help get you started with specimen photography.

Basic photography

This workflow will introduce you to the basic steps required to image fossils using our Nikon D610 DSLR camera combined with the Nikkor AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D lens.

Step Workflow task…
Hardware Uncover camera station. Turn on: 1) the camera and uncap lens and 2) the lights attached to the copy stand.
Software On the Mac desktop, initiate: 1) Camera Control Pro 2 with LiveView (“LV”) enabled and 2) open the Pictures folder (Macintosh HD > Users > lacmipvolunteers > Pictures). You may need to manually move the camera up/down on the copy stand in order to position the template within the window like this.
Select LACMIP staff will assign you a set of specimens to image. If the specimens are presented to you in a tray or drawer, please do not rearrange the boxes as you work through them, only work with one specimen lot at a time, and never disassociate specimens from their labels. Immediately alert the Collections Manager if you think a specimen and its labels have become mismatched.
Position Orient the specimen in the frame of the image using LiveView. If you are unfamiliar with imaging fossil invertebrates, refer to the LACMIP image gallery on GBIF for examples. The Digital Atlas of Ancient Life also has good examples and introductory anatomical explanations.
Barcode Place the specimen label in the field of view such that the barcode is completely visible in the corner of the image. The barcode must not be visually obscured in any way. At this point, your desktop should look something like this.
Capture In the LiveView window, click on the barcode. A box will appear over it. Select “AF and Shoot”. If the image is not captured, you may need to select a different focal point with the mouse.
QC The new image will appear in the Pictures folder. Quickly quality control (QC) the image to ensure both the barcode and specimen are in focus. (If they are not, click on another focal point in the Camera Control Pro window and capture another photo until everything is in focus.) Please immediately delete images that are not in focus. If the barcode is not in focus, the image will not be renamed properly.
Repeat Repeat the steps above until all necessary views are captured for the specimen. Typically 1-2 views are captured for bivalves (interior & exterior) & 2-3 views for gastropods (apertural & abapterural, plus an umbilical view for Trochoidea & Patellogastropoda). If a lot contains multiple specimens, and overall (“habitus”) image showing all specimens may be required. If there is a pink tag in the box, remove it before moving onto the next specimen lot.
Labels If you have been instructed to image the accompanying labels, include the “labels” barcode on the image template. If labels have text on two sides, photograph both sides. If there are too many labels to fit into the field of view, please take multiple images until all labels are captures.
Save At the end of your imaging session, all files need to be saved to Google Drive > LACMIP Imaging in the appropriate folder directory. If you are imaging specimens with barcoded labels for a specific project, select all new images in Pictures and drag them into the appropriate “To Process” folder in LACMIP Imaging. Please reference the will be automatically renamed and moved overnight.
Delete Once your files have successfully copied to Google Drive (save the last 10 mins of your shift for this task), delete your originals from the Pictures folder before leaving. Do not delete them until every file has been uploaded.
Shut Down When your imaging shift is complete, replace the lens cap and dust cover on the camera and turn off the lights. Because this is a shared workstation, please keep it tidy!

:warning: Handle all imaging equipment with care. The cameras and lenses are difficult to clean and costly to replace. Never remove the lenses from the cameras or touch the glass on either lens.

:fax: If you need to print new scale bars, label barcodes, etc., or refresh the background template because it’s worn, these items are saved in Google Drive > LACMIP Imaging.


Photographing small specimens and taking detailed images of larger specimens requires a more involved and time-consuming workflow. These images are acquired using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR camera paired with a Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x macro lens and a Cognysis StackShot macro rail. A guide to macrophotography was developed for LACMIP’s Fossil Insect PEN (2017-2020).

Additionally, the museum’s Keyence microscope can be accessed by appointment when very high quality imagery is needed to fulfill research requests. Access to this equipment is controlled by the Entomology division.


Google Drive

All specimen images should be saved to an appropriate subfolder in Google Drive > Shared Drives > LACMIP Imaging. The purpose of this shared drive is to store original, unaltered specimen images. These files should be periodically shared with the Database Manager for ingestion into EMu’s Multimedia module. Images that are intended for the web will also need to be uploaded to Extensis Portfolio.

screenshot showing where to save images
Save images to the appropriate folder in the shared Google Drive, LACMIP Imaging Right-click the image above to enlarge it in a separate tab or window.

Extensis Portfolio

Extensis Portfolio is the NHMLA’s institutional DAMS. All images to be shared with online aggregators must have metadata applied before ingestion into Extensis.

You can acccess Extensis using your NHMLA login and password. Not all images in Extensis are publicly visible; only files save to the catalog “Invertpaleo published assets” will become available online, whereas files saved to “Invertpaleo archived assets” will remain private. Files added to the former catalog can be viewed and downloaded from here, and can be pushed to aggregators.

The first time you access Extensis, ask IT ( for the best contact for direct assistance. This individual can provide advice on the latest recommendations for ingesting large batches of images into the DAMS, and should be able to adjust any account permissions you need enabled. Likewise, the Database Manager can facilitate ingestion of images into EMu and their online publication to data aggregators. Importantly, files intended for online publication must be saved in Extensis Portfolio > Invertpaleo published assets and attached to their respective records EMu and their file names must match in both storage locations (however, their file extensions may differ).

Other copies

Prior to the NHMLA’s adoption of Google Drive in 2019, images for the EPICC (2015-2020), CSC (2017-2019), and FIC (2017-2020) projects were saved to two external hard drives. These files have since been backed up on the DAMS and in Google Drive. LACMIP will not be using external hard drives for long-term image storage moving forward.

File names


When images containing images of barcoded specimen labels are saved to one of the “TO_PROCESS” folders in Google Drive, they will be renamed and reorganized overnight. Please thoroughly review the documentation on the barcode reading script for more information on how to implement this step of the imaging workflow.

:repeat: The file Imaging-FileName-Taxonomy.csv should be periodically refreshed by re-running the “IP Basic Taxonomy Output for Imaging” report on all existing Catalogue records and overwriting the older CSV file in LACMIP Imaging > Imaging Templates. This CSV couples with the python script to insert currently accepted taxonomy into image file names.


Avoid manually renaming files whenever possible. However, sometimes file names must be hand keystroked. File names should conform to this format: LACMIP_cat#_Genus_species_etc

Images containing barcodes can be renamed using the barcode scanner, which acts like a keyboard. Scan the barcode in the image to insert the catalog number into the file name. However, the file name should still be manually altered to conform to the preferred format.

Take care when naming images. If a catalog number is mistyped into a file name, the image will become disassociated from the correct specimen record. Once the image is ingested into EMu, the DAMS, and picked up by aggregators, such errors can become very time-consuming to correct.


Images destined for EMu and the web should have metadata applied to them in Adobe Bridge. To do so, open Adobe Bridge and navigate to the folder containing the images you’d like to append metadata to. Select all images in the folder, then choose Tools > Append Metadata, and select the desired template. (Do not choose Replace Metadata.) The first time you do this, you may need to load your desired metadata template into Bridge: LACMIP Imaging > Imaging Templates.

If you are applying metadata to images after they have been uploaded to Google Drive, this step will be most easily accomplished using Finder and the desktop version of Google Drive for Mac.

How to apply metadata to images in Bridge
Figure illustrating how to apply metadata to images in Adobe Bridge. Right-click the image above to enlarge it in a separate tab or window.