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Proposed Standards for Photographing Live Plants

Proposed detailed standards for photographing several groups of plants and the rationale behind these standards are described in Baskauf, S.J. and B.K. Kirchoff (2008) Digital plant images as specimens: toward standards for photographing living plants.  Vulpina 7:16-30.  These standards are being considered to form the basis of standards to be adopted for use in a live plant image collection of SERNEC (the Southeast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections)

Solicitation for comments on SERNEC live plant image standards

The pages linked below provide additional examples illustrating the standards in Baskauf and Kirchoff (2008).

herbaceous angiosperms
woody angiosperms
ferns and fern allies

Suggestions for other groups (Poaceae, Asteraceae, mosses, fungi, etc.) would be welcomed. 

Please send comments about these proposed standards to


Some general principles that have guided the development of the Bioimages collection:

1. An individual organism should be represented by multiple images which show important characteristics of the species.  Example - Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree):

2. The range of features should be comprehensive enough and the images taken at sufficient resolution to allow the individual organism to be identified to species.

3. The features photographed and the orientation of the features in the images should be standardized to allow them to be compared to images from another individual or species.  Example - leaves of oaks:

  see also compare features of oaks

4. Sets of images from individual organisms should be collected systematically along with time, date, and location information.  This allows the image set to serve as a record of occurrence for that species. 

If the images are collected as described above, the image set can serve as a virtual "specimen" analogous to a physical specimen in a natural history collection.  

Image quality and resolution

Images should not be visibly marked with species names, photographer names, image numbers, or copyright notices.  This information can be embedded in the image EXIF data and presented on the web in HTML tags and as text associated with the image. 

Images should be taken at a high enough resolution to allow for photographic reproduction at a size of at least 8x10 inches.  This translates to a jpeg file size of about 1.5 to 5.0 Mb, or a 6.0 megapixel camera set at maximum resolution and minimum compression.  It is desirable to take closeup images using a flash with the smallest possible aperture.  This produces a very broad depth of field (everything is in focus) and a less distracting, dark background.  Example:

Click to view high resolution


Note: all images are freely available for non-commercial use without obtaining permission.  For details, see the Terms of Use of the site.  See "submitting images" if you are interested in submitting images for use on the site.