About the Images

Individual Moth Photographs Back to top

Virtually all of the images that appear in the species accounts and photographic plates on this website were taken using the Visionary Digital BK Plus Imaging System., illustrated below:

This state-of-the-art system couples a high-resolution digital SLR camera (Canon 40D) that features a suite of lenses for different degrees of magnification (we used a 100mm macro lens for all but the largest specimens), powerful studio flash lighting to allow small apertures (and thus adequate depth of field), an a computer-driven camera lift operated by a high-end image processing computer. A set of reflectors and diffusors make it possible to obtain lighting that is both bright and soft – a challenge for macrophotography in general. We have found it difficult to obtain similar results using other setups, largely due to limitations in lighting, resulting in poor depth of field and/or blurriness from vibrations that occur with slow shutter speeds.

Viewing the Images in High Resolution Back to top

The moth images on this site can be viewed in high resolution on the individual species account pages. For example, here is what you will see at the page for Grammia ornata:

The large image is one of a series of images of this species. To see other images of the featured species in large format, use the arrow to the right of the small thumbnail images below the large image, and click on the image you wish to see. Note that clicking the images under Similar Species will cause a new window to open, featuring the Species Account for that similar species. To see a portion of the featured image in higher detail, use the – or + symbols to the right of the Z, in the menu bar just below the large image (see the arrow in the image below):

You can then use the directional arrows to the right of the – and + to scroll across the image, or you can grab and move the selection box in the upper-left corner of the image to change the part of the image that you are examining. The most stunning way to view the images on this site, however, is to view the images in full screen format. There, you can see the images in large size, with the ability to zoom in further (using the same menu choices as described above) to see portions of the wings or body in incredibly high resolution. To select this option, click the “Toggle Full Page View” button, indicated in the image below (clicking this button while in full screen mode will return you to the species account view):

A Guide to Making Photographic Plates Back to top

**The methods we use for producing photographic plates are adapted from methods developed by Jocelyn Gill, of the Canadian National Collection. Special thanks to Jocelyn for sharing her tried and true photo-manipulating tricks! This description is written for users of Adobe Photoshop version CS3, but the functions described below also exist in the newest version of Photoshop.  To use this guide, you will need a basic understanding of the use of Photoshop.  Note that advanced users may streamline many of the tasks described below by using Photoshop macro commands.

Setting up the Plate Template: The first step is to set up a blank plate template to use for all plates. Always keep a copy of this template, so you can easily start up a new blank plate when you have filled the one on which you are currently working.

  1. First, decide on the size of the plate you want to make. This may depend on the size of paper you might be using for printing/publishing. For example, we created 8" x 10" plates, so that they could be printed on 8½" by 11" paper.
    1. In Photoshop, create a new document by selecting the File, and selecting New in the scroll-down menu. Then name the file and change the size to 8" width by 10" length (or other dimensions, if you prefer).

  2. Next, choose a background color for the plate. We used light grey, to allow the colors of the moths to be easily seen, without having the background color be too distracting.
    1. From the main menu panel on the left, choose the paint bucket tool, which is the 12th icon down on the tool panel on the left (or you can open it with the default keyboard shortcut, by pressing the letter G). This icon position is shared with the gradient tool, so if the paint bucket is not selected, right click the icon and change it to the paint bucket tool.
    2. Next, choose the background color for the plate. To do so, you can change the RGB values manually by sliding the arrows in the color menu, or you can simply click the color box, and this will bring up the color palette from which you can select a color. For the grey background of our plates, we used values R= 209, G=210, and B=211. After selecting a color or specifying the RGB values, click the background and it will fill with the color that you have chosen.
  3. A scale bar is necessary to indicate the scale of the specimens illustrated on the plates, relative to life size.  We scaled the plates so that all moths would be life size when the plates were viewed in an 8" x 10" format, but we also added a 10 mm scale bar to each plate, so viewers could determine how much larger or smaller than life size they were viewing a particular plate (if it were viewed at a size other than 8" x 10").
    1. To produce a 1cm scale bar, first change the units of the main ruler in Photoshop (the one seen at the top of the screen) to mm. To do this, go to Edit>Preferences>Units and Rulers and change this to mm.
    2. Next, click the shapes tool (keyboard shortcut U, or the 18th icon down on the tool panel on the left), and click the line tool. Choose different shapes by right clicking (control-click for Mac users) the shapes icon. Choose or change the color of the line in the same way you chose a color for the background. We used black.
    3. Change the thickness of the line by changing the value in the “weight” box at the top of the screen when the line tool is selected. We used 1 mm.
    4. Once you have selected the color and weight of your scale bar, use the line tool to draw a line to the length you want by lining up the line with the ruler on the top of the screen.

    5. Next drag the line to the bottom left corner (or wherever you want the scale bar to appear), and with a textbox (keyboard shortcut T) type text (e.g., 10 mm) to indicate the length of the scale bar you created.
  4. To add a title, subtitles, and a footer for your plate, use a font/size that appeals to you, and that will be legible when printed. We used the following for our plates:
    1. Title = Arial Bold, 12 pt font
    2. Subtitle = Arial Bold, 11 pt font
    3. Footer = Arial Regular, 6 pt font

    Editing Moth Images: the next step is to edit individual moth images (.tif format) to add to the plates.

  5. First you will need to crop the image of the moth, so that the image contains the moth and the scale bar from the original .tif image, but no background color (that way, none of the original background will show when the image is transferred to the plate).
    1. First, make a copy of the individual moth .tif image (to avoid making any changes to the original file).  Open the new copy and right click (control-click for Mac users) the layers panel and select in the drop down menu “merge visible”. This will merge ALL of your layers together into ONE layer, so that the scale bar and the moth are now considered one image. This will make things easier for the next step.
    2. Next, select the magic wand tool (keyboard shortcut W, or the fourth icon down on the main tools panel on the left). This is shared with the quick selection tool, so you may need to right click (control-click for Mac users) and change it to the magic wand tool. The magic wand tool is used to select certain portions of an image, and one can change the sensitivity of what is selected by changing the tolerance. We used a tolerance of 20. 
    3. Once you have selected the magic wand tool, click anywhere in the background of the image of the moth. After you have done this, most or all of the moth and the scale bar should be outlined with a flashing dashed line. To add major areas that were left out (e.g., if a substantial part of the moth is not included within the area surrounded by the dashed line), hold control and click those omitted areas that you would like to include.  

    4. The dashed outline indicates what will be cropped, and we ultimately want to crop the entire moth and the scale bar. Sometimes there are small crevices between the legs or areas between plumose antennae that can’t be picked up by the magic wand tool very well.  The easiest way to highlight these places is to manually select them with the Quick Mask Tool (keyboard shortcut Q, or the second to last icon on the tool panel on the left).
    5. Notice that what you have selected with the magic wand tool has now turned red. The red area indicates what will be left after you crop the image. Here, you can zoom in and find small areas that you either want to include in the crop, or want to remove from the crop.

    6. To add something to the cropped image, select the Brush Tool (keyboard shortcut B, or the 8th icon on the tool panel on the left). You can change the size of the brush tool by adjusting the menu on the top left of the screen to the size you would like. To select areas to add to the cropped image, simply draw with the brush over what you want to include. Any areas added to the cropped image should turn red as you add them.
    7. To erase something from the cropped image, select the Eraser Tool (keyboard shortcut E, or the 11th icon on panel on the left). Again, you can change the size of the eraser tool by adjusting the menu on the top left of the screen to the size you would like. Simply draw with the eraser over what you want to remove from the cropped image. It should turn back to normal color if you are “erasing” it from the image to be cropped.

    8. Once you have everything highlighted that you want to include (and nothing highlighted that you don't want to include), click the Quick Mask tool again and go back to viewing the selection (the red will be gone now, but all the things you selected will be outlined with the flashing dashed lines).
  6. Because the area that was highlighted in red indicates what is going to be removed from the final image, we need to reverse this, so that the area that was in red will be the portion of the image that remains after cropping.  To do this reversal, first go to the main menu bar and click Select>Save Selection and then name it whatever you would like.

    1. Next, from the main menu click Select> Load Selection and click on the name you just created and check the box that says invert. This will invert your original selection so that just the moth and the scale bar will be left.

    2. We need to make a new file onto which the new cropped image will be saved. Create a new file and name it accordingly. We usually make the dimensions of the new file 40 inches by 40 inches, which is enough space for the new image to fit without too much resizing (our image originals are large!). Once you have made the new file, grab the moth by using the Move Tool (keyboard shortcut V) and dragging it over to the new file.

    3. Close the original file without saving. You are now left with your perfectly cropped moth image and scale bar without any background.

    4. The last thing to do before moving the moth onto the plate is to remove the pinhead from the image. To do so, select the Clone Stamp Tool (keyboard shortcut S, or the 9th icon on the left side). Select the layer with the moth and hold the Alt button while clicking an area near the pin head, and then letting go of the Alt button and clicking on the pin head. This will replace the pinhead with a copy of what was in the place where you first clicked Alt.  You can change the size of the brush, the opacity and the flow of what is copied and pasted by adjusting the bars on the top left menu of the screen when the clone stamp tool is selected. It takes a bit of work and artistic creativity to clone areas surrounding the pin head to make it look natural, so keep at it!

    5. You can also use this method to fix rips, tears, holes and missing antennae from the moth image. However, if you are working with images of holotype specimens, you CANNOT make these kinds of changes, as images of holotypes must not be retouched.

    Transferring Moth Images to Plates: What follows are the final steps of creating plates, including transferring the images, sizing, creating shadows, naming/labels and aligning specimens.

  7. Open the plate template and the edited moth image. Grab the moth image using the Move Tool (keyboard shortcut V) and drag it onto the plate.
  8. Before you do anything else, the moth image needs to be resized according to the scale bar (created earlier) on the plate.
    1. Move the moth image to the lower left corner (where the scale bar is), and begin to size the image by grabbing corners of the box around the image and dragging. Be sure to hold the shift key while you size the image so that the proportions stay the same.
    2. The scale bars we added to our original moth images were 10 mm, which is why we made the scale bar on the plate 10 mm. Thus, to scale the moth correctly for the plate, we just need to make the scale bar on the moth image match the size of the scale bar on the plate.
    3. Once this is done, your moth is now the correct size, and you can remove the scale bar from the moth image by selecting the eraser tool (keyboard shortcut E) and erasing it.
  9. Next, add a shadow to the moth.
    1. From the top drop down menu select Layer> Layer Style> Drop Shadow
    2. From this menu you can adjust the opacity of the shadow, the color, the distance, size and spread of the shadow, as well as the angle from which the lighting is coming (the standard for scientific illustrations is for the light to be coming from the top left, casting a shadow to the lower right). Play around with the shadow options until you get the look you want. For our plates, we used:
      1. Color = Dark Grey
      2. Angle =120°
      3. Distance= 70 px
      4. Spread = 0%
      5. Size= 85 px
    3. If you have many moth images on one plate, you can right click (control-click for Mac users) the moth image that has the shadow you like, and from the menu select Copy Layer Style and then paste this layer style onto other moths on the plate (so that you don’t have to manually create the shadow for every moth).

    Creating Names and Lining up Specimens: the last steps are to create name labels for your moth images, and to line up and organize the images.

  10. To create a name label, click the Type Tool (keyboard shortcut T) and type the name of the specimen. We used Arial Bold Italic 8 pt font for our plates.
  11. One of the hardest parts of making the plates is lining up specimens and name labels, and getting things to look the way you want them to. This takes a bit of moving and adjusting, and can be made easier by using grid lines (from the main menu select View > Show> Grid (or keyboard shortcut Ctrl ‘)) as a guide to line up specimens. For our plates, we lined up the trailing margin of the forewing of all moth specimens in the same row.
  12. Another option is to create your own lines (the same way the scale bar was created earlier) that span the length of the plate, and line up the name labels and moths using those as guides.

  13. Congratulations - you have finished building a photographic plate!

Image of a Finished Plate