Improve Your Photography Through the Microscope: 3 Ways to Capture High-Quality Images

Attaching a digital camera to your light microscope allows you to expand your capabilities of microanalysis. Capturing an image that accurately represents your view as seen through your microscope can be tricky. Following these three steps will improve your photography through the microscope, support your findings, and convey your data.

photomicrograph of a pharmaceutical drug product
This image was captured at 500X magnification
using a digital camera attached to a polarized light
microscope with the polarizers fully crossed, using
transmitted and coaxial illumination. 

1.  Equipment

High-quality photographic images are achieved using microscopes with specific attributes. The microscope must be well-maintained, equipped with high magnification and high numerical aperture objectives, and also have a high resolution camera. Lenses and optical surfaces within the camera and microscope as well as optical surfaces used for mounting your sample, such as slides and cover glasses, must be free from dirt and dust particles.

2.  Microscopy

The color temperature and intensity of the light source must be tweaked and optimized to view your sample. When a compound microscope is being used, Köhler-type illumination should be configured. Most importantly, proper adjustment of the aperture diaphragm must be accomplished because it controls the resolving power, depth of field, and contrast.

3.  Camera Settings

A replica of what the scientist views through the eyepieces must be obtained and replicated on the external monitor. Prior to capturing a digital image, settings within the camera’s software may need to be manipulated. Be aware of your surrounding environment when doing so. Ambient light from a window or overhead light may interfere with the outcome.

White Balance
White balance adjusts the image sensor with respect to the color temperature of the microscope’s light so that the digital representation is white without other color hues.

The exposure is the length of time the camera’s aperture setting will spend capturing the image. Darker fields of view may require longer exposure time resulting in a brighter image displayed on the monitor, whereas bright fields of view may require a short exposure time. Again, ambient light may interfere.

The image’s color intensity is controlled by the saturation setting. Slight alterations of the saturation can drastically change the representation of the image.

Contrast adjusts the tones in the image and can be used to match the adjustments made with the aperture diaphragm. Contrast and saturation are often altered in parallel to one another.

Image editing software manipulation should never be used to compensate for bad microscopy or poor photography. Using the right equipment, color-balanced illumination, and good microscopy techniques will ensure quality images when practicing photography through the microscope.


Frank Karl

I always thought that camera resolution would be an important factor. A 4 meg camera shows better quality than a 1 meg camera.

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