Photomicrography—the process of taking pictures with a microscope—is both an art and a science.
As an amateur microscopist specializing in studying exotic mushroom spores (which for the purposes of this post we’ll assume you are, however the information herein will be valuable to any novice microscopist), the ability to take pictures of your spores as you work with them can greatly enhance the enjoyment experienced. Whether your goal is to take pictures for documentation and taxonomy purposes, for the artistic value, or just for fun, it’s well worth learning how this technology works and how to use it.
Like any other photograph, your micrographs can be stored digitally or even printed out and framed, if you desire. Spores, as you may already know, are beautiful in their own right, if not as a result of their appearance than for their mycological allure. Possessing a collection of high-definition pictures of these living progenitors to mycelium and mature fruiting fungal bodies—mushrooms—to study at your leisure will give you a unique insight into the biology of the mysterious and often-misunderstood Kingdom Fungi.
Photomicrography doesn’t require particularly hard-to-find or expensive equipment; one could easily get started with just a few hundred dollars. While the results won’t be as impressive as what you could accomplish with thousands of dollars worth of specialized equipment, most hobbyists are pleasantly surprised at the relatively low barrier of entry to photomicrography—which is a good thing indeed, since taking pictures of your specimens is the next logical step for any home microscopist.
Speaking of equipment, we’ll begin by (very) quickly touching on what you need to get started in both general microscopy and photomicrography, and then we’ll provide you with a few tips on how to take better pictures of your spores.
Quick Recap: Basic Microscopy Equipment Needed & How to Get Started in the Hobby
Just so that you have everything in one place, we wanted to quickly give you a few resources about getting started in the amateur microscopy hobby.
Our article simply titled Amateur Microscopy is a great place to start; you’ll learn the basics every beginner needs to know and why microscopy is an important skill to learn for mycologists or even just general fungi enthusiasts.
For a deeper explanation of the “why’s” of microscopy with a specific focus on fungi and their spores, read our article Mushroom Spores & Microscopy Research. You’ll get a crash-course on the reproductive cycle of fungi alongside a detailed explanation of why it’s so important that mycologists, environmentalists, anthropologists, medical researchers, and those in many other scientific fields continue to research these fascinating organisms.
Finally, we must also suggest our three part blog series The Complete Guide to Amateur Microscopy and Studying Psilocybin Mushroom Spores (Part 2, Part 3), where you’ll be able to really dig into the nitty-gritty of the hobby, including microscope and equipment suggestions alongside helpful tips.
Photomicrography Equipment – It’s Easier to Get Started Than You Might Think!
If you’re not using a microscope with a built-in camera as shown in the previous section, you can actually buy microscope camera adapters. These small accessories act as a way for you to use a camera you may already own with your microscope. They work quite well and can eliminate some of the cost barriers that come along with more specialized equipment.
Ranging in price from a mere $25 for a mobile phone adapter to $1,000 and more for very high end adapters, our recommendation is to start off by getting an adapter appropriate for the best quality camera you own. Unfortunately, with so many different camera models (and thus accompanying adapters) we can’t make a specific recommendation, so make sure to research your purchase appropriately.
If all you have is a mobile phone and you just want an affordable way to dip your toes into the photomicrography hobby, then just go ahead and get one of the mobile phone adapters for your device—the results can be surprisingly good, and the price is certainly right.
Will a photomicrograph taken with a high-end DSLR Nikon look better? Sure, but a phone camera adapter is more than serviceable. If you end up really loving taking pictures of your specimens, you can upgrade later.
Taking Better Photomicrographs: Brief Pointers
If you’re just starting out as an amateur microscopist, don’t worry so much about taking pictures right away. It’s better to fully understand how to use your microscope first. Once you’re comfortable, then start taking pictures—and when you do, you may want to try some of the following:
- Look into dark-field microscopy. This is a microscopy technique which involves the use of specialized (but cheap) filters. It makes the background of your specimen appear to be dark, and the specimen itself will be well lit.
- Another simple-yet-affordable technique to attempt is called oblique illumination. This technique can enhance the contrast of your viewing area and involves putting the filter tray only halfway in, thus allowing the light to only hit the specimen from the side.
- Try using transmitted lighting (light from below the specimen, rather than above). This is in contrast to reflected lighting (light from above). You may have to get a separate adapter for your particular microscope, although many microscopes have lighting on both ends.
And, of course, if you need specimens to study and take pictures of, we have you covered…
Buy Psilocybin Mushroom Spores Online for Photomicrography & Research
Here at Quality Spores, we carry a wide assortment of viable, living exotic mushroom spores. As we’ve already covered in this post, these specimens are among the most fascinating you can study at home. Affordable and legal, they’re a great option for the amateur microscopist with an interest in mycology.