While I was on holiday my latest paper finally went online. It is a joint effort with Oliver Wings that details some good approaches for photogrammetric 3D modelling specimens. You can find the PDF at this link. The web version at the Journal of Palaeontological Techniques is not up yet, but should be within the next few days, starting with this link.

The paper is by far not exhaustive; there are plenty of other approaches to getting good models, and I am sure we could have added 50 more tricks for getting better models. However, the basics are all covered. Basically, if you read this paper beforehand, or if you have it handy while doing photogrammetry, you should be able to consistently produce good-quality models of specimens either in your own collection or during travel.


I have been toying with the idea of writing such a paper for quite a while, even got to the point where I started sorting my thoughts by pre-writing parts of the paper as a series of posts here (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). Just then, Oliver Wings contacted me with the suggestion of writing a Photogrammetry How-to paper together. He sent along a list of dos and don’ts of his own, and we quickly set to work. Totally unusual for paper publishing: the review was the fastest part, the writing and revising was done nearly as quickly, with the figure creation barely longer. Proofing took much longer, and the wait for the paper to appear was the longest part – not because of a printing backlog, but because small journals run by volunteers are typically not too well staffed during the holiday/fieldwork season. Overall, despite the “summer hole” delay, things went very quickly.

We decided very early on that this paper would go to a no-cost open access journal, for the obvious reasons: we did not have much publishing money, and wanted the paper to be available to as many people as possible.

A really cool thing is that I was allowed to use images (and models made from them) taken during my 2013 American Museum of Natural History visit for the blog posts and paper. A huge THANK YOU to Carl Mehling and Mark Norrell for that!


Many thanks also to the two reviewers, Matthew Wedel ( and Stuart Pond (! Stu was the “expert reviewer”, the person who knows a lot about photogrammetry, whereas Matt was the “novice” – someone with little knowledge of photogrammetry, thus our target audience. The editors made an excellent choice 🙂

In the end, Stu suggested a re-structuring that we didn’t do because we wanted the paper to be less a scientific work, with words used as efficiently as possible, and more a how-to guide. The latter requires that some things get repeated in several sections, so that readers do not have to scroll back and forth between sections. Also, if you’re a photogrammetry novice, quite often you will not even realize that another section of the paper has some helpful info, and thus miss out on in when you consult the paper during your work.

We also received unofficial reviews from several people, for which we are very grateful. The more people read such a paper before publication, the better. It eliminates stupid errors that would later confuse lots of people.

A very special thank you goes to Emanuel Tschopp and Peter Falkingham, who handled our submission as editors. They did a very fine job! If you have a palaeo-technical paper to submit, consider JoPT or Palaeontologia Electronica’s Technical Article section. Two excellent choices 🙂

Oliver himself proved to be a very nice person to work with on this manuscript, as he was only interested in producing the best-possible result and dealt with the paper promptly, despite having a lot on his plate. That’s how it should be among co-authors 🙂 I’ve published with him before, most notably a paper (Wings et al. 2007) on a tracksite in the Turfan Basin (PDF here), and I’ll happily do it again. Thank you, Oliver!

My biggest regret, now that the paper is out and immutable, is that my highly successful experiments with photogrammetry with a macro lens came too late. I would have loved adding an example.

So, check out the paper if you want some pointers on photogrammetry – or just come to the DigitalSpecimen 2014 conference! There is a special photogrammetry workshop by Brent Breithaupt and Neffra Matthews, and plenty of talks about it. 🙂




About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy
This entry was posted in 3D modeling, AMNH, Conferences, DigitalSpecimen 2014, Digitizing, Dinopics, Dinosaur models, How to, Khaan, Maniraptora, Open Access publishing, Oviraptorosauridae, papers, photogrammetry, photography, Theropoda. Bookmark the permalink.


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