CMRC Children's Memorial Research Center
Technology Article

Knowledgeable Manipulation of Digital Imaging

InTouch Spring 2008 (Volume 5: Issue 1)

What digital photography has done for the vacationer, it has also done for the medical researcher. The ability to take lots of pictures, store and sort them easily has made imaging with microscopes easier and more productive. Since almost anyone can edit those digital images with powerful applications such as Adobe® Photoshop®, there is a real need for scientists and medical researchers to know what is permissible and what is not when it comes to digital editing.
Bill Goossens, manager of the Microscopy and Imaging Facility of Children's Memorial Research Center, presented a seminar to guide these individuals through the process of capturing images with microscopes and preparing them for publication. The seminar, entitled “Imaging in microscopy—Microscope to manuscript” was presented on February 22, 2008.
Goossens began with a discussion of why we really cannot trust what we think we see, illustrated by a series of optical illusions. Because our eyes and brain are so inherently connected, our brain often “sees” what we want instead of what is really there. He continued by reviewing some basic and advanced techniques, including how to get the best images possible from the microscope systems at the research center, an interesting comparison between consumer and scientific digital cameras and a discussion about the most effective ways to archive scientific images. Images, which are in fact part of scientific data, must be manipulated with knowledge of distortions, misrepresentations and data loss when being prepared for publication. Goossens emphasized that most prominent scientific journals are modifying their requirements for digital images, and detailed what researchers should be doing to ensure that their images (data) will be safe from challenge. He concluded with some famous and infamous faked pictures throughout history to illustrate the dangers of misusing the technologies we have at our disposal.
(Left) Always use the highest objective possible rather than relying on cropping and zooming later.
(Right) Scientists might choose to save images in JPG format because they are easier to store. The difference in quality may be difficult to detect. However, at high resolution, JPG images are far inferior to TIF images.