Continued from the previous post, I will continue to focus on the article on materials sciences. Today we are going to focus more with photos. Photo reference is a great way to present ‘live’ data as the evidence of research, and is typically used in papers that involves experiments. Today’s paper also shows live results in their materials sciences research.

Making photo evidence is composed of two parts: taking good photos and editing the photos to make them look even better. I am not a professional photographer so I can’t talk too much about the former par, however, there are great courses and website that provides more detailed information in taking good evidence photos, such as this EdX course. I highly recommend checking them out. I am going to focus more on the photo editing aspect in this post.

Let’s go back to Figure 1D of the paper. The series of panel is great because it shows the properties of the materials from various aspects. They effectively show that the materials can be adhesive, stretchy and string-like, depending on different materials processing and composition. Here are some key points the authors can consider:

  1. Zoom in more

There are a lot of unnecessary information and the pictures are not centered on what is important. In figure panel iii, there is no need to show the entire vial: it makes the structure hard to see. In figure panel i, you barely see the stringy structure adhere to the umbrella-looking structure because it is not focused close enough to the string.

  1. Background noise

Although these photos are great evidence that shows the authors’ claim, the background makes it harder to seeing the material in some of the photos such as panel i and panel iii. Here are some tips in that I would take regarding the background that can help to take good photos.

  • I will use a matte, uniform background and avoid including hard edges as much as possible.
  • I will make the resolution higher and the focal depth shallower so that the background appears less grainy.
  • With the material being white, I would use a background color that is high contrast with white, such as black.

Unfortunately, retaking a photo is not something that I can fix on a fly: however, I can make the photo look instantly much easier to read using Photoshop or other equivalent softwares.

What parameter do you adjust? The answer is the curves.

Curves enable you to control color, contrasts, and brightness in a single command. Using this, you can exaggerate the dark color to be darker and the light color to be lighter to and show the claim point of your evidence more clearly. I will leave a disclaimer that changing the curves is not best practice for photo evidence in which quantitative information is important such as optical density and RGB values; examples of such images include microscopy images or blotting data, (I am planning another article that talks more in detail).

The dialog box looks like this. The diagonal line represents the “tonality”, namely how the dark and bright regions of your photo should be represented on the screen. You can pick anywhere along the line and move it to adjust the contrast of the photo. Just remember that moving the curves to the top and the left makes the images lighter and lower in contrast and moving the curves to the opposite causes darker photos that are higher in contrast.

Here is the curve that I created to adjust the photos. I took the color in between the midtone and the darker color and made it darker and created more contrast. By doing so I toned down the background color so that the string-like structure be more apparent. Remember, that it is okay to adjust the photo only if you apply the change across the photo.

And here’s what you see. Do you see that now you can see the string much easier? You will be surprised to know that I made this change in less than 5 minutes. Now it’s your turn!


Dong, S., Leng, J., Feng, Y., Liu, M., Stackhouse, C. J., Schönhals, A., … & Jin, L. (2017). Structural water as an essential comonomer in supramolecular polymerization. Science Advances3(11), eaao0900.