© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. This contribution reviews the use of modern 3D photo-based surface reconstruction techniques for high fidelity surveys of trenches, rock exposures and hand specimens to highlight their potential for paleoseismology and structural geology. We outline the general approach to data acquisition and processing using ground-based photographs acquired from standard DSLR cameras, and illustrate the use of similar processing approaches on imagery from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). It is shown that digital map and trench data can be acquired at ultra-high resolution and in much shorter time intervals than would be normally achievable through conventional grid mapping. The resulting point clouds and textured models are inherently multidimensional (. x, y, z, point orientation, colour, texture), archival and easily transformed into orthorectified photomosaics or digital elevation models (DEMs). We provide some examples for the use of such techniques in structural geology and paleoseismology while pointing the interested reader to free and commercial software packages for data processing, visualization and 3D interpretation. Photogrammetric models serve to act as an ideal electronic repository for critical outcrops and observations, similar to the electronic lab book approach employed in the biosciences. This paper also highlights future possibilities for rapid semi-automatic to automatic interpretation of the data and advances in technology.