Structure‐from‐motion (SfM) modeling has dramatically increased the speed of generating geometrically accurate orthophoto mosaics of paleoseismic trenches, but some aspects of this technique remain time and labor intensive. Model accuracy relies on control points to establish scale, reduce distortion, and orient 3D models. Traditional SfM methods use total station or Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) surveys to constrain models, but collecting control points along a vertical trench wall is often inhibited by poor line of sight to the survey sensor or limited sky view and requires many hours in the field and office. We used physical scale bars printed with coded targets to constrain SfM models of a dusty, 46‐m‐long trench excavation across the Teton fault (Wyoming, U.S.A.). We present a workflow for generating quick and accurate 3D SfM models and orthophoto mosaics and compare the effectiveness of using scale bar, GNSS, and total‐station control in the models. Our results show that the scale bar model deviates from total station survey points by an average of 3.1 cm (maximum of 5.3 cm). In addition, the scale‐bar model only deviates an average of 1.7 cm (maximum 3.5 cm) when compared to the best model alternative, the SfM model controlled by the total station survey. Scale bars eliminate several hours needed to collect and incorporate control points from total station or GNSS surveys and significantly simplify the workflow, at the cost of slightly increased 3D model and orthophoto mosaic error. Our results further suggest that trench models can be constrained with at least four physical scale bars, but using five to six physical scale bars provides redundant control for field deployment and model optimization. The scale bar method for paleoseismic trenches proves to be portable and fast, minimizes the need for specialized survey equipment, and maintains model accuracy needed for mapping trench walls.

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