Lighting techniques for coin photography - updated
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Brandon -

Thanks very much for reposting this. It should be very helpful to members.

I'll add that a single large diffuse source, placed upward and facing the portrait front, will produce excellent results, also.

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Excellent post! I have made a lot of progress over the last year with smaller copper coins, but my recent ventures with large medals have proven more difficult. The biggest issue being proper lighting. The diffusers in your last illustration are interesting, and I may give this a shot and see how it turns out.

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Thanks, great post (I've used up my quota of likes for today).

The only thing I should suggest folks try is to TIP the coin at various angles and rotate it into various positions.  That gives many more options to "get it just right."

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42 minutes ago, Insider said:

Thanks, great post (I've used up my quota of likes for today).

The only thing I should suggest folks try is to TIP the coin at various angles and rotate it into various positions.  That gives many more options to "get it just right."

I would strongly disagree.  If you’re just looking at a coin, tilting into a light source is a good idea.  
 

If you’re trying to take in focus photos you should absolutely not tilt the coin.  Macro photography functions with very shallow depth of field.  Tilting a coin causes the surface of the coin to only be in focus for part of the coin, not the full coin. 

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49 minutes ago, brg5658 said:

I would strongly disagree.  If you’re just looking at a coin, tilting into a light source is a good idea.  
 

If you’re trying to take in focus photos you should absolutely not tilt the coin.  Macro photography functions with very shallow depth of field.  Tilting a coin causes the surface of the coin to only be in focus for part of the coin, not the full coin. 

:facepalm: You do?   As a proclaimed long-time numismatic photographer, you have pointed out the basic concept of DEPTH OF FIELD.  It allows the entire coin to be in focus when each of its sides is a different distance (when tipped) from the camera lens. 

(tsk) your "dodge" :whistle: using "micro-anything" does not apply when imaging the entire coin.   

Edited by Insider

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10 minutes ago, Insider said:

:facepalm: You do?   As a proclaimed long-time numismatic photographer, you have pointed out the basic concept of DEPTH OF FIELD.  It allows the entire coin to be in focus when each of its sides is a different distance (when tipped) from the camera lens. 

(tsk) your "dodge" :whistle: using "micro-anything" does not apply when imaging the entire coin.   

Your reply makes zero sense to me, so I'm not sure how to make sense of your inability to make a cogent argument.  That being said...

When taking photos of an entire coin, it is extremely important that the coin's surface be perfectly parallel to the camera sensor (or said in another way, perfectly perpendicular to the camera lens' long axis).  Tilting a coin into the light source breaks this very basic rule.  The importance of this is dictated because the depth of field is quite shallow for macro-photography (as I already stated).  Thus, tilting a coin will cause part of the surface to be out of focus.  This problem can be overcome by something called "focus stacking" of images.  However, that requires taking multiple photos of a coin at different focus points and then piecing or "gluing" those images back together in software to create a fully in-focus reconstructed image.  That method is far outside the scope of the post here - which is lighting.

@Insider: I nave not seen you post what I would call even quasi-professional-quality coin photographs.  As such, please refrain from derailing this thread - the purpose of which is to give people pointers on how to properly light full-coin photographs.

 

 

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56 minutes ago, brg5658 said:

Your reply makes zero sense to me, so I'm not sure how to make sense of your inability to make a cogent argument.  That being said...

When taking photos of an entire coin, it is extremely important that the coin's surface be perfectly parallel to the camera sensor (or said in another way, perfectly perpendicular to the camera lens' long axis).  Tilting a coin into the light source breaks this very basic rule.  The importance of this is dictated because the depth of field is quite shallow for macro-photography (as I already stated).  Thus, tilting a coin will cause part of the surface to be out of focus.  This problem can be overcome by something called "focus stacking" of images.  However, that requires taking multiple photos of a coin at different focus points and then piecing or "gluing" those images back together in software to create a fully in-focus reconstructed image.  That method is far outside the scope of the post here - which is lighting.

@Insider: I nave not seen you post what I would call even quasi-professional-quality coin photographs.  As such, please refrain from derailing this thread - the purpose of which is to give people pointers on how to properly light full-coin photographs.

 

 

:facepalm: Tipping objects in the light is a common practice of professional photographers.  I didn't come up with that "tip" all by myself.  I was taught that in a photography class in 1982.  Perhaps you should read a book on Photography.  

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3 minutes ago, Insider said:

:facepalm: Tipping objects in the light is a common practice of professional photographers.  I didn't come up with that "tip" all by myself.  I was taught that in a photography class in 1982.  Perhaps you should read a book on Photography.  

You do not tip coins into light at the working distances required for coin photographs.  The extremely shallow depth of field precludes it.  There are ways of using tilt-shift lenses, but that is, again beyond the scope of this thread (which is about lighting for the umpteenth time).  Based on the lack of quality of all photos I have ever seen you post on these boards or elsewhere, you are clearly mis-informed about coin photography.  This isn't 1982 any more.

Could you please stop trying to derail this thread.  When you have something useful to contribute please do - but you clearly do NOT on this topic.

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I'll only add that tilting a coin for photography also distorts geometry of the surface and is NEVER done except in very specific circumstances. (Such as photographing the side of inscriptions.)

Now returning control to brg5658, who understands what he is doing.

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2 hours ago, Insider said:

:facepalm: You do?   As a proclaimed long-time numismatic photographer, you have pointed out the basic concept of DEPTH OF FIELD.  It allows the entire coin to be in focus when each of its sides is a different distance (when tipped) from the camera lens. 

(tsk) your "dodge" :whistle: using "micro-anything" does not apply when imaging the entire coin.   

There is no need to take their word for it. Mark Goodman discusses the importance of the coin being square to the camera in his book (page 63). 

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A final question:

There are about six of you posting on this thread.  Has any one of you ever tipped a coin while imaging it?  Yet you know it does not work.  Interesting. :whistle:

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16 minutes ago, Insider said:

A final question:

There are about six of you posting on this thread.  Has any one of you ever tipped a coin while imaging it?  Yet you know it does not work.  Interesting. :whistle:

Yep...and for the reason stated.

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47 minutes ago, Insider said:

A final question:

There are about six of you posting on this thread.  Has any one of you ever tipped a coin while imaging it?  Yet you know it does not work.  Interesting. :whistle:

Yes, I have and it distorted the image. 

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If your using a point and shoot or cell phone to take photos you can get away with some slight tipping, but most modern DSLR cameras and macro lens setups will not like that at all.

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1 hour ago, Insider said:

A final question:

There are about six of you posting on this thread.  Has any one of you ever tipped a coin while imaging it?  Yet you know it does not work.  Interesting. :whistle:

Yes, it does not work for all of the reasons I have already told you more than once. It may work if you don’t care if a coin is all in focus, but that isn’t the point of my replies and you know it. 
 

And a question for you:

Have you ever taken a professional quality full coin photo of a coin? I have never seen you post anything besides very poor quality micro-graphs. I get that you know grading and conserving coins.  I don’t believe for one second that you know anything about professional quality coin photography. Prove me wrong and let’s see some of your recently taken professional quality coin photos. :whistle:

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45 minutes ago, brg5658 said:

Yes, it does not work for all of the reasons I have already told you more than once. It may work if you don’t care if a coin is all in focus, but that isn’t the point of my replies and you know it. 
 

And a question for you:

Have you ever taken a professional quality full coin photo of a coin? I have never seen you post anything besides very poor quality micro-graphs. I get that you know grading and conserving coins.  I don’t believe for one second that you know anything about professional quality coin photography. Prove me wrong and let’s see some of your recently taken professional quality coin photos. :whistle:

I'm not interested in proving you wrong.  I'm interested in showing you in particular how to respond to a DIRECT QUESTION!  Therefore, I will take a full image of a coin for you just his one time next week because as I posted before, our folks are busy using our equipment to take images for customers. Also - the main reason - what I usually show does not need a full coin image, color correction, one of the edge, etc.    :nyah:

 

PS  I NEVER CLAIMED to take professional quality photographs of coins.  I have had three of my photographs on display in a Georgetown, DC Gallery in the 1980's.  That was before many folks with a digital camera CRUTCH were born.  The hundreds of images in my columns over the decades don't count as professional quality.     

Edited by Insider

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40 minutes ago, Coinbuf said:

If your using a point and shoot or cell phone to take photos you can get away with some slight tipping, but most modern DSLR cameras and macro lens setups will not like that at all.

You may have the answer.  The new cameras don't tolerate tipping.  I'll see for myself next week.

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Does this same technique work for darkly toned or circulated, dark copper / brass / bronze coins or tokens?

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13 minutes ago, Insider said:

I'm not interested in proving you wrong.  I'm interested in showing you in particular how to respond to a DIRECT QUESTION!  Therefore, I will take a full image of a coin for you just his one time next week because as I posted before, our folks are busy using our equipment to take images for customers. Also - the main reason - what I usually show does not need a full coin image, color correction, one of the edge, etc.    :nyah:

Well, I asked to see your pictures. Not one of your company’s. Let’s see your full coin photo taken with your equipment.  Not the multi-thousand dollar equipment your company owns.  

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2 minutes ago, Just Bob said:

Does this same technique work for darkly toned or circulated, dark copper / brass / bronze coins or tokens?

Yes, it does.  You need to be flexible on the variables of number of lights and placement.  I am trying to give general advice for taking better lit coin images.  As I note at the end of the post, you have to practice - nothing is foolproof. 

Below are a few images I have taken of coins and tokens in my collection, most through plastic slabs.


1790s_Middlsex_DH342_direct_perpendicula

1804_HalfCent_PCGS_AU53_composite_zps21b

1919_France_1Franc_PCGS_MS66_Toned_compo

1958D_NGC_MS66FBL_Toned_composite_zps438

1960_EastTincup_Dollar_HK585_NGC_MS65_co

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The degree to which a particular camera system can or cannot handle the depth of field implications of a non-parallel coin and sensor (or film) is dependent on the actual diameter of the aperture. Note: this is NOT the f-stop number, which is a ratio of the focal length to that diameter. Very short focal lengths, as used in every phone, or extraordinarily bright light (enabling some truly weird f-stop settings) can help. Tilting in general is a horrible idea. One exception: a true view camera, with the ability to tilt the lens in relation to the focal plane. That can create an object focal plane of any tilt one desires. But no one here is going there.

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15 hours ago, brg5658 said:

Well, I asked to see your pictures. Not one of your company’s. Let’s see your full coin photo taken with your equipment.  Not the multi-thousand dollar equipment your company owns.  

I'm writing this with the biggest grin on my face - you've got all of us laughing :roflmao:around here.  Thanks kid.  :x

:pullhair: Please, Please, Please!  Stop letting what appears to be jealous hatred cloud your basic ENGLISH COMPREHENSION SKILLS.  Just because you are totally uninformed about what is going around you in real life I HAVE NEVER QUESTIONED your numismatic photography skills.  CLEAR?  UNDERSTAND?  

You have challenged me to take a photo.  I am going to use MY COMPANY'S CAMERA, Light box and setup to photograph a coin.  I'M DOING IT . Understand now?  I'm putting the coin under the camera, adjusting the light, and cameral settings and I'M TAKING THE IMAGE.  You don't get to modify your smug and stupid challenge.  Changing your request is asking me to hit a fastball with a ping pong racquet. :facepalm:  Shame (tsk) on you.   Furthermore anymore "snowflake" whining and you'll get nothing more from me. :hi:

PS  Photographing a coin is EASY USING A DIGITAL CRUTCH with the right setup!  Everyone is doing it (including you) and posting images.  Best of all, I'll bet most of those folks can READ and comprehend a post.      

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9 minutes ago, VKurtB said:

The degree to which a particular camera system can or cannot handle the depth of field implications of a non-parallel coin and sensor (or film) is dependent on the actual diameter of the aperture. Note: this is NOT the f-stop number, which is a ratio of the focal length to that diameter. Very short focal lengths, as used in every phone, or extraordinarily bright light (enabling some truly weird f-stop settings) can help. Tilting in general is a horrible idea. One exception: a true view camera, with the ability to tilt the lens in relation to the focal plane. That can create an object focal plane of any tilt one desires. But no one here is going there.

Film. :preach: That made me LOL.  :roflmao:

If you’re taking coin photos with a film camera in 2020 I think it’s time to flash forward to the 21st Century. 

Otherwise good reply.  Thanks. 

 

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Here we see the implications of something @Insider has previously "bragged" about - his adherence to what is called "empiricism". He doesn't care how or why something works, he knows how to flush a toilet. (Or something to that effect.) What @brg5658 is providing here is solid advice, based on the physics and optics of photography. We need to listen up.

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5 minutes ago, Insider said:

I'm writing this with the biggest grin on my face - you've got all of us laughing :roflmao:around here.  Thanks kid.  :x

:pullhair: Please, Please, Please!  Stop letting what appears to be jealous hatred cloud your basic ENGLISH COMPREHENSION SKILLS.  Just because you are totally uninformed about what is going around you in real life I HAVE NEVER QUESTIONED your numismatic photography skills.  CLEAR?  UNDERSTAND?  

You have challenged me to take a photo.  I am going to use MY COMPANY'S CAMERA, Light box and setup to photograph a coin.  I'M DOING IT . Understand now?  I'm putting the coin under the camera, adjusting the light, and cameral settings and I'M TAKING THE IMAGE.  You don't get to modify your smug and stupid challenge.  Changing your request is asking me to hit a fastball with a ping pong racquet. :facepalm:  Shame (tsk) on you.   Furthermore anymore "snowflake" whining and you'll get nothing more from me. :hi:

PS  Photographing a coin is EASY USING A DIGITAL CRUTCH with the right setup!  Everyone is doing it (including you) and posting images.  Best of all, I'll bet most of those folks can READ and comprehend a post.      

Your replies make me laugh too, for a 75 year old keyboard warrior.  :preach:

I look forward to your professional quality full coin image Skip. Then we will expect such quality from all of your future challenge/quiz posts. 

(thumbsu

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8 minutes ago, brg5658 said:

Film. :preach: That made me LOL.  :roflmao:

If you’re taking coin photos with a film camera in 2020 I think it’s time to flash forward to the 21st Century. 

Otherwise good reply.  Thanks. 

 

I do own and use a 4x5 view camera quite regularly. I use both Ilford monochrome and Fujichrome color emulsions regularly. If I ever start using it for coins, it's time to hunt me down and shoot me. I use the principles I have learned from using a view camera, but NOT the camera. 

 

However, I am not quite sure how I feel about "professional coin photography" in the first instance. I see it as potentially a tool to misinform. After all, my first wife went to a chain called Glamor Shots, and she looked amazing. Well...… you can guess the rest.

Edited by VKurtB

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2 minutes ago, VKurtB said:

I do own and use a 4x5 view camera quite regularly. I use both Ilford monochrome and Fujichrome color emulsions regularly. If I ever start using it for coins, it's time to hunt me down and shoot me. I use the principles I have learned form using a view camera, but NOT the camera. 

I am familiar with your (and your father’s) photography skills and backgrounds.  I don’t doubt them for one second: 4x5 images are stunning and something digital cameras as of yet cannot replicate.  (thumbsu thanks Kurt. 

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9 minutes ago, brg5658 said:

I am familiar with your (and your father’s) photography skills and backgrounds.  I don’t doubt them for one second: 4x5 images are stunning and something digital cameras as of yet cannot replicate.  (thumbsu thanks Kurt. 

Thank you much. We lost dad in August of 2017. He was 95. He wanted to live to see the eclipse. He missed by three days. His finest work was as a 16mm travel filmmaker.

Speaking of Minnesota ( @brg5658 ), he was among the first to open a color photo lab, made by Pako of Minneapolis, when Kodak lost monopoly power to develop color film.

Edited by VKurtB

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