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Coin photography ... new forum?


Coin Photography  

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  1. 1. Do you think we should have a new forum here on CoinPeople dedicated to coin photography?

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When I use a lightbox, I'll usually put the coin and whatever I'm using as a backdrop on some flat surface, like a piece of 1 x 8, and tilt it to suit. In addition to shooting more face on, you can play with the angle to get the light you want. You can't get these shots shooting the camera on automatic. My typical setting will be at least f13 and up with a shutter speed of around 1/6th second, sometimes even slower. I use delayed shutter or remote activation because at that shutter speed just pushing the release will blur the shot.

 

And this may be important, the lens wears a polarizing filter.

 

[images snipped...]

C'mon Tom, here you go again, stealing the show! :ninja:

(These are really great pics! ;) ;) )

 

Interesting about the tilting ... until recently, I also had rigged up a mini-platform for the coin and background using one of those 6" desk tripods with a swivel screw attachment on top ... glued a round, flat wooden cheese container (without the cheese, though ;) ) to the metal attachment which fastens to the screw of the tripod, which can be tilted anyway you like (will post a picture of it later). But, in order to get a good focus with this macro lens, you need to be able to tilt the camera at exactly the same angle, which has proven difficult up to now (for me, at least). At any rate, this setup came in very handy as long as I was using the Nikon Coolpix, which takes quite nice pictures for an amateur point-and-shoot camera.

 

I would like to see any pictures you have taken of circulated coins, and know what setup you use for those ... although proof coins can be difficult to capture, I have found out that the same setup usually causes problems for circulated (or MS) coins such as the Morgans and Walkers in my previous posts. Lighting which can be perfectly appropriate for a "perfect" coin can emphasize the tiniest blemish on a MS/AU coin to the degree that they look like someone had taken a Brillo pad to them ... if you know what I mean.

 

I also use the timer delay to take all of my shots, so shaky hands is not an issue here. But please, tell us more about the polarizing filter and why you think this is necessary?

 

Thanks ... and keep up the good work! ;)

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I have only a few shots of circulated coins. Here's a shot of a 64 Kennedy half, though it is probably UC. I've got a number of sovereigns and other gold European fractionals and to tell you the truth, I've not been very successful in creating the sort of "artsy" shots that I like. Forgot about this other circulated coin, a 1938 German coin.

 

I assume your question is whether circulated coins react well to my lighting methodology. Some do, some don't.

 

kennedyobv-1.jpg

 

reichmark.jpg

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@TomD:

 

Well, the Kennedy 1/2-$ turned out very nice! :ninja: We can see that the coin was not struck in proof, yet it is a high-grade, uncirculated specimen. Ideally, one should be able to see the difference due to metal flow lines and the tiniest of planchet imperfections that would not influence the grade, but would not be there with a proof coin. It shows great mint luster, which is also a tribute to your lighting skills.

 

As to the other photo, it shows an accurate image of this coin, as it is! This is something I had to learn along the way: No matter how good the photography is, it isn't possible to make a coin look any better than it is. However, I also learned that it is VERY possible to make the coin look WORSE than it is!

 

With near-perfect (or perfect) proof coins, it is hard to find exactly the right lighting, etc. that will show the coin in the most favorable way. It looks like you have found a "recipe" that works for all the coins you have shown so far. I don't think it is possible to take pictures of the German 3rd Reich coin which would make it look any better than the ones you have taken.

 

It would be nice to see what you could do with uncirculated (not proof) Morgan dollars or other USA coins!

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@TomD:

 

It would be nice to see what you could do with uncirculated (not proof) Morgan dollars or other USA coins!

 

I debated whether to post this picture considering that I'm not too happy with it. This is the best (of 3) Morgans that I have and, as you can see, it's not exactly uncirculated. Maybe I'm just used to shooting modern proof coins. At any rate, I did about 30 shots varying things and this is about the best that came out. I think that it is a relatively low relief coin and so doesn't react especially well to my lighting technique which relies on low angle lights to create shadows to define the engraving.

 

Morganobverse.jpg

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I debated whether to post this picture considering that I'm not too happy with it. This is the best (of 3) Morgans that I have and, as you can see, it's not exactly uncirculated. Maybe I'm just used to shooting modern proof coins. At any rate, I did about 30 shots varying things and this is about the best that came out. I think that it is a relatively low relief coin and so doesn't react especially well to my lighting technique which relies on low angle lights to create shadows to define the engraving.

 

[image snipped]

Thanks for going ahead and deciding to share this, TomD. Let me guess ... 1884-O? You can usually tell from the weak strike on Liberty's hair right over the ear; eagle breast feathers are also usually not well struck on the "O" mints.

 

I think you can be happy with this picture, if not with the coin; it is an accurate depiction of the coin and its condition. It doesn't try to make the coin look better than it is, like so many sellers on eBay try to do (e.g., by overexposing an XF/AU coin so as to fool people into believing that it is "MS"). If you'd like to experiment further with Morgans et al., you might go out and spend $20-$30 on a nice UNC 1881-S which is almost prooflike. The San Francisco strikes tend to have much more luster and detail between 1880 and 1884 than almost any other year (of course, 1884-S would be prohibitively expensive in MS grades; 1881-S or 1882-S would probably be easiest to find ... and afford ... in the higher grades). The more common dates of the "Walker" 50 cent series can also usually be found in that price range.

 

I think that gold and silver coins in XF or better (not proof, though) are somehow very difficult to get good shots of. Copper seems to be easier, probably because there is usually more patina. On the one hand, you want to bring out all the wonderful detail that the coin still has, as well as any remaining mint luster, yet not overemphasize the little scuffs and scratches that circulated coins will have. Even lower-grade UNC coins can have many distracting marks. While it is not kosher (IMHO) to use the aforementioned "tricks" to cover these up, there is nothing wrong with choosing appropriate lighting so that they do not distract any more in the picture than they would holding the coin in hand.

 

How does one achieve this? Using the same lighting as for proof coins won't really work, as we have seen. The highly reflective surfaces of proofs can take very agressive lighting (e.g. naked halogen spots) that make circulated or MS coins look like they had been sandblasted. Toning down the lighting by using a soft box is great for these coins as the diffuse lighting can bring out more detail than the spot lighting can. The same diffuse lighting tends to make circulated coins look very flat, however, even if they exhibit some mint luster in hand. So we turn up the lights and take the coin out of the soft box. What do we get? More mint luster, yet also more scuffs and scratches. It is very difficult to find the right balance between the two, IMHO. Having a perfect or near-perfect coin to work with takes out a lot of the guesswork, and we can concentrate on creative lighting (as you have demonstrated so wonderfully :ninja: ).

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Really nice photos TomD. How do you get to shoot photos of proof coins without getting the light reflected to the camera? I can never figure that out. :ninja: Is it to do with the angle of the light?

 

You're right, direct reflected light is death for a proof coin shot. I use multiple of lights for different purposes. I'll use lights from above to illuminate the coin plus lights from a low angle on the side to create the shadows that define the coin.

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