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Ideas for photographing coins/medals.

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Ideas for photographing coins/medals.


These are a few things I have learned. I would welcome more advice from any experts out there.


I always use a plain background of a color that will compliment the medal, usually a pretty blue.


For focussing, I experimented with using no macro, macro and super-macro. I found that generally the latter produced the best results though it excludes the option to use built-in flash. Camera shake can also be aproblem if not using a tripod. Obviously to photograph any edge marks, signatures etc., there is no real alternative to a high calibre macro.


For lighting, I experimented with ambient light, spotlights, flash and angled flash. In generall, the ambient light produced the best results though the phrase “ambient light” can, of course, mean a whole range of conditions. I do not have a flash unit separate from the camera. Direct camera flash was hopeless (too much reflection) and angled flash distorts the circular nature of the medal.


Interestingly, the flash results seemed to produce a more faithful result as far as the colour was concerned. Both the ambient light and the spotlight versions made the bronze of the medal very yellow and Photoshop did not improve it much. Next time I shall try making sure that the “ambient light” is primarily sunlight/daylight rather than electric light.


Any comments?

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You have noted a good deal of experience with photographing coins. Built in flash, used with automatic settings on your camera should produce the best color results, i.e. the light source is aligned with the camera and is as close to head on as possible (a ring flash around the lense is the closest you can get). But, in working with macro for maximum detail, you cannot always get sufficient separation between the coin and the camera for the built in flash to work. With more experience, you will find that the built-in flash does no work for every coin. I shoot with a piece of glass angled at 45 degrees between the coin and the lens. I start with the light pointing directly into the glass and second light as a fill coming from the other side filling in under the glass (pointing through the glass would create a reflection). From this point, I begin to alter the angle of the light pointing into the glass to create the best image to my eye through the view finder. I'm shooting digital connected to the computer so I can evaluate the results right away and reshoot if I am unhappy with the result. I some cases, I end up with my primary light next to the camera shooting through the glass (I really should remove it at this point, but I am lazy).


I sometimes save several versions of lighting. Some capture details best, some capture color best. You can combine the two in Photoshop to create a better image, but it does take some work and you need the setup to remain unchanged to best align the images. You do need to set the white point balance to match your light source and I usually add a plus 1 to the warmth of the light source and over expose by a stop. That gets me in the range to start making minor adjustments to improve the primary image.

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