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Coin photography lighting


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I am curious as to what you consider the best coin photography lighting method is. I took a few photos in sunlight shining on a light box. I seems to me that light coming from the top of a coin looks the most natural. But, I noticed that coins with less toning tend to wash out, with the exception of the penny that has more color.


My first light box test photos:





A couple coins with toning:








And a silver dime that seems to wash out. Granted I can adjust the image to improve contrast, but I find that I get better photographs if the lighting f-stop and white balance are set in the camera so that no or little image adjustment is needed.




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I don't think there is one right answer. It depends on the coins and what you want to accomplish. Your lighting on worn coins looks fine with the possible exception of the cent You need to do some processing such as tweaking the contrast on the worn coins. The detail and focus seems spot on. tweak the contrast and you'll like get the results you want. If the cent is brilliant or shiny, you would get better results with axial lighting (my preference), but even then I play with light angles.

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It seem to me that shiny coins are a lot harder to photograph well. Here are a couple more attempts:


This is with defused light, using a single sheet of plastic rather than a light box.



This is direct sunlight:



I want to try reflecting light off glass between the camera and lens as soon as I get some optical glass.

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A little more experimentation:


These are taken with sunlight from the upper right with white plastic to soften the light. This time I set the coins on a half inch riser so that the black felt background would be out of focus. Still haven't found the best way to photo shiny coins.


This is the best that I've been able to come up with for a new penny.




The soft light works well with toned pennies.





Not too bad with silver coins. (I was carefull with the white balance, but the quarter still appears a little bluish.)





Adding a little angle adds to the photo sometimes. Although it complicates things a little by adding depth of field to the equation.




I also tried a close up with this lighting. Not too bad, but I'm not totally happy with the result.




I've got to figure out the best way to light the reflective field of the coin so that it doesn't get that strange dark look.



Still plugging away at it...

I want to make a jig to hold a SLR UV filter at 45°, so that I reflect light coming from the side straight at a coin and also have the camera pointed straight at it.

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Here are some photos of Silver Eagles in different lighting.


Defused light: (Note: I'm not sure why the obverse view looks almost milky.)



Defused light with some reflected from about 45° up and to the left:



Defused light with some reflected from the top of the coin about 70° from horizontal:




From what I can tell, the best lighting really depends upon the coin. This silver eagle has an almost frosted look to the surface. Not too shiny, so it tends to look better with softer light.



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Wonderful! These photos are great *studies of the coin*. You're not trying to sell me it or pad an investment, you're studying how it was struck, how it wears, the life of the die, etc.

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Today it was completely overcast:



So, I decided to try some photographs with the ultimate light box, the entire cloud covered sky:




The result wasn't too bad. These two photographs of a silver eagle were taken from a window sill with unobstructed light from outside, full overcast sky.

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  • 7 years later...

Flash and lights are always important. Exposure compensation will affect your exposure when using flash, so I would keep it in the middle. Note that there is also flash compensation that you can change on your flash and on your camera. Keep it nice and captivating. And pay attention to these tips http://fixthephoto.com/product-photography-tutorial.html

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