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Photography of a low contrast but glaring coin


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I have been trying to photograph my Romanov Dynasty rouble, flat strike variety. The problem with this type is that the relief is very low (it is a flat strike after all). The coin itself is shining with no color whatsoever. Thus, on one hand the shiny surfaces reflect glare very strongly producing a high contrast image at some lighting conditions. So, one would need to reduce the contrast by using two lights instead of one or using a diffuser. On the other hand, the relief is really low and the coin can easily be made look rather flat. I tried to compromise between too much glare or too little contrast and here are some results. My inspiration was Numismatic Photography by Mark Goodman, which I find very useful.

Upper left: a single light at 1 o'clock, one of the most contrast images. Upper right: a single light plus a diffuser (just a sheet of white paper)

Lower left, two lights, at 11 and 1 o'clock. Lower right: two lights plus a diffuser, the lowest contrast

The images were not photoshopped and there was no exposure compensation. I wonder what image would be viewed by most as having the best eye appeal.

Dynasty Trials Small.jpg

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I find the upper left image the most appealing. It's amazing the difference lighting makes in a subject so simple as a coin.

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I like the bottom left image the best. In the image at upper left, Nikolai's forehead seems overexposed. It is more natural in the lower picture which still shows a great deal of mint luster.


Both images on the right with diffused lighting seem a bit too red to me.

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I go with the bottom right with color correction and a bump in contrast. I has the most even lighting in my opinion and no burned out areas as in the upper left. The other two images are variations on the one I like. The shadows are slightly different and that somewhat changes the appearance of the faces and their expressions. The preference in my mind is which one shows the coin and the two figures as you see them. Without the actual coin in hand (and I don't own one so I can't refresh my mind set with an actual coin in hand), the lower right is most like what I think the coin looks like.

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Dear All,

Many thanks for your comments, your input is very much appreciated. Regarding the redness of the diffuser images, I did not foresee it but with the hindsight this could be expected: the same physics that makes sunsets red. This minor aberration could easily be taken care of by adjusting white balance or later with Photoshop (along with slightly increasing contrast) as shown below. I must admit that after the adjustments the lower right image looks closest to the actual coin, but my favorite is upper right (which looks a bit better than the coin itself :))

Dynasty Trial 2 copy2.jpg

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