“Blowout” in Coin Images Discussion

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by CircCam, Oct 31, 2020.

  1. CircCam

    CircCam Victory

    Here are my first two attempts at this coin:
    05C81E88-CF7C-4D44-A3A3-A04A66D99038.jpeg 75C38410-275D-44D4-B1A8-BB94366A9FF0.jpeg

    @physics-fan3.14 pointed out that I was really lacking contrast and suggested I use fewer lights. I used two instead of 3 and the contrast improved:

    02333CF8-1C50-44A8-826D-D8C1A0B9DA62.jpeg C0BADC32-E697-4503-9809-A458BDD77ACF.png

    I’d love to have further feedback/constructive criticism on this second round of photos as I feel they are an improvement but still have the “blowout”/hot spots going on and I’m not sure what to do to fix it while still showing the luster of the coin, which is quite strong. All feedback/suggestions are appreciated.

    @messydesk @robec @jtlee321 @C-B-D @stldanceartist @Skyman @ldhair - and anyone else I am forgetting. Lots of great photographers here.
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  3. stldanceartist

    stldanceartist Minister of Silly Walks Supporter

    The only suggestions I might have would be to take a bit more time to rotate the images to their correct orientation (both seem to be tilted slightly counterclockwise.)

    I also feel (this is a personal preference) that giving the two images a bit of space in between just looks better to my eye; having them right next to each other just looks a little too crowded now (again, could just be a personal preference.)

    I think your second set of images are lovely.

    And I appreciate the tag, although I doubt many would say my images are "great" at this point (could just be my normal sense of self-doubt and loss of interest in all of it - to the point where I really just don't have the motivation to work on them much any more.) But, again, thank you for the tag, and gorgeous coin, and very attractive images.

    Have you checked the denticles under the date for any MPD? I feel like I see something hanging out under the 7.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2020
  4. CircCam

    CircCam Victory

    Thank you for the feedback! I did check that as I saw it as well, but I couldn’t find any recognized MPD that matched it. I don’t have access to a more comprehensive variety book for these though at this time.
  5. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    I feel your second set of pictures are definitely superior to your first set. This appears to be a lustrous coin, which lends itself to the bright white highlights and blowouts we've been discussing. I'd say that your second set of pictures, however, doesn't really have "blowouts" - a blowout is a super bright white spot where we don't see any detail.

    In your pictures, you show brighter areas due to bands of luster, but that's expected in a high grade coin like this. I'd actually say your second set of pictures are really good (without having the coin in hand to compare). I'd be proud of them.

    To continue improving (because that's the point of this thread):

    First - what camera are you using?

    Second - what mode are you using (full manual, Aperture Priority, etc.)
    -> I learned about a year ago that using the "aperture priority mode" was the best choice.

    Third - what ISO are you using?
    -> I have learned that an ISO of 100/200/400 is best. Anything higher is undesirable

    Fourth - what lights are you using?
    -> you seem to have the lights worked out better than you did. I encourage you to continue playing with angles. Different numbers of lights and different angles work better for different coins. If you don't have Mark Goodman's book, you need to buy it tomorrow - his explanation of high contrast, medium contrast, and low contrast lighting (and when to use each) is worth the cost of the book.

    Fifth - what aperture are you using?
    -> I've been talking to a photographer friend of mine, and he recently suggested that I try taking things to an extreme. I have a very stable copy stand, mounted lights, and computer linked-controlled camera. So, I have the ability to take things further than some may.
    -> My friend suggested I take it to aperture priority mode, and use f18 (he doesn't shoot coins, so I took his advice as a baseline)
    -> I played around a bit, and found f11 or f12 worked best for my setup (exposures are around 1/6 sec..... almost an eternity for a digital camera)

    I look forward to seeing what your experiments might yield!
  6. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    The second set is an improvement on the first. I'd harden the light further still, because the luster is still a little dead. There are a couple ways to do this. One way is to move them farther from the coin, but still have them aimed the same (back them up on the lighting path). The size of the light as seen by the coin will affect the contrast assuming there is no ambient light contributing to the picture. The smaller the light (the farther away), the more contrast. If you're using cool lamps with a lampshade, line the lampshade with black paper. I show this in the video I may have linked to in the last thread you posted about this. If I didn't link to the video, it's here.

    Regarding aperture, I don't like using very small apertures unless the coin requires it due to shape or depth of relief. You lose sharpness to diffraction, even though you gain depth-of-field. I tend to use f8 or maybe f11.

    One thing to be careful of with seated coinage is the shields. It's possible to place the lights so that they fill in each other's shadows and make the lines in the shield disappear. Don't place the lights such that they are symmetric across the lines. The same goes for Mercury dimes. Play with it a bit and you'll see what I'm talking about.
  7. C-B-D

    C-B-D Well-Known Member

    For me, what's hard is photographing white BU coins and making them still look white. If I add too much contrast it seems to add color, tone, and shadows.
  8. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    The depends on the type of lights you're using, the color contrast, the white balance, and what post-processing you're using. It may also depend on the ambient light, time of day, and the color paint on your walls.... most of us aren't shooting in a dark-room.

    In any case, a bit of white-balance-correcting in your software should fix any of those sorts of problems.
    C-B-D likes this.
  9. CircCam

    CircCam Victory

    First - what camera are you using? Canon Rebel T3i, Canon EF 100mm F:2.8 USM macro lens

    Second - what mode are you using (full manual, Aperture Priority, etc.)
    -> Aperture Priority

    Third - what ISO are you using?
    > ISO100

    Fourth - what lights are you using?
    -> IKEA Jansjo x 3

    Fifth - what aperture are you using?
    -> F8

    Thanks for the explanation on blowout, finding that threshold between just showing white luster as it appears or having the area blown out is what I’m trying to get used to discerning but that really helps to have a frame of reference.

    Awesome, thank you for sharing details for next steps to try and for the link, I will be trying all of the above.

    Same here.

    I am going to take all the advice received so far and experiment, then I will share round 3 results after applying it.

    Thanks all for the feedback, here are gifs of the OP coin as an added frame of reference.

    506ECA13-9BB1-4D10-A811-83BC9224571F.gif 07A55211-FF28-4504-BB20-B66B04AA2A9C.gif
    GoldFinger1969 likes this.
  10. jtlee321

    jtlee321 Well-Known Member

    I read this post a few days ago, but am just now getting a chance to reply, sorry for the delay. First, don't be afraid of blown out highlights, unless we are talking large swaths of the coin. Highlights from luster tend to fall into what are known as specular highlights, bright areas that fall outside the dynamic range that all cameras are able to capture. They are a nature of the beast in coin photography. In fact, if we don't see areas that are nearly blown out or white, we would assume that the coin has very subdued luster or the coin would appear very dark and unnatural.

    I also use the Jansjo lights from Ikea. However, I don't use them naked. I use a square shaped half dollar tube that fits tightly over the round head. This provides a nice diffusion to the light, yet remains small to keep a nice contrast. I have found that the Jansjo lights, since they are LED, show a weird Red, Green and Blue specular highlights on the texture of the fields and devices. This is because the LED lights are composed of very small LED lights in Red, Green and Blue within the head of the light. The diffuser masks this, because you are illuminating a white plastic. I use a custom white balance because the plastic is not exactly neutral, so compensation needs to be made.

    As far as the number of lights, I use more that larger the coin is. For silver dollars, I tend to use 4 lights, half dollars and smaller, I tend to use just 3 lights. But as with everything, that is just a guide. MS Buffalo Nickels I shoot with 4 lights. When it comes to using those lights, I use studio lighting techniques. I use a key light or main light along with fill lights. The main light is the brightest light and the fill lights are typically around a stop or more dimmer. I've shot some images and included them below that show the concept. Light in a camera is cumulative, meaning, as you add more lights the subject becomes brighter.

    Here is a typical Morgan Dollar lighting scenario.

    Light #1 or my main light. It is there to light up the subjects face to give a natural appearance to what you are looking at. Notice the light source is above and with Liberty facing it? Similar to the way sunlight would fall on a subject.

    Light #2 or my first fill light. It is dimmer, but is being used to fill in the neck and under Liberty's cheek as well as highlight some luster in the fields and the date.

    Light #3 my second fill light. This one is set above the top of the coin to bring out detail in the hair and textures of the subject. It also again brings out the luster of the coin. Notice how dim it appears to be?

    Light #4 my final fill light. I use it to highlight the details in the lower hair and the back of Liberty's cap. It also adds another highlight of the luster in the coin. Again, not how dim this light appears compared to the Main light and even the first fill light.

    Now we will see that accumulative effect of the lights as they are added together.

    Here is the Main Light or Light #1 with Light #2 or the first fill light.

    Here is the addition of Light #3 the light at the top of the coin. Notice how the coin is becoming brighter and brighter? Also look at the detail in the cap and other parts at the top of Liberty's head.

    Here is the addition of Light #4 the final fill light. The coin is now getting to the proper exposure. Also look at the detail in the lower hair and the back of Liberty's cap. Also look at how each light adds to overall presentation of the coins luster.

    I hope this is a bit helpful. Liberty's forehead, parts of her eye and where her cheek and nose come together tend to start getting blown out. Now my histogram will show that they are not blown out, the RGB channels all remain below 255, meaning there is information there. But overall, those areas look blown out.
  11. CircCam

    CircCam Victory

    Thanks so much for taking the time to reply and for sharing the above @jtlee321 . I had never tried the method above before and really enjoyed giving it a shot on this Lincoln cent. I also tried it on the OP coin but just wrapped up a crazy work week and haven’t had a chance to view the resulting images yet, will post once I have some spare time at the desk (done with it for the moment after sitting there all day!)

  12. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    Nice cent! I'm going to nitpick, since that's where we are with this picture. There are a couple tough choices to make when shooting this. First is the luster vs. color compromise. If the coin is a flashy bluish brown in hand, then I think you did well here, although I might want to see a little more of the brown. Next, one of the things that Philadelphia Lincolns of this era have going for them is sharp detail. Too many lights seem to be filling that detail in on Lincoln's face. If you are using three lights to fill dark areas, try using a piece of white paper as a reflector instead of the third light. You might sacrifice a little on the uniformity of the light, but get better depth (another trade-off). On to the reverse, the wheat stalk detail is indistinct because of symmetry in the lights, especially at 9:00 and 3:00. I touched on this earlier, and you seem to have stumbled into it here. Pay attention to the details on all parts of the design when you position your lights.
    jtlee321 and CircCam like this.
  13. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    I agree, Messy.

    CircCam - that's a great image. I think what I would like to see to take it to the next level is a bit more contrast. For example, the wheat ears seem to meld together. A bit different angle of the lights would give a better sense of high and low points. This is a minor comment, as the image you show is very good overall.

    To be fair - I'm wondering how the compression has affected this image. I wonder if we saw it "full size" instead of "internet size" if the issues mentioned might not actually be issues.
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  14. CircCam

    CircCam Victory

    Thanks John, while I was imaging that one I had a heck of a time seeing the stalks as I was trying to use those to gauge my contrast, on my computer monitor I couldn’t get them to look “right” no matter what I tried. I took a bunch of photos so I’ll see if there is a pair that I avoided that error. Thanks as always for the feedback, criticism is how I get better at all things so it is most welcome.

    Edit: These show a bit better contrast. I am using an older iMac for my camera display and I think my lack of solid monitoring (and possibly an inferior graphics card) may be hurting me here. Also, am I shooting way too far away? Looking at the full sized photo makes me think I probably am.

    This is a good representation of the look of the coin, it is neither solidly brown nor solidly blue, and very lustrous. In hand it has a grey/blue appearance. It does not have the "MS70" blue look at all.
    IMG_0006_1.JPG IMG_0014_1.JPG
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2020
    jtlee321 likes this.
  15. CircCam

    CircCam Victory

    Thank you, I will post the uncompressed images so we can see. In fact I should probably nix the template altogether for the purpose of this thread so we can see what is actually going on to the best extent possible, thanks for saying that.

    Here are the uncompressed images:
    AA262022-60F0-4EAD-8761-14A01DC8D30A.jpeg CCE21BFE-00C9-4ECC-AF36-7F5223CD2061.jpeg
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2020
  16. Pickin and Grinin

    Pickin and Grinin Well-Known Member

    This is always an area of the photo I either use to much of or too little. It is always a head scratch between the settings on contrast and sharpness.
  17. CircCam

    CircCam Victory

    Here are the most recent shots of the quarter, once again I got really stuck between dull luster and showing too many highlights. I don't think it is any improvement over what I had before, but I need to get some black paper to try @messydesk 's suggestion. I like the look better with two lights but tried to use the third carefully to bright out the "gumminess" of the luster. A work in progress for sure.
    4334ED45-5303-4C47-8ECD-BA14DEF7BAC2.jpeg 532CAAE7-59F2-415F-958B-4E13751A28AD.jpeg
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2020
  18. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    For threads like this, please nix the template.

    But please, crop the images. We can get a lot more detail and a lot better image if we're only looking at the coin and not the black space or the slab.

    I will also mention - there is a *HUGE* difference in lighting techniques between a darkly toned Lincoln and a Bright White Seated Quarter.

    If you have Mark Goodman's book, they are so different that he devotes separate chapters to these different types of coins/pictures.
    CircCam likes this.
  19. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    Yeah, that image is still showing significant over-lighting and lack of contrast.

    I'm not sure I'd call that image a "blowout", but it also doesn't show the coin well.

    How many lights are you using? Maybe try turning one off.
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  20. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    Yeah, it can be tricky.

    My guiding light is always... "what does it look like in hand." I always try to make my image look like my coin does under the light at my desk. If I tweak a setting and it goes a bit too far, then I go the opposite direction.
    jtlee321 likes this.
  21. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    I see three lights on the reverse picture. I'd turn off the one at 4:00. The others are positioned so that you won't fill the shield lines. You might want to dial the exposure down a little. If you're familiar with what a histogram is for, it can be your best friend.
    jtlee321 likes this.
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