Featured Advanced Coin Photography

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Denis Richard, Jul 3, 2020.

  1. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    Coins are History. Coins are Art. This is an open call to anyone interesting in discussing advanced coin photography. I appreciate the interest across the coin community in photographing your collections, but I’m not talking about better ways to shoot coins with your cell phone. I’m setting the bar much higher. I want to share images, advice, tips, techniques, best practices, workflows, editing, software and equipment to achieve professional quality coin photography and push the artistic boundaries of coin image presentation.

    I am a professional coin photographer and I understand there are many others here at CoinTalk as well. Let's share our best shots and ideas, and the story behind them with like-minded people. You don't have to actually be a pro coin photographer, just shoot coin images like one, and I believe there are more of you out there than actual professionals. Perhaps others will be inspired to improve by seeing how pros do their jobs, and the difference a little of the right knowledge makes, but that's just the beginning.

    Feb 17 2020-4.jpg

    My goal has always been to produce accurate, detailed and visually engaging coin photographs, but where can we go from there?

    To get things started, here's something I shot recently and prepped as an Instagram post because coins are fantastic just for their art, and I wanted to highlight that. It's simple but striking.

    June 8 2020-1.jpg

    This was a two hour job cutting out the eagle in Photoshop, and another 1/2 hour working out the shadow layer styles, opacity, light direction and overlays for the rest of the image. Two hours of cutting this out on a Wacom tablet gives you hand cramps, even taking breaks. I didn't use the lasso or pen tool to cut this out. I used the brush and painted out the background with a mask. I find drawing around things more natural for these kinds of selections and a mask is very forgiving. I brush it at 100% hardness and feather the selection later, based on a couple of factors. I then turned the mask into a selection and created a separate layer I could add effects to.

    Anyone want to share?
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  3. Beefer518

    Beefer518 Well-Known Member

    That is cool!
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  4. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    You charge by the hour, Denis? devil.gif
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  5. jtlee321

    jtlee321 Well-Known Member

    Ok, I've been wanting to get back into this. I've had to take a little more than a year break from coins for personal reasons, but things have settled down and I'm making my way back into them.

    These two coins have been shown on here in the past, but there may be some new members who have not seen them. I love these images because they show common coins with uncommon characteristics, shot at an uncommon angle. Both of these coins were shot using a technique called focus stacking. Focus stacking uses a series of images with the focus adjusted a little bit at a time to compensate for the shallow depth of field inherent with macro photography.

    1970-D-Washington-Quarter-Obverse.jpg 1970-D-Washington-Quarter-Reverse.jpg 1970-D-Washington-Quarter-Ragged-Fissure-Detail-1.jpg 1970-D-Washington-Quarter-Ragged-Fissure-Detail-2.jpg

    2006-P-Washington-Quarter-Peeling-Clad-Layer-Medium.jpg Lamination-Detail-1-Medium.jpg Lamination-Detail-2-Medium.jpg
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  6. jtlee321

    jtlee321 Well-Known Member

    And here is another. Sorry to the veterans on here that have already seen these, but maybe some new eyes can enjoy them. :)

    1964-D-Washington-Quarter-Obverse.jpg 1964-D-Die-Break-Detail.jpg 1964-D-Washington-Quarter-19-Detail-4.jpg 1964-D-Washington-Quarter-19-Detail-2.jpg 1964-D-Washington-Quarter-IGWT-Detail.jpg
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  7. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

  8. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Dat's a lot of painstaking work to not be charging such.....
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  9. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    Great coin shots. Glad you're back with it... So tell me about how you made these images, other than focus stacking. Where were your lights? What kind of background? Where they on a black background or did you put them there? What editing did you need to do? Do tell.. enquiring minds need to know.
  10. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    I did that one for me, visiting the artsy side of coin photography. I've been doing a lot of cut outs lately. I do numismatic photography for my own artistic projects when I'm not doing it professionally, but when I'm getting paid, I normally charge by the project, or by the coin for regular catalogue shots.
  11. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    I grew up imaging coins when all we had was film and a darkroom. You pretty much had to set up the shot correctly from the start. Filters helped control white balance and contrast. We could play with the film speed using push processing to help get the lighting and exposure correct. It took a lot of time to get it right.

    Switching over to a DSLR was not all that tough. I still try to set up the shot to come off the camera so there is very little editing. These images had nothing done to them other than a quick crop. They are about as close to the true look of the coin/medal as possible. Image_0480.jpg Image_1355.JPG Image_1100.JPG Image_1115.JPG Image_1119.JPG Image_1072.JPG
  12. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    Nice shots. I like the third Lincoln best. It has catch lights in the eyes. How old are these images? Were they shot on black or was that added later? The light is soft and looks nice. What kind of lights? Any image editing? IMO the images would look more three dimensional on a white background, with a shadow, and not cropped so tightly. Coins are the subject of the photo and need room to breath in it. Negative space around a coin is as important as positive space. That's my opinion, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on choosing a tight crop on black.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2020
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  13. jtlee321

    jtlee321 Well-Known Member

    So the shots that are of the full coin, I shoot with a four light setup. The lights are the Jansjo lights from Ikea. My camera is mounted vertically on a copy stand with a bellows and focus rail. My lens is the Rodenstock APO-Rodagon D 75mm reproduction lens. I use a black velvet display tray with a black rubber stopper (of various sizes depending on coin size) raising the coin off the background. That ensures that light falloff and depth of field allow the background to stay nice and dark and out of focus (that makes it easier to crop the coin out of the background). Editing it very minimal and limited to levels, hue/saturation and sometimes color balance. I edit the images to match the in hand look under my viewing lamp. I use a calibrated monitor to make sure that the image I see is as accurate as possible.

    The images of the coins that are shot at an angle are simply leaning against the same rubber stopper and setup to the angle I want. With the high magnification stuff, I am basically limited to using 2 lights as my working distance is so short. I take anywhere from 10 to 50 images depending on how deep I need the depth of field for the final image. All images are shot RAW and processed and saved as TIFF files and imported into Helicon Focus for stacking. The resulting image is saved as a TIFF file and imported back into Photoshop for final editing and cropping.
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  14. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    The only editing was a square crop. Nothing more was needed.
  15. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    I suppose the Jansjo LED lights are fairly low wattage. What ISO, shutter speed and aperture are you shooting at?

    Since you're cutting the coin out anyway, why do you shoot it on black rather than white?

    What kind of distance are you talking about? How close is the lens to the coin?
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  16. jtlee321

    jtlee321 Well-Known Member

    I typically shoot at ISO 100 or 200 to keep noise down to a minimum and keep dynamic range at the maximum. Aperture depends on the coin I am shooting, Morgan Dollars will be at f8 whereas dimes will be at f11 max. If the small coin is fairly flat relief, I can get away with f8 no problem. Shutter speeds depend on the distance of the lights, each light is diffused. My average shutter speed can be from 1/4 second to 1/20 second.

    Because I am typically placing the coin against a dark background. Coins with deep reeded edges will end up showing white and it will show on the final image. Shooting against black allows me to use a simple circular marquee selection in Photoshop.

    The distances I am shooting at with the high magnification are just a matter of an inch or two or less. Typical working distance is around 6 inches.
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  17. Mike Davis

    Mike Davis Well-Known Member

    Wow! This is way over my head, but have enjoyed the pix and the explanations. But for a phone pix rookie, it would help me to see a picture of your set-up. Then I might begin to understand your lighting and how you are doing this. Beautiful work!!
  18. expat

    expat Remember you are unique, just like everyone else Supporter

    Totally agree. I know this post was intended for the more advanced photographers, but for those of us that want to know more so we can improve our technique, seeing set ups and lighting arrangements would be invaluable
  19. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    Image for today.

    Very interesting. Your work reflects your dedication to this. I'm using a Nikkor 105 macro and I usually shoot at f14, which gives me enough DoF for most coins at the minimum focus distance of 12 1/4" from the film plane. That gives me about 7" from coin to lens, much like yours. That's a good working distance. I looked up your lens and it seems f5.6 is it's happy place, but that is super shallow DoF. Still, at f5.6 my 105, at min. foc. dis. doesn't even register as having any DoF. I see why you often need focus stacking.

    My Nikon's native ISO is 200, so I shoot at that for the same reasons you do, and I use a 500 watt studio strobe so my shutter speed is 1/200 sec. and at f14, ambient room light has no effect on the image. If the strobe doesn't fire, I get a black screen even with full light in the room. Also with 1/200 sec I don't get any camera shake. For your setup, with a 1/4 sec shutter speed, do you have to shoot in a dark room? What kinds of issues does that cause?

    One question. You said your lights are diffused. Do you adjust the the diffusion distance on your lights?

    About cut outs, I see the advantages of shooting on a black background but don't you find you lose detail in the edges of the coins? Speaking of elliptical marquee cut outs, I often do that too, when I can, but for coins with reeded edges, or irregular ancient coins, I can't use it. I have to select them with the quick selection tool to avoid clipping the curves. This coin is a good example of capturing the reeding, and for me, this really needs to be shot on a white background. It takes a bit more time to select but I feel the detail is important.
    Cut out coin.jpg

    For the high mag stuff, how do you get light on the coins with only 2" of space?
  20. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    My first axial lighting setup was a piece of glass from an 8x10 picture frame. See below. I mounted it to a couple of 2x4 blocks I cut on a 45-deg. angle to make a pair of right-angle triangle blocks, about 3” x 3” x 1 ½” thick.

    I wrapped them in white duct tape and applied dollar store Velcro to the 45 side of the block and a matching piece to the lower outer edges of the glass panel and stuck them together.

    I used this super simple type for over a year when I first started. It's very sturdy.

    Took about 20 minutes in total to make .

    I stuck my camera on a tripod above the glass, and put a light about 18" beside it. With experimentation, I discovered that by adding a diffuser between the light and the coin, that could be moved either closer to the coin, or farther from it, depending on the coin's brightness, and by rotating the glass on a spinner I cou[​IMG]ld produce images like those you've seen me post.

    With that set up, I made this image...


    and this...


    and these ancient coins...



    All shot through a piece of picture frame glass stuck to a couple of 2x4 blocks. I'm pretty sure this lighting technique will even work with your cellphone in place of a DSLR, but I haven't actually tried it. I can't see why it wouldn't.

    This is my current axial lighting set up, Ver 3.0, which is an improvement in efficiency and workflow, but is essentially the same as the simpler version above.

  21. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

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