Featured Advanced Coin Photography

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

  1. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    Speaking of cutting a coin out of the background, I went to the NGC page this morning to look at their Photo Vision raw coin imaging service (and compare pricing) and I was surprised to see their "quality" example image wasn't well cut out. Here's the full size image, right from the site:


    and an enlargement of the coin cut out, between the coins.


    On the right coin you can see how they have made straight slices around the edge, rather than follow the actual dings and dents of the coin, and on both coins there is a halo from inaccurate selection and no feathering. This is evident all around the perimeter.

    On the bright side, seeing into the dent does indicate they shoot these on a white background before they cut them out. Personally, I think that is critical to illuminate the edges of the coin. I realize the "white" background here appears greyish, but that's because it’s underexposed. That is normal when you’re using the same light source to illuminate both the coin and the background. You need much less light to expose a coin correctly than you do to expose a white background to appear pure white, so the background drops into the grey, but it still does it's job.
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  3. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    Just my opinion but I find a white background to be distracting. I feel the focal point should be the coin itself and not all the dead space around it.

    My opinion changes with some other types of imaging. Some diamonds and jewelry look better to me if shot on white. White is also good if you want to be creative with shadows. Years ago, I shot about 200 bronze statues of different sizes. Some looked better with white and others looked better with black. It all just boils down to opinions.
    Jim Dale likes this.
  4. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    Interesting, but I don't think of it as dead space, though too much white could be distracting. I see it more as the negative space around the coin, that creates the contrast that draws your eye to the whole coin.

    About shooting on a white background, for me, there is a difference between shooting it on white and presenting the image on white. I shoot it on white because it lights the edges better and makes it very easy to cut out, but that doesn't mean the image will be presented on a white background. I decide on a background color based on the coin and other subjective factors. To each their own, so to speak.

    About the statues, I understand the desire to do everything in camera with 200 of anything, however, with those, you can light the background of the statue independently, and this makes all the difference. I image some would look better on black than white, and it certainly is a matter of opinion, but unfortunately, I can't light the background independently with coins. ( I probably could, but it's not worth the effort when cutting them out is so easy) So, by default, for me, when the coin exposure is correct, the background exposure can't be. For that reason, the white background is only there to help the coin lighting.

    Yes, it all boils down to opinions. I like your work and that's my opinion.
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  5. rmpsrpms

    rmpsrpms Lincoln Maniac

    I either shoot on black backgrounds (clean photographic velvet) or on True Grey. Mostly I do black, and meter on the coin, but the background still tends to be above black. A bit of adjustment in post pushes it into black, and this is preferable (for me) versus doing a circle crop or other technique to change the background, especially for coins with reeded or irregular edges, or that have been shot with some tilt.

    True Grey is great for maintaining white balance reference through processing and publishing. It's also great for maintaining a consistent level of exposure, though this requires a uniform lighting on both coin and background. Not difficult to achieve, but need to remember to adjust lights to ensure uniformity. From this perspective, I like the True Grey background for any archival or critical work.
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  6. Dynoking

    Dynoking Well-Known Member

    Holy crap, breath taking!
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  7. Black Friar

    Black Friar Well-Known Member

    Really nice set up. I like that system because is actually a simple concept. I learned that technique at an ANA Summer Camp a few years ago. I have three different methods depending. Gives me a choice if I just need a down and dirty quick shot
    or need to get fussy. The glass pane at a 45 degree angle really opened some doors for me. You can never start learning.

    The photo below of my set up at Summer Seminar. Three filtered lamps using 5000 K light source; the dome in the middle of it all allows for equal light on each part of the coin. You never know where this hobby will take you. Have fun, and thanks for the contribution.

    Attached Files:

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  8. expat

    expat Remember you are unique, just like everyone else Supporter

    Excuse a DSLR beginners question, what do you achieve with the angled glass
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  9. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    The glass reflects the light onto the coin. If you’re not familiar with axial lighting check it out on YouTube. Lots of good videos there.
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  10. expat

    expat Remember you are unique, just like everyone else Supporter

  11. expat

    expat Remember you are unique, just like everyone else Supporter

    Brilliant, So it reflects light directly onto the subject and also eliminates the horrible "dark circle" of the lens being reflected back to itself.
    Denis Richard likes this.
  12. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    oh.. it does so much more than just that...
  13. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    Thanks for sharing the photo. I like seeing the behind the scenes shots from places like that.
  14. Mike Davis

    Mike Davis Well-Known Member

    What purpose does the glass serve?

    I am still trying to improve on my pix.
  15. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

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  16. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    A fun project for a rainy afternoon....

    Combine a coin image with a real photo from the same perspective. The penny was shot with axial lighting and the real image... wasn't. The two images were scaled and combined in Photoshop and posted on Instagram.

    March 9 2020-2.jpg

    I have since revised this image to tighten up the blend above the columns.

    US Penny.jpg

    Has anyone else blended images like this?
  17. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    Nice work. There were several folks that used to post stuff like this on the forums, years ago. Don't see much of it anymore. I used to play with it but had to change software and never took the time to learn it again. Is it still called layering or is there a newer term.
  18. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    It's still layering, but in this case it's masking and blending layers. I think more and more editing software platforms are using layers.
  19. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    Here's something else a little different than the standard coin shot. It's a bit campy but I like it. This one is a combination of the coin image (front face only), a side coin image for the depth (with a dark to clear gradient for shadow) and an ocean image. I added white caps, swell and small wake around the coin where it meets the water, and finally the birds. Well, at least I had fun doing it....

    March 15 2020-2.jpg

    this is the front view of the same coin.

  20. brg5658

    brg5658 Supporter! Supporter

    While I find the images by the OP here to be exceptional in their artistic value, we have to be careful where we toe the line of coin photography versus art photography. PCGS has stepped over that line with their often cartoonish and over-saturated "TrueView" images - I first and foremost want a coin image to look like the coin does in hand.

    I don't consider the ability to use layers or cut out an intricate eagle and add a drop shadow to have anything to do with coin photography, per se. Those are software skills. While cool, they are more useful to create calendars or other art-driven constructs.

    Lastly, I have never found an axial set-up to be worth the time.

    Just my two cents.
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  21. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    Has there ever been a forum where adding your “two cents” was more appropriate?

    Indeed there is an art component to these images. There are billions of regular coin images but this thread is advanced coin photography, to move beyond “standard“ or “in hand” coin photography. Make it artistic, complex or whimsical or just how you capture pro quality coin images.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2020
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