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 certified coin photography, here's a shot of an 1835 gold Republic of Columbia 8 Escudos coin I took just the other day, using the same slab lighting technique I mentioned in my last post. You can see there are no pronounced highlights or shadows from the diffused overhead light, but still lots of texture and colour depth. The thing I don't like about shooting certified coins, other than shooting through a piece of plastic, is you always see the plastic edges of the holder around the coin.

    Oct 7 2020-1.jpg

    Oct 7 2020-all.jpg

    ...just out of curiosity, and for my own comparison, I found similar coins imaged by Heritage Auctions and NGC.

    Hertiage Auctions.JPG
    Hertiage Auctions 2.JPG
    and here by NGC.
    NGC version.JPG
    I don't think any of them are very good. Anyone else have images of these kinds of coins?
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  3. bruthajoe

    bruthajoe Still Recovering

    The NGC photos appear more dimensional due to the shadows. Do you use multiple light sources?
  4. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    Yes and no. I use the system I described above. One large overhead soft box.
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  5. brg5658

    brg5658 Supporter! Supporter

    The NGC photos show luster better than yours I think. I actually think they are more akin to how the coin would look in hand - especially gold which is very lustrous at almost any grade.

    The Heritage images are always flat. Heritage uses a highly diffuse lighting source, and have to image hundreds of coins (if not thousands) every week - so they need to have a consistent and high throughput imaging process. You get used to interpreting them over time, and they are consistent - which is a plus. They are not meant to be professional quality coin images.

    Below is a coin I purchased from Heritage in 2015. This is what the Heritage slab images looked like:

    And these are my images of the coin in hand:
  6. Jo Wo

    Jo Wo Member

    Hey peeps, just thought I'd share a little update.
    Was just experimenting and managed to improve the lighting quite a bit with my setup.

    This was discussed somewhere further back in the thread: I added a little bit of card that juts out and prevents excess light spilling directly down on the coin:


    results before adding the card:

    results after adding the card:
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  7. Jo Wo

    Jo Wo Member

    The yellow-ness of my coin pics was really bugging me. I tried a few different things but eventually came across the "Picture style" submenu in the settings.
    Here are four different settings including: "Landscape" (my original setting), "Neutral", "Standard" and "Faithful"


    Can any of pros in this thread shed some light on this issues?
    And tips on what sort of camera settings you use?
  8. Jo Wo

    Jo Wo Member

    It seems like the biggest factor in the yellow-ness is my backlight!
    Maybe this is why Denis has advised against it!
    I don't understand though, why would the light behind the coin affect the colour of the face of the coin... Is this to do with how the camera interprets the colours?

    Below, exactly the same camera settings - just backlight on/off.

    With backlight:

    Without backlight:
  9. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    This problem is likely about your white balance. Yellow images are often the result of using a warm light source while having the camera's white balance set to flash or daylight. Make sure the white balance on you camera is set to match the lighting type or colour temperature of your light source. As you have two light sources, make sure they both match in colour temp too. Try this first. oh.. and that isn't why I don't recommend a back light with axial lighting.
  10. Jo Wo

    Jo Wo Member

    nice, thanks Denis. Am tinkering with the WB settings now and seeing big improvements
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  11. Black Friar

    Black Friar Well-Known Member

    I was introduced to both techniques at last ANA Coin Camp photography session in 2019. Doug Mudd assembled an excellent group to teach this class. I have been
    working with digital cameras for many years. My first one was a Sony Mavica. As they became more viable I worked up through their product line.

    My first real "35mm" camera was a Canon D 10 with a 60mm macro which I purchased with my first Social Security check. That opened many more doors and windows to the process and was always experimenting with lighting. I must say, the software package that comes with the camera is outstanding and easy to use and learn more about the "art" of this type of photography. It blends in nicely combined with Photoshop and Lightroom. Well worth the price of admission.

    I found an old camera stand at a Goodwill store for $10 and used it for many years. After the ANA class in 2019 I purchased a new stand (used) which I now use. A much more adaptable platform, no pun intended. The pik below was taken at Coin Camp, "aka" Summer Seminar.

    If you notice the red box at the bottom left of the photo, it's full of sockets from 10 to 19mm's that elevate the coin above the background. If you use a white background, or any other for that matter, make sure you set your white balance setting on your camera with each session.

    Notice the use of three illumination sources which will give you good even lighting on the material you want to photo. Also notice the filter which can soften the light depending on what you are shooting.

    Most important: Fill Your Lens With The Coin. This helps you not to waste your shot on photographing background and makes post processing much easier.

    While the photo was taken at Coin Camp, I use the same process at home.
    There are several other ways of shooting for specifics such as large numismatic items such as medals, and techniques for shooting slabs.

    Have some fun and play a little

    Cudo's to Denis for sharing his work. Thanks Denis.

  12. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    A quick clarification; the white balance is determined by the colour temperature of your lights, not the colour of the background or any item in the image. If you use the same light source every time, as I do, you only need to set it once. Reset you white balance only when your light source changes. As you are using three lights, all of them should be the same colour temperature. Exposure settings are based in the items in the image.
  13. rmpsrpms

    rmpsrpms Lincoln Maniac

    Backlights are a really bad idea for coins, where accurate color is desired. The only light you want hitting the lens is what is coming from the coin. Light from the backlight can cause problems 3 ways:

    1...it can enter the lens directly and change the colors through "lens flare", internal reflections within the lens, etc

    2...it can reflect off surfaces in the environment, shine onto the coin, and then up to the lens

    3...it can reflect off the lens itself, back to the coin, and then back up to the lens.

    All of these effects are subtle, but they can detrimentally change the color and contrast of the coin image.

    My recommendation is always to shoot on as black a background as you can. I use astrophotography-grade photographic velvet. It is very non-reflective, and provides a safe surface for the coin to sit on. The exposure can be adjusted to black out the background prior to the shot, or black level can be adjusted after the shot, depending on desired workflow. Only issue is that dust on the velvet will show up, so it must be kept clean and dust-free to minimize postprocessing work.

    In some of the photo systems I've built over the years I have used lenses with more than acceptable levels of flare. For these lenses an aggressive lens hood does the trick to eliminate the flare. I suppose a hood with a rectangular aperture might be suitable for use with a backlit system to minimize the total amount of light coming from the backlight. You would still need to ensure minimal reflections off of the environmental surfaces but the hood may give enough flare and reflection suppression to allow backlights to work. It might be worth a try for folks who really want to use a backlight but are bedeviled by the problems it causes.
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  14. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    Agreed, mostly. I have taken many perfectly good coin images with nothing but underlighting and effectively placed reflectors, particularly with proof coins, but generally, save the back lighting for artistic applications like this.

    March 2 2020-1.jpg

    rmpsrpms, I know you've done a lot of excellent work, but I don't understand the reasoning behind this comment. Why would I want to set my exposure based on the background instead of the subject? The background in the raw file is irrelevant in the final image. It should be added in post production. Seems to me only the correct exposure of the subject matters.

    I can understand why you might want to do this if you like to present your coins on a black background, but it's something I don't recommend. I've tried both, and IMO, use a matte white card to scatter residual light around the edges of the coin. This make your edges much more detailed, with greater texture and depth, like the image below. (I should stress this works perfectly in my set up, but you need to see it if will apply to yours.) March 11 2020-3.jpg

    This also makes your images more versatile for application on any colour or type of background. From a professional perspective, this is valuable. I've found ultra absorbent black backgrounds kill detail in the edges of your coins, which is not surprising, as it's designed to do that. Your goal should not be to get both the coin and background in the same exposure because getting one correct will always be at the expense of the other. Just worry about matters; the coin, and add the background later. That's what pros do. The image below was shot on white and placed on black. The edge along the bottom half of the coin was intentionally darkened to better blend with the background. This was an artistic choice made because I was using the image on black. I wouldn't need to do it on white. See my thread for using the Bevel & Emboss tool for coin edge lighting for any application.

    March 27 2020-1.jpg

    My disclaimer to my comments here is that I'm using professional quality studio strobes, diffusers and colour management tools for my images, so my advice and work flow are based on the use of this kind of equipment and software. While this is the Advanced Coin Photography thread, it might not be applicable to everyone.
  15. Thelivinglady

    Thelivinglady Member

    I have a Canon EOS. It comes with a Canon Zoom Lens 58mm. EF-s 18-55. Is this suitable for taking coin pictures.

  16. rmpsrpms

    rmpsrpms Lincoln Maniac

    I rarely shoot raw, so pushing the background to black in combination with other jpg mapping parameters makes a lot of sense from ETTL perspective. Only time I shoot raw is if I want to do postprocessing in tiff to maintain color depth during compositing.
  17. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    what is ETTL?
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  18. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    The camera is not usually the limiting factor for coin photography. I'm sure you can take a respectable coin image with a Canon EOS. As a Nikon guy I can't give you any direction. I have to pass that over to the Canon users, but I can say the issues you face will be how well you know how to use your camera and lens, what their limitations are and your choices in lighting, illumination technique and processing. Yeah.. that' a lot of stuff beyond just the camera.
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  19. rmpsrpms

    rmpsrpms Lincoln Maniac

    Exposure To The Left, ie exposing such that you do not crush shadow details with the initial exposure. By pushing a dark background just to black (but not much beyond) you can ensure that most/all shadow details on the coin will have tonality. It will generally cause an overall under-exposure of the image, which helps to ensure highlights are not over-exposed. What you get is what I call "good raw material" that can be further post-processed into a full-tone image.
  20. rmpsrpms

    rmpsrpms Lincoln Maniac

    While your ETTR example is not really traditional ETTR (you have only a little over-exposure), my discussion of calibrating backgrounds to black is not really ETTL. Looking at your images, I think our exposure goals are the same, ie to expose the image such that highlights are not blown out, and shadows are not crushed. Generally I use the camera's aperture priority auto exposure mode, which will usually result in some over-exposure, along with some exposure compensation, to keep from over-exposing highlights. When shooting dark coins, the calibrated background is useful to ensure that blacks are not crushed in a similar way as exposure compensation keeps highlights from being blown. That said, I tend to shoot bright coins, so don't use the black calibration method very often.

    This brings up another calibration technique that I've used for toned coins. By shooting on a middle gray background, and ensuring the backgrounds of all final images are at the same tonality, differences in coin tonalities is easy to manage, and colors are traceable to make sure no "juicing" has been applied. I suppose axial lighting, or ringlights, are most useful for this technique since they give a nice, even illumination across the coin and the background. Other methods will give some tonal gradation in the backgrounds, so that some judgement is needed to set an equal background tonality from image to image.
  21. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    As I've mentioned, I use a studio flash. Are you using flash or solid lights to illuminate your coins? Can you adjust the power of your lights?
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