Coin Photos Lighting Requirements

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by tpsadler, Feb 27, 2016.

  1. tpsadler

    tpsadler Numismatist

    Can anyone give me tips for proper lighting techniques when taking macro coin photos. I have a Nikon D7200 Camera with Micro-Nikkor AF-S 105 Lens
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  3. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    I've heard that the book Numismatic Photography is very good. The author may be a member here; I don't remember for sure.

    Other than that, I'd search the forums. There are numerous photography threads.
    tpsadler likes this.
  4. brg5658

    brg5658 Well-Known Member

    Stevearino, tpsadler, Jwt708 and 2 others like this.
  5. tpsadler

    tpsadler Numismatist

  6. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    I did a presentation at FUN in 2011 called "Respectable Coin Photography" that covers the basics like this, using a really cheap setup. There is a DVD available from David Lisot (CoinWeek and/or CoinTelevision), and perhaps others that carry it.
    jester3681 and tpsadler like this.
  7. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    Is it worth getting in addition to Goodman's book?
  8. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    My presentation goes through making corrections to the use of one's setup to go from a crappy picture to a good one, so it's more of a demonstration. Mark's book is more comprehensive and is also a good reference book. They complement each other. I'd recommend both, but I'm a little biased. I'm not making any money on the sale of these, FWIW.
    jester3681 and Paul M. like this.
  9. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    Thanks. :) I think that would be useful for me, since my pictures are very crappy at the moment. Of course, it also doesn't help that I haven't put much effort into making them better.

    Oh, and I wouldn't care if you were making money off it if it served my needs.
  10. usmc60

    usmc60 SEMPER FI

    All I know I've had problems and still having problems with lighting built a coin photography box still working on lighting but it's getting better please enjoy the photos box-1.JPG

    Attached Files:

  11. usmc60

    usmc60 SEMPER FI

    PS to start have to pay my mortgage off first in order to buy a new camera this Canon power shot hs350 with macro is okay for now will upgrade when I can afford it
  12. Cascade

    Cascade The Blind VAMmer

    I wish I had the desire to photograph coins better than "good enough." The total lack of want and will I know is holding me back but when you only want to have high quality pics of certain coins and you can always just send them to @messydesk and others on his level for a modest fee it makes the ability to self motivate even harder
  13. tpsadler

    tpsadler Numismatist

    I have always had an interest in Photography and over the years acquired equipment and ideas that I thought made sense. As I am now wanting to make close up photos of VAMs and other Error Types, Macro Photography seems to be elusive and a tease :) I see a photo by @SuperDave on this forum of a 1939 Lincoln done with way less than half my investment and left scratching my head :)
  14. SuperDave

    SuperDave Free the Cartwheels!


    Luster is best depicted by lighting as close to vertical above the coin as possible. This tends to indicate that your lights should be as small as possible, to get as close to vertical as possible. The same applies to "pinpoint" lighting as opposed to broader-field stuff like large bulbs and straight fluorescents; the former makes the best effort at accurately depicting luster. This method is also least likely to cast shadows which might obscure details. The better that all is, though, the less-evenly the surface will be lit, and the more likely you'll run into washed-out areas. Another potential problem area, especially when using LED's, is that higher-resolution cameras can cause what look like chroma noise effects on the image - specks of color where none should be. It's forced me on many occasions to use the Chroma Noise filtering system in RAW processing software (if you have RAW available with your camera, quit taking jpg's and switch to it after you've learned the processing flow) to eliminate it. Someone whose opinions on imaging I trust (wish I remembered where) theorized this was due to the LED's used not being full-spectrum - emitting light across the color spectrum, rather than being deliberately limited to a certain color temperature. It's on my list of things to explore.

    Diffusion - taking that sharp, directed light and hiding it somewhat behind translucent coverings of one sort or another - helps to eliminate washouts, at the cost of luster.

    I'm hoping rmpsrpms, who has forgotten more about lighting than I ever learned, will weigh in. I thought I was pretty good at this - actually, I was, sorta - until he happened on the scene and started teaching me all the stuff I'd been missing, like it didn't take a $500 lens to do it. :)
    Norbert Hache and tpsadler like this.
  15. usmc60

    usmc60 SEMPER FI

    Have you noticed some of these other photographs of coins it seems a lot of people taking photographs of coins are using Photoshop to enhance their photos but some quality photographers have the right equipment and lighting to produce a quality coin photo without Photoshop
    Still working on my lighting problems

    Attached Files:

  16. tpsadler

    tpsadler Numismatist

    Me TOO :)
    Photoshop has its pluses (Allowing Post processing of image rather than Pre Processing) I am not sure unless focus stacking is the only way its necessary. Using Raw (Extremely Large Files) files is much better than JPEG formats for Post Processing. Unfortunately JPEG is the industry standard that allows OK photos at Internet Data Rates :)
  17. rmpsrpms

    rmpsrpms Lincoln Maniac

    tpsadler...the totorial post by Brandon (brg5658) is excellent and should get you started. The post explains two dimensions of coin lighting:

    1) Angle vs horizontal
    2) Clock positions

    My response in Brandon's post was to add 2 more dimensions to coin lighting. The first one:

    3) Distance of the sources from the coin

    completes the 3 physical dimensions and specifies the position of the lights in 3-Dimensional space above the coin.

    In addition, I described a 4th "dimension" to coin lighting:

    4) Apparent size of the light sources

    This includes both the actual size of the light source, plus the diffusion applied to the source. Diffusion makes the source appear larger, ie coming from a wider range of angles.

    Since Brandon's post, I have explored two more dimensions to coin lighting:

    5) Shape of the light source

    In several posts on the other forum mentioned by Brandon, I described the effect of shaping the light source for best control of incident lighting angles. Google "smile directors coin photography" to pull up the relevant posts.

    My most recent work on coin lighting relates to yet another dimension:

    6) Coin tilt

    Tilt is used to artificially increase the angle of the lights vs the coin.

    Now, back to the OP's predicament. I have a 105VRMicro as well, and when using it have always had difficulty getting lighting up to the high angles that Brandon describes in his tutorial, especially for smaller coins. This is due to the relatively short working distance of this lens, plus its large diameter, both of which make it more difficult to get lights into the positions shown in the diagrams. In fact, the shortcomings of the 105VRMicro was the main driver for me to go down the bellows path. Bellows allow you to choose small diameter lenses with focal lengths that allow the lights to be positioned as Brandon shows.

    But all is not lost! There are two ways that the 105VRMicro can be used so that lighting is at a high angle. First is by tilting the coin. Second is by creating a diffuser that positions and shapes the lighting "below" the lens, ie between the lens and the coin. In the Google search above, several of the links will show a cone-shaped contraption that attaches to the lens, and has a piece of diffusion paper attached at the bottom. This contraption can be implemented various ways, but all have the end result of creating a variable-diffusion, arc-shaped light source that can be dynamically optimized for coins with varying sizes and reflection characteristics, slabs vs raw, etc. I will dub this the "Smile Director Cone", or SDC.

    To get started, I suggest you read the various lighting-related posts brought up by the Google search, and in parallel buy 2-3 Jansjo LED lamps. These come from IKEA, and are about $10 each. Then try setting up the lights as they are shown in Brandon's post, and see what you can achieve. Post your results to get feedback. Most likely the steps after that will be trying tilt, then adding a SDC. I'll keep an eye on this thread and will add more info on the SDC as needed to keep you moving forward.
  18. SuperDave

    SuperDave Free the Cartwheels!

    The whole point of RAW is to remove the camera from the processing cycle completely; you can't post a RAW image online in a readable format. The 1939 Cent is a RAW image converted to jpg.

    Any postprocessing you might have to do to get your image closer to real life is fine. Of course, the goal is not to need any postprocessing not directly related to making the image usable online.
  19. tpsadler

    tpsadler Numismatist

    image-4DS_8663 (2).JPG I read Brandon's Post on Google and have am attempting the three lamp positioning mention there . Here is an image recreated
  20. tpsadler

    tpsadler Numismatist

    I have not attempted a tilted image. Please note the highlights around the characters and details this is what i am attempting to tone down.
  21. physics-fan3.14

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

    One of the most important things I learned from Mark Goodman's book is that you can't use the same lighting for every coin. I knew this in an instinctive way, of course, but he shows the best lighting setup for many types of coins. He breaks them down into high, medium, and low contrast coins (as well as toned and proof), and shows the best lighting setup for each type of coin. This is extremely valuable information, and has helped me tremendously.
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