Featured First coin macro shots. Advice from the experts???

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by Eric Babula, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. Eric Babula

    Eric Babula Active Member

    Ok, I’m a complete novice at macro photography of coins, so please be kind (well, you don’t have to – I’m a big boy – I can handle it!)! Up to now, my only coin pics have been either from my cell phone (hand-held) or my point-and-shoot (w/ tripod). Not conducive for really good pics, for sure!

    I don’t need to be a professional, but I want to learn to take pretty good pics of my collection. My camera is not the best (Pentax K100D), but it’ll have to do for now. I just bought a new macro lens (Phoenix 100mm F3.5 – didn’t want to spend a ton, since I may end up getting a new camera at some point in the next year or so), as my zoom lenses were not doing the trick at all. I have a copy stand and 2 goose neck lamps, which I set at about 10:00 and 2:00 to the coin. Put the camera on macro mode, with manual focus, and a 2-second delay, auto white balance (could probably do custom white balancing). No other settings, yet. Not sure if I can hook the Pentax K100D up to my laptop with LiveView, so I focused through the little viewfinder.

    Attaching a few of my first pics (took about 100 shots last night just to test), completely unedited (oops, except for cropping), so you can see the pic as it came out of the camera. To be honest, these are tons better than anything I’ve done with the cell phone or point-and-shoot! So, already I’m happy and can see good things in the future with lots of practice and experimenting! But, I know my pics can get better with time.

    Any advice from the coin photographers out there would be appreciated. A few questions:
    1. Does anyone know if you can do LiveView and remote control on a laptop with a Pentax K100D? If so, how?
    2. I see that I’m getting some clear sections and some blurry sections of the coin (esp noticeable on the Cent reverse). Do I play with Aperture to get more crispness across the entire coin? Do I have to have my camera on Macro Mode, or can I set to Aperture priority, instead?
    3. Looks like blast white dimes are going to be a particular challenge – I should be able to get better than this. Do I need to change lighting?
    4. Colors actually look pretty close to actual coins in hand, just coming out of the camera. What’s the preference for lighting? I’m using LED bulbs, 10W (60W equiv), 5000K. Or, doesn’t it matter with white balancing?
    Ok, that’s enough for now – probably more questions to come, pending responses. Thanks in advance for any advice!
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  3. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Not too shabby Eric.......the 'white balance' looks good and the focus adequate If you feel your focus is a bit whacked try using a higher f-stop.I use f-8 to give a better 'depth of field'. Of utmost importance is making sure that the camera is perpendicular to the subject. The outcome is more forgiving.....:)
  4. Eric Babula

    Eric Babula Active Member

    Thanks @green18 ! I read, here: http://coinimaging.com/photography.html that changing Aperture would help with depth of field. And, I noticed on the Cent that maybe my camera wasn't 100% perpendicular to the coin.

    Lots of practice needed - I know!
  5. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    The fact that you took many shots of these coins is testimony to your high expectations of quality. :)
    Eric Babula likes this.
  6. thomas mozzillo

    thomas mozzillo Supporter! Supporter

    IMO you did a great job. I only have my Galaxy S8 to take photos of my coins. That's why I've never posted one.
  7. Eric Babula

    Eric Babula Active Member

    Thanks @thomas mozzillo . You can get decent pics with your Galaxy S8. Decent enough to show, for sure. Not professional quality, but we're not all professional photographers, right?! I think the S8 (I used an S9 for some of my other posted pics) is plenty good enough for this forum!

    Show off your stuff! We'd all love to see some of your coins!
    thomas mozzillo likes this.
  8. thomas mozzillo

    thomas mozzillo Supporter! Supporter

    Will start doing that. Thank you.
    Eric Babula likes this.
  9. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    Short observation: Your lights are too low.

    Longer elaboration: If you have large areas of dark fields, it's because there's no light reflecting from them into the camera. A coin's luster will naturally give you some variation between light and dark, but not this much. Raising the angle of the lights will brighten up the fields. On cameo proof and proof-like coins, you may actually want the lights a little lower (like you have them) to keep the fields dark and make the devices pop out. The other symptom of low lights I will point out is on the Mercury dime. Against the dark fields, you have blown out highlights near edges. Since the fields are dark, your camera is trying to compensate for a dark subject by increasing the exposure. The result is that where the light does reflect into the camera from the edges of the devices, they appear overexposed. If you raise the light up, almost to the point of having glare from the slabs, you'll have a better exposure. The fasces on the reverse are showing as being brighter between the vertical sticks and darker on the surface of the sticks because of the low lights, but there is another problem in play here. You stated you have your lights at 10 and 2. This doesn't work for Mercury dime reverses because each light fills in the shadows cast by the other on the fasces, and you end up with indistinct separation. Try 11 and 3 and even 1 and 5 and 11 and 7, and you'll see how big of a difference that makes. Pay attention to the appearance of the axe blade when you do this, too. Liberty seated coinage makes this even trickier by having groups of stripes in the shield that are perpendicular to each other, and you don't want your lights to wash any of them out. The general rule of thumb is to not have lighting be symmetric around groups of parallel stripes.
    Jaelus, ldhair and physics-fan3.14 like this.
  10. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    Error coins and coins tilted in the holder can cause problems in this department, and using f11 or f16 will help somewhat. You should also have a bullseye level that you can use to make sure your camera is parallel to the coins. For coins tilted in the holder, using a couple business cards to shim up part of the holder as necessary can level out the coin.

  11. physics-fan3.14

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

    messydesk said the exact same thing I was going to say (but he explained it better).

    You have a really good first start, so keep trying!
    Eric Babula likes this.
  12. Eric Babula

    Eric Babula Active Member

    @messydesk thank you for the great advice! Next shoot, I'll take this into consideration and experiment per your comments. I realize I have a long way to go, and I really appreciate all the help I can get!

    Here's my setup. I know, I have to get rid of all the other clutter around the copy stand. That's goal #1, to make this a macro photo area only. Now that you see my setup, does that confirm your comments? Any other suggestions?

    For these pics, I originally just wanted to test out my new macro lens (just got from Ebay) just to see if it worked. But, then I decided to post some of the pics and see what advice I could get from the forum. As I get more into this hobby-within-a-hobby, I'll get this area looking more conducive to macro photography!

    So far, I'm loving the help I'm getting! Thanks!!!

    Hey @messydesk , weren't you a member of RCC, back in the day?
  13. Eric Babula

    Eric Babula Active Member

    Oops, pics of setup:
    20190811_113334.jpg 20190811_113431.jpg
    John Burgess likes this.
  14. John Burgess

    John Burgess Well-Known Member

    I just have my Galaxy S5 and a magnifier app. I think it does a decent job. In the end I'm not into the photography hobby, I'm a coin collector. Lol. I do my best with what I have but I'm not gonna do glamorshots as a side gig any time soon so not gonna invest in photo gear. IMG_2019-07-21_17-26-55.jpg
    Eric Babula likes this.
  15. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    It looks pretty much like I envisioned.
    Yes, I was.
  16. Eric Babula

    Eric Babula Active Member

    Back in the day, there was a guy named Eric Tillery (k6az was his handle - remember him?) who was a very good photographer and connoisseur of Morgan Dollars. Not sure if he's still around the coin forums anymore or not. He and I (and others) had a discussion about photographing with a point-and-shoot vs a DSLR. He challenged the group to use a point-and-shoot to take a pic of a blast white Mercury Dime that would equal the quality of one that he posted. Being one who's up for challenges, my response was "challenge accepted" (assuming that I wasn't going to succeed, but wanting to get there anyway!). I think I was the only one who took up the challenge.

    Long story short, I failed......miserably! After hours of shooting my Merc (possibly the same Merc as shown in my pics above, I can't recall anymore - that was like in 2004, maybe), I came to the conclusion, and admitted to the newsgroup, that I could not equal the DSLR, or even come close.

    Now, shooting with my relatively cheap DSLR that I bought in like 2005 or 2006, and with my super expensive ($60) new macro lens [​IMG] I fully realize the futility in the efforts I made back then! Even with my cheap equipment, the pics I'm getting (see above), are far better than anything I ever did with my point-and-shoot. YMMV.

    Again, I know I have LOTS to learn, but, with guidance from you guys/gals and much more practice, I'll be able to be happy with my results in the end. This may end up being a secondary "coin" obsession for me!

    Thanks again in advance for any additional advice!! This is fun!
  17. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    I do remember him, but I can't say I remember the Mercury dime challenge. First point-and-shoot I bought was in 2004, and I had already been using the PCGS forum more than RCC at that time. In my RCC days, I was using film for coins.

    Equipment and talent for shooting coin photos have both grown a lot in 15 years, of course. The photo contests of over 10 years ago don't make much sense today, since so many can produce decent pictures.
  18. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Point and shoot.....

    Eric Babula likes this.
  19. green18

    green18 Unknown member Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Canon SD-1200 IS
  20. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    The early days of PCGS were really fun. When folks started posting great images, everyone was trying to learn. Many were willing to teach. Including you @messydesk Thank you for that.
    messydesk and Eric Babula like this.
  21. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    I have one of those on my desk right now. I use it for shooting variety close-ups through my microscope eyepiece. I've shot tens of thousands of photos that way. I gave a coin photography talk at FUN several years ago showing how to take respectable pictures with cheap equipment, using that camera as an example.
    Eric Babula, ldhair and green18 like this.
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