Please Tell Me: How Awful are these Pictures...? (critique the pics pls, not the coin)

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by Eduard, May 20, 2019.

  1. Eduard

    Eduard Supporter**

    I consider myself a strict and poor amateur when it comes to taking pictures of my coins. No pretenses here.

    My equipment consists of my wife's handheld camera, a south facing window sill, and natural sunlight, (not much of that in my area, though...!)

    In spite of my amateur skills and primitive equipment, I consider my photos to at least tell the viewer what the coin actually looks like in hand. I think I capture the natural tones and in-hand look fairly well. No glamour, just the coin.

    However, I am almost always unable to capture lustre (unless I happen to get a good shot), and invariably my photos tend to be too dark at the bottom, and often, (not always) too shiny/bright at the top. I really struggle with that.

    Since I am a copper collector, shooting coppers representatively is important to me. Take these pictures, for example - as a copper collector, they tell me the essence of what I need to know: they reveal what the surfaces actually look like (pits, scratches and nicks and all). They also reproduce adequately the colour in-hand, as it really is. All key variables for early coppers collectors.

    Here are the pics - what do you think? awful? OK, but...?

    1793 Chain cednt OBV2 N quite good [ic - 1.jpg 1793 Chain cent REV2 N quite good pic - 1.jpg
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
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  3. Michael K

    Michael K Well-Known Member

    Pretty good. As the coin is large, clear and all parts visible on both sides.
    Oh sure if you want to get fancy and have the equipment, it could be better.
    But it's WAY above average. Perhaps if there was a way to light/ see the date better.
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  4. Chris B

    Chris B Supporter! Supporter

    They look good to me. I am an amateur photographer myself. They would be more than good enough for my own personal use.
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  5. halfcent1793

    halfcent1793 Well-Known Member

    Edouard, I'd say the photos are very good. They would be excellent if you could get the lighting even.

    Different coins require different lighting. Sometimes, I find I get good results with a single light (only with very small coins), other times two or even three. You just have to experiment until you get what you like best.
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  6. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter

    Much better than I can ever do. I think messing with the lighting is your key
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  7. Seattlite86

    Seattlite86 Outspoken Member

    Let me start by saying this, the photo is great, we can see all the details, it's high definition, decent lighting, certainly a passable photo.

    Now...+1 on the even lighting, that was my first critique, since you've asked us to be critical. My guess is you are using a single light source at the 12 o'clock instead of two light sources at the 10 and 2 o'clock and then moving them until the lighting shows evenly on the coin in front of the camera. This is why the bottoms of both coins show a bit of a shadow.

    Another thing that would be really helpful is using something that is either pure white or pure black and non-reflective for the surface under the coin. Lighting has a bit to do with why the top part of the white is brighter than the bottom part, but compared to the white of the CT design, your background looks off-white. That makes me question just how true the color of the coin is in your hand compared to in the photo. You said they match pretty well, so it could just be the background, but getting one of those white cards to adjust white balance could help this.

    I also noticed that the colors of the obverse and reverse sides do not quite match up. This could very well be due to different toning/environments the coin has endured, or it could be that you moved your light or camera between shots. I've placed the two shots side by side for you to see. It appears the coin is in the exact same spot, but for some reason, likely camera exposure settings, the reverse looks a touch lighter than the obverse.
    1793 Chain cednt OBV2 N quite good [ic - 1-horz.jpg
    I would recommend downloading Photoscape, which is free photo software at, which really helps do a lot of things with your photos to include cropping and adjusting lighting/color until you're happy with it. I played with your photos just a little and below are the results. If you'd like, I can bring my computer the next time we meet and you can play with it to see if you like it.

    1793 Chain cednt OBV2 N quite good [ic - 1-horz.jpg
  8. Bert Gedin

    Bert Gedin Well-Known Member

    I used to be quite a photo-fanatic, but that was a very long time ago, and not about coins. Although I did lots of junky photos, there were exceptions, and I managed 1st prize in a national sports-photo competition. But that, as they say, is history now. I don't, sadly take coin pictures, but may be capable of judging other's. I consider Eduard's pictures not bad at all. :snaphappy:
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  9. Magnus87

    Magnus87 Supporter! Supporter

    I greatly enjoy seeing your US coins; your collecting interests closely parallel my own and I thoroughly appreciate your taste. Photos are well beyond merely adequate... definitely in the B+ range or better, esp. when showing the silvers. Don’t stop!
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  10. micbraun

    micbraun coindiccted

    I think you’re way to humble about your imaging skills. Both pictures are really good, considering it must be a pretty dark coin at this grade. In my opinion, the changed (black) background makes the shots even better - good enough to call them “auction catalog quality”. But wait... how could I forget, you never ever sell any coins :)
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  11. Spark1951

    Spark1951 Accomplishment, not activity

    You take great photos. Get the lighting even, 2 sources of light at 10 and 2 and keep them in- one should gripe.

    The 2 sources of light do not have to be more than 25-40 watts each, and black is a better background to avoid splash-back glare from white. A white-balance is critical, sometimes close-ups with digital lose the white balance at extreme magnification...Spark
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  12. NYandW

    NYandW Makes Cents!

    Nice thread folks, thanks!
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  13. Eduard

    Eduard Supporter**

    Thank you, everybody, for your comments. It is very helpful and also very encouraging. I'm not doing too bad, but could do better.

    Many of you commented on the Lighting: my only source is natural sunlight, and the background is the off-white granite countertop on the window sill.

    Since the weather is whimsical, and you never know when the sun is going to come thru just right and for how long (specially in winter), I did explore working with lamps.
    I used for two IKEA flexible LED lamps (muted with taped tissue paper as per recommendations I read somewhere).
    The result was not good. Following your comments, however, I will look at this again, as well use of another background. I have the feeling I also need another camera.

    The coin I pictured actually has a slightly different tone on the obverse vs the reverse - coppers do come that way sometimes.

    Thanks again to everybody for your helpful and encouraging comments:).
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  14. halfcent1793

    halfcent1793 Well-Known Member

    The granite on which you put the coin is reflective. I would recommend a non-reflective (or minimally reflective) background such as a neutral gray card. It also helps with the exposure. I find with a neutral gray card as the background, I can shoot copper coins in auto.
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  15. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    The pictures aren't awful.

    You show the surfaces reasonably well. I can tell how "hard" they are, and where there's porosity and defects. The color, I'm not sure, as I don't have the coin in hand. As you know, proper representation of the color of copper is critical. A little too pink or green (it doesn't take much) and the coin looks really weird. Specular reflections will mute the color, which doesn't do you any favors, either. If I were to guess, I'd say that the color and overall appearance of the coin is best represented by the horizontal slice of the obverse image passing just below Liberty's chin and being about 10% the height of the image. Above that, you lose color to the reflection, below that, you lose surface characteristics. The reverse looks to be a different color from the obverse if I look at the bottom of the reverse.

    How best to deal with this if using sunlight? Maybe try a white piece of paper near the bottom of the coin as a fill reflector to bump up the light there a little, thus evening out the lighting a bit. You don't want to totally fill in all the shadows, or you won't see the coin's detail, but some experimenting might bet you what you want.

    Another thing you might want to do if a dark coin is taking up most of the frame of your photo is to tell the camera to underexpose it. Your camera's meter is expecting something that is lighter overall, and may be overexposing to make it appear that way. Underexposing will counteract that.

    My preference, of course, would be to use lamps that are at a lower-than-normal angle and diffuse. This will make the light more even, give good shadows showing the detail of the coin, and avoid specular reflections.
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