How to take great coin pictures

Below is an explanation of the method I use to take images of my coins. I am sure others have excellent setups too, but this one works for me.

THE CAMERA.

I use a Canon A80 4.0 Mega Pixel. I believe any camera will do, if you do the following:

1- Make the camera read the light-metering and focus in a single central box as opposed to averaging

2- Before starting a session put on your lights and make the camera custom evaluate the white balance by placing a piece of white paper to fill the screen about a few inches away from the camera.

 

THE SET-UP

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1. Building the base:

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2. The shadow box:

 

Once you have built the tools, you need to mount your camera and get a light source. I use a day-light screw bulb (The energy saving type) in a regular flexible neck lamp.

Place the coin on the screw top (Make sure the drop of glue gun is there to avoid scratching the coin. The drop also acts as a good friction element to keep the coin in place.) Slide the box under the camera and rotate the box to get the desired angle of the coin. Take the picture and repeat for the other side of the coin.

DEVELOPING:

If you have purchased a scanner in the past few years, you probably received Presto Image Manager as a free software with it. Frankly, I have photoshop 6, but I only use it for graphic logos and the like. For coin images I use Presto. It is simple and does the job.

a- First, place the two sides of the coin in one image:

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b- Sharpen the image once:

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c- click on process again and click on Density Control

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You will see a graphic of the image showing the light density. Essentially, anything outside the central density should be removed. Don't be aggressive with this. If you do the image will not look good.

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d-Sharpen the image again if you like

and tada!

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You are done.

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I specifically used a not-so-good coin here to show the process. For better coins, the results will be even better of course.

Two more IMPORTANT points:

a) If you are having a hard time with a black background with silver coins, it is most likely because the light reading is not focused on the surface of the coin, but rather is being averaged by the camera. Find out if you can force the camera to do the light-meter reading from a focused square as opposed to a scatter of points. If you do, you will find that the black background is the best for all coins. It fades into the background fully with no texture, and there is no need to crop the background away using photoshop - a process that makes the background artificial in the best of cases.

b) For good quality photos, avoid doing more than one coin at a time. In close-up photography a slight angle away from the center makes a big difference in the focus and the natural look of the coin. Also try lifting the coin off the background with the screw thingy. By creating a depth of field, no texture will be left from the background and a uniform but natural look will be created. Avoid the easy solution of  taking a few coins at a time, you cannot make a proper lightmeter reading from the surface of all these coin and get the correct exposure from it.

 

 

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