AND PAPER MONEY PHOTOGRAPHY, PART 2
issue of our newsletter contains an introduction to numismatic
photography including selecting a suitable digital camera. In
this installment, we focus on an appropriate setup for taking coin and
paper money pictures, with emphasis on lighting conditions.
While some photographers place items on a specialized platform, our
experience has been that a table top or other flat surface works just
fine. Place the coin or note on a solid white, gray or black
surface, such as a sheet of paper. With a black background your
pictures may be overexposed. Conversely, they may be underexposed
when a white background is used. Proper exposure is more easily
achieved with a camera that supports manual shutter settings or has a
spot metering capability.
If your camera has a custom white balance capability, we recommend a
white background - set the white balance with the lighting and
background you'll be using but without any objects on the background
surface. Otherwise, an 18% gray card (available at many camera and film
processing shops) produces the most realistic colors for many coins.
Mount the camera on a tripod with the lens facing down at the
Be sure the distance from the lens (when the camera is on) to the
subject is at least the minimum distance supported for the camera, or
your pictures will be out of focus.
Lighting is critical for getting realistic photos. We will
briefly consider a few of the most popular alternatives.
Generally, a primary light source is supplemented by one or more fill
sources to minimize shadows.
The simplest alternative is to shoot in daylight using the camera's
white balance setting for daylight conditions. Drawbacks to this
method include that lighting conditions will vary with the time of day
and weather conditions and that luster may be understated (the latter
may not be an issue for paper money or circulated coins).
fairly simple alternative that allows easily reproducible conditions
and does a good job of capturing uncirculated coin luster is to use a
couple lamps, like those commonly seen at coin show tables, with
incandescent bulbs. We advise against fluorescent lights for
photography. Point one light from nearly overhead directly at the
subject and the other at a low angle from approximately twice the
distance. Incandescent lighting is strongly yellow compared to
daylight, although less so with Reveal brand light bulbs, and this is
where a custom white balance capability comes in handy. If your
camera doesn't support custom white balance, try its incandescent white
balance setting(s). For realistic pictures, additional color
correction may be necessary with photo editing software. With
this lighting setup there will often be a strong glare from some areas
of the coin (because some parts of the raised surfaces will reflect
light directly from the source to the lens).
Reflectors and/or translucent screens are used by professional
photographers to avoid glare and evenly light subjects. Products
that diffuse lighting onto coins and other small objects are
commercially available. Some consist of a translucent dome with a
camera mount affixed to the top. The camera is attached to the
and points through an opening in the center of the dome at the
of these products we've seen have been priced at $200-400 or
more. Some enterprising individuals have made their own domes
using a translucent white plastic bowl and a tripod mount. When
purchasing or constructing a dome, be sure that the height is
appropriate for the minimum focus distance supported by your
camera. Alternatively, you can set up an environment to reflect
light with common household materials, such as a box or other surfaces
lined with reflective materials, e.g. white paper or aluminum foil that
has been crumpled and then flattened so that light is scattered at
various angles. Aim at least one of your light sources at the
reflective surfaces. This technique was used for the half dollar
pictured on this page.
As you can see, there are a number of lighting options. Which one
is right for you depends on the equipment you already have, your budget
and your quality expectations. Try experimenting with some of the
low cost lighting options described above and see what works best.
Through May 24, we're adding one each 2007-P and 2007-D Washington
quarters in uncirculated condition free to orders of $45 or more placed
with our secure online shopping cart. More info about this offer is
available on our Current
REMINDER: NEW WEB SITE LOCATION
As previously announced, our web site recently moved. Our
complete inventory of collector
coins and paper money
plus books and supplies for collectors
can be viewed online at our new web
site location, www.telecoins.com.
Our newsletter is also distributed by e-mail on a strictly opt-in only
basis. To subscribe, simply complete the form below. Instructions
for unsubscribing are included with each issue.
Receive our free newsletter by e-mail!
Messages sent about once a
month feature announcements of new purchases, special offers and
at our web site. Each issue also includes at least one article
news and/or commentary pertaining to the world of numismatics.
To receive future issues of the Telesphere
Numismatics newsletter by
e-mail, enter your name and e-mail address in the form below and click
the "Subscribe Now"
Our newsletter is strictly opt-in only. No
one will be added without
requesting it. To protect your privacy, subscriber info will not be
to anyone else. Requests to unsubscribe are promptly honored.