AND PAPER MONEY PHOTOGRAPHY, PART 3
The final article in our series on digital photography of coins and
paper money takes a look at processing the pictures for publishing
online and in hard copy media. The first two parts are still
available on our web site:
including selecting a suitable digital camera
photographing numismatic items, with emphasis on lighting
Many recent model printers have the capability to print pictures from
digital cameras without a computer. Some of these printers have
slots for one or more of the most widely used digital camera memory
cards. Uploading your photos to a computer is necessary when
you'd like to edit them, save digital copies, e-mail to others and/or
publish them online. A few recent model cameras are capable of
wireless transfer. More commonly, the camera is connected with a
cable (typically USB) or the memory card is removed from the camera and
inserted into a peripheral card reader that's connected to the
computer. Consult the manuals for your camera and any card
reading devices you may have for more specific info.
Digital cameras are often sold with photo management and editing
software, and software for these tasks may already be included with
your computer's operating system. Should you find these options
lacking, other products are available. We use Apple's iPhoto
(included with Mac OS X) for managing photo libraries and Adobe
Photoshop Elements for editing pictures. Photoshop Elements is a
scaled down version of Adobe's powerful Photoshop software, with just
about all the features useful for editing photographs at a fraction of
management software installed on your computer may launch
automatically when a camera is connected. Start the program
manually, if necessary, then import the photos from your camera's
memory card. While many photo management applications have some
editing capabilities, we suggest setting the preferences to instead
launch a separate, more advanced editor (such as Photoshop
Elements). Image editing software facilitates technical and
creative manipulation of pictures such as rotatation, cropping,
resizing, annotatation, color correction and brightness and contrast
adjustments. Some of these steps are discussed below in general
terms, but the specific menus, mouse clicks, keystrokes, etc. vary from
one application to another. Consult the documentation for your
application for detailed instructions.
chances are the coin
or note in your picture will not be oriented exactly the way you'd like
(e.g. with what's considered the top of the coin at the top of the
window). Use the editing software's rotation feature to rotate the
entire image. If the amount of rotation isn't quite right, undo
it (to restore the original image) and try another value. Proper
rotation can usually be achieved in 2-4 iterations.
Note: The image at the right, showing a coin picture prior to rotation,
has been resized as described below.
use the editing
software's cropping capability to remove excessive space around the
object of interest. The extra space adds nothing to your picture
but will increase storage space and transfer time when the picture is
e-mailed or downloaded from a web site.
Resizing: depending on the
resolution (number of megapixels) of your camera, its distance from the
object you've photographed and other factors, the picture may be much
larger than the object itself. In addition to the storage space
and transfer time considerations mentioned for cropping, this high
magnification tends to exaggerate minor imperfections such as bag
marks. We suggest resizing the image so that the width and height
of the picture are each 2-4 times the actual size of a coin and about
the same as the actual size of paper money.
The image at right has been resized to 1/2 the width and height of the
original picture, after rotation and cropping. The area and number of
pixels have been reduced by a factor of 4. Click the image to see
the picture at its original size.
Color correction: if your
pictures have a strong color cast (e.g. too yellow), try a different
light source or changing the white balance setting on your camera, as
explained in part
1. Final adjustments can be made, if necessary, by adjusting colors
with your image editing software.
adjustments to brightness and contrast may make your picture more
closely represent the actual object, e.g. by lightening dark photos or
increasing the contrast between dark and light areas. If more
than subtle adjustments to brightness and contrast seem to be
necessary, different camera settings and/or lighting are probably
advisable. Avoid setting the contrast so high that the picture
In the image at the right, brightness and contrast have each been
slightly increased from the original picture.
may optionally be used to sharpen pictures, which makes fine details
(including small marks present on most coins) more pronounced.
The picture at the right illustrates the effect of sharpening.
Annotation: most image editing
applications have text tools that allow you to enter whatever
information you'd like to save with the picture. Examples include
identifying information, photographic conditions or a copyright
notice. Add text after completing any image resizing, color
correction or other adjustments.
image editing software can readily be used to create a single picture
displaying both sides of a coin or note. You can also add a
close-up of an area of interest or create a collage of multiple
objects. Open a new window large enough to contain all the
images you're combining. Select the editing software's marquee
tool. Use an elliptical marquee for coins and other round objects
and a rectangular marquee for paper money. Position the pointer
at the top left corner of the area you wish to copy (easy to find if
you first crop all extra space at the left and top edges of a coin),
click the mouse button and drag down and to the right. Holding the
"shift" key while performing this operation may constrain the ellipse
to the shape of a circle. Copy the selected area to the
clipboard. Drag the selected area to the new window or position
the pointer in it, and paste the clipboard there. Re-position
pasted images, annotate and crop as desired, then save the combined
image to a new file.
Saving in jpeg format is recommended for photographs that will be used
on a web site. However, another image format universally
supported by web browsers, Compuserve GIF®, supports
transparent backgrounds. The image at the right is in GIF format
and, as you can see, the area outside the perimeter of the coin is now
the same color as the page background. Click this image to see an
annotated picture in jpeg format of both sides of this coin, a 1937
Lincoln Cent that has been graded MS67 RD by NGC.
While there are a lot more details than we can reasonably include in
our articles on coin and paper money photography, or that vary for
particular equipment and software, the information provided will get
you well on the way to taking great pictures of coins, notes and
exonumia. Of course, much more information is available online,
which you can easily find with Google
and other search engines. With practice and a willingness to
experiment a bit, you can develop a setup and detailed technique
for your particular needs and budget.
2008 Red Books are now on sale at 30% off the suggested retail price.
This annual reference has been consulted by coin collectors everywhere
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until the present. Coin values in up to 9 grades are compiled from data
supplied by more than 100 contributors, providing the most extensively
researched data available.
This sale will end on June 19, 2007. More info about this offer
available on our Current
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