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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage  |  Topic: Photo lighting 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Photo lighting  (Read 12773 times)
dougsmit
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« on: January 25, 2017, 07:35:13 pm »

I'm a little offended that it has been a month and a half since we had a photo post so I'll start this thread asking how those of you that photograph coins light to light them.  My illustration shows the same coin (a Commodus denarius) lighted with direct light from an Ott light on the left and by an LED ring light on the right. The center image used both lights at the same time.  Certainly there could be a thousand variations made by moving the direct  light around, closer, farther, higher, lower, brighter and dimmer in relation to the ring which is also dimable.  Minor tipping of the coin would also change the effect.  We might also add another light or bounce the one we have off a white surface to soften the effect.  In other words I should have made a picture with a thousand variations instead of three.  If we did the same for bronze, gold, dull, polished or a hundred other types of coins we would have quite a pile of photos.  I wonder if I would find one that I liked better than the rest.   

I tend to find the solo use of the ring just a bit harsh for most coins but have been using it on more and more coins lately.  If you have a favorite rig, please explain it and post samples that demonstrate the features it offers that makes it attractive to you. 
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wileyc
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2017, 10:28:58 pm »

yes! I am always messing with my photo rig. I have a light ring and agree that its too harsh and I pick up glare, I currently use a halogen desk lamp at a canted angle for lighting. I fuss with getting the right focal range as much as anything and have tried a variety of set up's. I appreciate the insights gained on this forum.

cw
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Schatz
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2017, 07:35:26 am »

Hi Doug and Wiley,

I am forever struggling with lighting, but it seems that I have come to point where I am at least mostly satisfied with the images I get from my photo sessions.
I bought a ring light some time ago and the results were not really pleasing. The silver coins turned out very harsh, nothing like the actual coins, but you could see every detail - which is something you want when you put together your gallery. So I experimented a bit, and this is what I came up with. Since I do not have a permanent location for my set-up I used to shoot pics in the sun room which had light from all directions, including through skylights, and from an Ott lamp. The result was a very flat looking coin, details rather indistinguishable (pic #1). I then took my gear to another room with less natural light and set up the Ott lamp at about 10:30h. The result was pic #2, not really ideal for my purposes. Now the ring light came into play. After some trial and error I used room #2 with some natural light mostly from 6h, the Ott light at 11 and the ring light, not turned up full blast but reduced to about 60%, and came up with pic #3 which for my present purpose, completing my gallery of Parthian coins, is quite acceptable. Mind you, it is not an artistic photo, taken for aesthetic appeal, but what I think is best suited for my present purpose.

Schatz


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wileyc
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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2017, 12:12:07 pm »

I agree pic 3 to me brings out a more "pleasing" image, interesting on the different details brought out in the different lights.

cw
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Schatz
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« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2017, 01:17:42 pm »


Just a little add-on:  pic #1 and #2 are of the same coin and they are slightly out of focus, pic #3 shows a different coin in focus (I have become better at that, too).

Schatz
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OldMoney
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« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2017, 06:20:40 am »

Hi Doug,

I really prefer image 3, as it shows a lot more of the
finer details, and brings out the relief nicely. Well done!

Do you get similar results using a white background?

What does one ask for at the camera shop, etc., when
asking for this ring-lighting? Is there a particular model
number or other integral detail that ensures one gets
the correct item? I see that there are a lot of options
on various online suppliers.

I have been using a flatbed scanner of late, and have
had poor results from previous ring-style units, but your
results are outstanding in comparison and compel me to
reconsider matters, especially this option.

I had also found that LED lighting was too intense, and
simply did not seem to work with coins. They were good
for stamps and banknotes, etc., but not for ancient coins.
This shows that there has been some advances.

All the best,

Walter
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« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2017, 09:01:11 am »

Hi Walter,

I actually have 2 ring lights, both with 144 LED bulbs. One is divided into 4 sections which you can turn on or off in addition to the knob which regulates the light intensity. It is fun to experiment with this gadget, but rather time consuming if you want to use all possible combinations of lighted sections. The other ring light is one undivided ring with 144 little bulbs and a knob to regulate the light intensity.  I bought both of them on the Internet. They are made in China but marketed by a US company - slightly more expensive than the ones directly from China, but I always worry about customs, and the additional cost is worth my peace of mind.

I have tried very few coin shots with white background. At some time I decided that back is what I wanted for silver coins. I even did some white background shots for bronze coins. Logic would suggest that that brings out the detail of those difficult coins better. But I found that the difference is minuscule and decided to stay with black. (cf. attached pics)

Hope this is useful to you. Perhaps you can post some of your pictures. I am sure Doug or other experienced photographers would give you tips.

Schatz


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Callimachus
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« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2017, 09:32:03 am »

On the photo with the black background, there is a white line around the edges of each side of coin.
What causes that? and how can it be avoided?
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Schatz
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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2017, 04:28:20 pm »

Yes, Callimachus,

you are right. I have noticed this with many dark coins and am not quite sure what causes it.  It never bothered me because it sets off the dark coin from the dark background. Of course, originally the picture's background was not black but an irregular medium light color despite the black piece of cardboard at the bottom of the white china bowl on which I place a piece of non-reflecting glass that holds the dowel stick which props up the coin. No intended background color appears true in artificial light if it is at such a distance from the lens. The white ring around the coin may well be a reflection from the white china bowl or the ring light.

Perhaps someone who has a better grip on physics than I can explain.

Schatz
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dougsmit
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2017, 04:52:37 pm »

Quote from: Schatz on February 07, 2017, 04:28:20 pm
Yes, Callimachus,

you are right. I have noticed this with many dark coins and am not quite sure what causes it.  It never bothered me because it sets off the dark coin from the dark background. Of course, originally the picture's background was not black but an irregular medium light color despite the black piece of cardboard at the bottom of the white china bowl on which I place a piece of non-reflecting glass that holds the dowel stick which props up the coin. No intended background color appears true in artificial light if it is at such a distance from the lens. The white ring around the coin may well be a reflection from the white china bowl or the ring light.

Perhaps someone who has a better grip on physics than I can explain.

Schatz

No one seems willing to accept what I consider to be a fact of life.  The easiest and best way to accomplish a black background on a photo is to shoot a black (not gray, not green, not....) background.  Black is defined as the lack of light so you need to shoot the coin with no light reaching the background.  How you do that is your business.  I have made quite a number of experiments toward this nd and the best answer for a ring light is not the same as the easy answer for directional lights.  I do like to throw a little light on the edges of the coin especially when the coin is thick enough to have an interesting edge.  That does not mean a white rim but just being sure some light does hit the edges of the coin.  Again how you do that is also your business.  I do not yet have a photo of my current rig but I will warn that things that work best will bring ridicule from various sources.  My bestand current answer looks worse than this one.

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« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2017, 05:04:30 pm »

Wow!
PeteB
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Molinari
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« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2017, 06:01:58 pm »

I'm going to employ your method as soon as I buy a camera that doesn't do mandatory auto light adjustment.
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dougsmit
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« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2017, 06:42:26 am »

My recent change was to replace the shadow tube 'H' in the above photo with a cone made from black plastic flower pots (the disposable ones plants are sold in at a garden center).  The angled side and greater area resulted in a darker background black.  The top hole was made separately from the same material (black food carry out boxes works, too) so I could use one only slightly larger than the coin.  This shows in the photo as shot but is easy to select and erase since the part touching the coin is level 000000 black as shot.

The reason for this change was to make easier shooting thick coins bouncing a bit of light on the edges from the paper ring.  I might have overdone it with the white paper but using gray or making the ring larger would lessen the effect.  This is a matter of playing around until you get what you want.  Obviously those whose reason for making coin photos to promote eBay sales won't put in such efforts.  These coins are my children and we all want our babies to be a cute as possible.  Unfortunately, my Commodus obverse has complexion problems but Selene on the reverse is attractive.  Grin
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Molinari
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« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2017, 05:12:06 pm »

Some I took today with doug's flower pot method.  A huge improvement for me!

Shot on my iPhone and images combine d using the FrameMagic app.
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Molinari
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« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2017, 05:16:23 pm »

And here is the set-up.

I've got a tripod and horizontal extension in the way, which means I should need fewer shots to get the right one.

I've noticed higher relief coins are difficult (like this Larissa bronze), and I can't seem to get it all in focus.
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« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2017, 10:00:06 pm »

Some I took today with doug's flower pot method.  A huge improvement for me!

Shot on my iPhone and images combine d using the FrameMagic app.

How on earth did you get the iPhone to focus so close to the coin?
Every photo I've taken with an iPhone is completley out of focus!


Does using a black background instead of a whitebackground affect the colour of the coin at all if you were to crop the coins from the blackbackground and put them on a white one / transparent?

If not, I might give that flower pot method a try- it looks cleaner than using a white background.


Peter
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« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2017, 06:35:27 am »

I hold the phone (iPhone 6s) about two inches away.  It takes about 5 shots per side to get it "right" (it could always be better, of course).  I have a tripod on the way so perhaps that will cut down the amount of shots per side... but I'm not sure, since I manually adjust the brightness by sliding my finger up or down on the screen.

Still, 5 shots is nothing compared to the time I would spend editing out the background.  Magic wand always cut into my coins, and using an eraser tool on Photoshop, while good, was not perfect and was very time consuming.

The FrameMagic app is amazing.  I used to have multiple paintbrush screens open and copy paste, etc.  Now I select the pics which import directly into the app, resize and straighten with my fingers, and export with the click of a button.  All in, in takes about 5 minutes to fully photograph and process a coin, maybe less.  It used to be much more than that and the photos, as you can see from my gallery, are horrible:

http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/index.php?cat=14806

Even the black background ones aren't right because I was still shooting with my camera which automatically adjusted the light, so it took many minutes on Photoshop to get them passable, and they are often too dark.  I can't wait to re-shoot them all!

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dougsmit
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« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2017, 09:56:21 pm »

Are Iphones really that bad?  Our Samsung  Android has a macro mode to be turned on, manual exposure compensation settings and selective focus by touching the screen where you want it to focus.  The only problem is the small sensor and tiny lens are nothing compared to a real camera.
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« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2017, 10:27:29 am »

Will a regular sized camera make it easier to get the entire coin perfectly focused?  I'm having trouble there.  Some spots are crystal clear while others are a tad blurry.  See attached pic.  Coin is about 8mm and I used a clip-on macro lens.
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« Reply #19 on: February 18, 2017, 10:47:35 am »

Will a regular sized camera make it easier to get the entire coin perfectly focused?  I'm having trouble there.  Some spots are crystal clear while others are a tad blurry.  See attached pic.  Coin is about 8mm and I used a clip-on macro lens.

What you have is a "Depth of field" problem.  Your plane of focus is very shallow so only the top sliver of the coin is in focus.  If you have a camera that lets you increase the aperture of your lens (setting it to a larger number e.g. f/4 to 5.6) it will increase what appears to be in focus.
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« Reply #20 on: February 18, 2017, 10:55:04 am »

Thanks, Neo.  I don't think I can do that on the phone.

Larger coins are fine, it is the really tiny ones (which need the macro lens) that are troublesome.
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« Reply #21 on: February 18, 2017, 12:34:05 pm »

And here is the set-up.

I've got a tripod and horizontal extension in the way, which means I should need fewer shots to get the right one.

I've noticed higher relief coins are difficult (like this Larissa bronze), and I can't seem to get it all in focus.

Hi Nick,

I didn't know that you use an iPhone to take your photos.

I don't think a tripod will help. In my mind, it will be too restrictive. Using your arms gives you more options (length, angle, etc.).

Meepzorp
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« Reply #22 on: February 18, 2017, 12:37:54 pm »

Thanks, Neo.  I don't think I can do that on the phone.

Larger coins are fine, it is the really tiny ones (which need the macro lens) that are troublesome.

Hi Nick,

I have the same problem with my iPhone 4. Large and medium-sized coins come out fine. But small coins come out blurry. I just have to take numerous photos (sometimes as many as 30-50 photos per side), and I adjust the angle of the iPhone. Eventually, it comes out right.

I normally shoot 8 photos per side.

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« Reply #23 on: February 18, 2017, 12:38:04 pm »

Thanks, Neo.  I don't think I can do that on the phone.

Larger coins are fine, it is the really tiny ones (which need the macro lens) that are troublesome.

This makes sense because the closer you are to your subject, the more shallow the depth of field.  I don't know of any way around this with an iPhone.  With a camera with manual settings it's extremely easy to adjust.

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« Reply #24 on: February 18, 2017, 12:42:37 pm »

Some I took today with doug's flower pot method.  A huge improvement for me!

Shot on my iPhone and images combine d using the FrameMagic app.

How on earth did you get the iPhone to focus so close to the coin?
Every photo I've taken with an iPhone is completley out of focus!


Does using a black background instead of a whitebackground affect the colour of the coin at all if you were to crop the coins from the blackbackground and put them on a white one / transparent?

If not, I might give that flower pot method a try- it looks cleaner than using a white background.


Peter

Hi Pete,

My iPhone focuses fine. As Nick stated, you must hold it approximately 2 inches from the coin. And you should angle the iPhone with respect to the coin. Don't hold it parallel to the coin.

All of my website photos were shot with an old iPhone 4.

I use a medium grey background.

Meepzorp
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