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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage  |  Topic: Yet another post about best lighting 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Yet another post about best lighting  (Read 1168 times)
EB
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« on: September 27, 2018, 11:01:28 pm »

What is the best lighting for photographing coins? That is a topic that comes up again and again.

For me, it mostly comes down to this: more ring light vs. more side light. The ring light gives more contrast, whereas the side lights give more color and surface texture.

The contrast of the ring light might be advantageous when viewing thumbnail images, but in my opinion the side lights yield more pleasing full-screen images.

Here is a recent addition to my gallery, see what a big difference the lighting makes!
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EB
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« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2018, 11:19:36 pm »

Here are the thumbnails. I realize that this coin doesn't really illustrate the point I was trying to make, that the ring light is better for thumbnails. Anyway, it's something to think about: how does our concept of "best lighting" vary with image size?
Regards,
EB

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dougsmit
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« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2018, 07:06:09 pm »

Have you considered using the side light with a bit of ring fill?  The great advantage of our moder cameras with digital 'film' is we can see the results through the camera before we shoot AND still apply minor tweaks to the final result to get what we want to see,
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EB
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« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2018, 02:54:29 pm »

Hi Doug,
Thanks for your reply. Yes, absolutely, I do mix the various lights. I take three pictures, each with a different flash, and I combine them in GIMP. It's a bit of an assembly line process, with batches of maybe 20 coins at a time, and I don't even look at the photos until I get them onto my computer. No doubt I could get better pictures by playing around with angles and settings (the minor tweaks that you mention) while the coin is still in front of the camera, but this is a compromise between quality and expediency.
Regards,
EB
PS: thanks for taking the trouble to "remix" the two photos that I uploaded, it looks good!
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Anaximander
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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2019, 07:37:35 am »

EB: Thanks for that clear, concise, and illustrated example of lighting for ancient coin photos.  

I've spent years trying to master coin photography, a challenge given the small size of the subject and the differences among the coins themselves.
I'm getting better at it.  It has probably been twenty years of effort, much of it gleaning advice from public posts of Doug Smith (at his various sites over the years) and a few others, but this is the first forum I've seen with interaction.

I'm now using some upgraded kit: a digital mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (Micro Four Thirds sensor, M43), using a macro lens (120mm equivalent), on a stand of my own making.  Temperature has been a hot button, both the sheer heat of incandescent or halogen lighting and the white balance of my light sources.  I'm making a go of LED lighting.  I have used several brands of photo-editing software.  Like you, I look for an efficient batch process, start to finish.  

You've hit on the biggest remaining issue: lighting.  I've varied my approach from time to time, and am currently using axial lighting supplemented with one dimmable direct light.  Having read and re-read so much of Doug Smith's commentary, and now yours, I am finally going to try an LED ring light, also dimmable, as my direct light, with the microscope ring light a suitable size for the diminutive M43 lenses (and a great price point).  All my lights will have close to the same temperature of 5500 degrees.  

Here's three takes on a stater from Aegina... my best efforts in 2002, 2013, and 2017. Scanner, point-and-shoot camera, then M43 camera. Different lighting setups. I will compare these results to the ring light in two to three weeks, when my ship comes in!


Cheers~
Anaximander
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Anaximander. Member Since 2019.
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dougsmit
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« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2019, 05:21:45 am »

I will look forward to seeing your ring results.  My general opinion is that most coins benefit from a mixture of soft directional and ring fill but every coin is different and I strongly believe in looking through the camera and evaluating lighting before shooting.  A small wiggle can make a big difference.  I currently am using natural light from a north facing window with ring fill (usually very, very slight).  I would take own all my old photo pages and replace them with new but it has been so long since I have edited the pages, I do not know if I remember how.   
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Anaximander
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« Reply #6 on: Yesterday at 08:22:09 am »

Initial results are in:  the new LED ring light is fundamentally incompatible with my existing photography rig!  I would need to make meaningful changes in my current approach to coin photography.  Ugh!

Perhaps it was predictable: the ring light shining straight down, perpendicular to the coin, reflects off the glass that supports the coin.  It's less pronounced of an effect than shooting with a flash into a mirror, but it poses difficulties for my current photo processing.

Presently, I lay down a sheet of glass to hold the coin being photographed. Picture of camera rig below.  With axial lighting and a second light source that shines on the coin from an angle, the glass is perfectly transparent and the coin appears to float in air, held 3 inches (8 cm) or so above a background. No shadows are visible, and photo processing is fast. I adhere to a 2 minute rule: don't spend more than 2 minutes, end-to-end, on any coin photo editing.  For that to work, I need to use scripts (recorded keystrokes) that select and manipulate the images, and a homogenous background is critical for them to work.  

That said, taking extra time to work with the photos using the ring light, they come out pretty good. Aegina 2019 pic attached. It just takes me three times longer.

I could use only a 'slight' ring fill, as you do, but I'll have to finesse that.    

Anaximander
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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage  |  Topic: Yet another post about best lighting « previous next »
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