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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage (Moderator: bruce61813)  |  Topic: Coin Photo Background Colors 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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dougsmit
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« on: April 16, 2010, 07:48:33 pm »

To avoid stealing the thread 'Preferred type of coin photograph', I'm starting this here with a related question:  Everything else being equal, what background do you prefer for coin photos.  To set up 'everything else being equal' I had to shoot the coins on one background and (Pat will not approve but I tried to cut carefully) used cut and paste to change the backgrounds.  If you are good you may figure out which background was original and which was faked.  I did find that shooting on something lighter made me pay more attention to matching the backgrounds than to matching the two sides of the coin.  That is not good.  I still found that shooting on white caused more flare than on black.  More a surprise was that changing the backgrounds made my eyes see a small difference in the coins' tones.  Black made them look more contrasty while white looked flatter.  The coins were selected as a range of silver and bronze including no great beauties (these were what I happened to have at home tonight so the selection was small).

The Coins:
A denarius of Septimius Severus partly retoning after a full cleaning but having some texture to surfaces

A dirham of Kaykhushraw II similar in tone but with reddish brown deposits in fields

An AE3 of Constantine II Caesar partly silvered but greenish where the silver is gone

An antoninianus of Salonina with very mixed surfaces including deposits and wear through to metal (not very pretty)

A billon Karshapana (AE18) of Pulomavi (Satavahana) with green patina and deposits

Which background color do you prefer?  Why? 
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James A2
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« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2010, 08:27:18 pm »

No simple answer. I like a light background that offers contrast without being obtrusive. The edges of your Septimius get lost in the black background, while the Islamic coin seems to merge with the nearly identical light gray background. Jim A
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goldenancients
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« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2010, 10:11:25 pm »

I prefer the black. There is a certain sense of class and charm. It is also easy on the eyes. The contrast it gives makes the coin seem to jump off the screen, whereas the white background makes the coin seem flat and uninteresting.

I know this is a very subjective topic, and others may think differently. That's okay. Everyone has a right to be wrong. Grin (Even me.)

Kudos to Doug, by the way, on your excellent coin photography.

Danny

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moonmoth
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« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2010, 11:26:22 pm »

The photographs themselves are, of course, excellent, with good colour tones and no details lost in blowouts or shadows.

I think that whatever tone of background was used to take the photos, they have all been adjusted with Photoshop afterwards. The backgrounds are completely even, with the exact same colour composition throughout.  To confirm this I open the image in Photoshop, bring up the Info tool and run a cursor around the image.

Pat's backgrounds are not done this way, and they have a life and naturalness that Photoshop cannot create. They are never a perfectly neutral grey, and often have slight tonal variations across the field.  They need to be judged alongside these examples.

I think these were taken on a light background, possibly white.  There is a slight halo effect around the edges of some of the coins given a black background that doesn't look quite right; it's clearest on the last image, the AE18 of Pulomavi.

Although I use a white background, I also like a light grey, lighter than the one you have chosen, more like this.

Bill
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areich
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« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2010, 12:39:57 am »

I can see the need for a fake white background, depending on what you want to do with a picture,
but not fake grey and black. I prefer the natural grey though I can live with the black as well.

Andreas
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Matthew W2
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« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2010, 02:49:16 pm »

I prefer the black background for all of these cases. I can understand the comment about the edges of the coins getting lost with the black backgrounds, but I still like it. It has more eye appeal for me. My second choice would be the gray.

I just don't like the white - whether it seems too clinical or does make the coins seem flat and uninteresting I don't know, but it doesn't work for me.
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dougsmit
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« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2010, 02:53:22 pm »

I agree with MatthewW2's use of the word clinical.  I was going to post a white unaltered but his post made it time to try a d2d6df gray.  

That's still too red to match.  What is Forvm gray?  d1d6df?
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moonmoth
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« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2010, 04:26:06 pm »

According to Photoshop, R=208, G=215, B=220, which equals d1d7dc, assuming the clipping tool works properly.   But I haven't tried that out.

Bill
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slokind
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« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2010, 05:37:08 pm »

Mea culpa.  Forum Gray is a bit bluish.  The strip of gray I look at when I have Forum covering most of the screen is that at the top which belongs to Safari and that at the side (my "Dock") which belongs to my OSX operating system.  These are paler than my 18% Screen (I do dislike that swoosh cyan!) but equally neutral.
Pat
P.S. Though now I can see Perseus' feet, that looks nothing like one of those Amisos coins.  I don't think you can do it by numbers.  At least, I couldn't.  And I don't think you can by Curves or Levels convert a photo taken with natural black to one with any kind of pale gray or white except by the usual magic wand (or alternative) + paint bucket.
To lighten the Perseus coin posted originally (but darker then?) all I can think of is to let the black be but diddle the midtones either together, RGB, or separately if need be, to lighten them and then, using the lefthand end of levels darken the black, as it were, to the extent that you regain the dark accents (as Ansel Adams would require in the Zone System) for punch, a bit.  Not that I do that, but in principle that's how I understand it.
Actually, though it's dark, I like your old photo.  You know what those coins usually look like!!!
Pat
Here's a reduced file of the flatbed scan of mine.  I ought to be game and dig it out and try to photograph it.

And here's a reduced (K) new photo of the same.  Maybe too saturated for some taste, but easier to give this one a black background than the other way around.  CLICK!
Pat
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slokind
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« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2010, 07:16:17 pm »

Nor do I want to steal your thread, but this was filed right beside the Perseus coin and I couldn't resist the experiment of trying to photograph an AE33 with the camera set up for AE26-28.
It BARELY fit; nothing to trim top or bottom.  What will the D80 and the 1987 f.2.8 do with this?  Sorry that SS's nose is sort of double-struck; I love this coin anyhow.  Color is right.  I never know why the reverse background differs from the obverse.
• 20 05 08 Æ30 11.30g  axis 5:30h  Apollonia ad Rhyndacum.  Septimius Severus, laureate, draped bust to r.  AV KAI L SEPT    SEOVÊROS P.  Rev.  APOLLÔNI    ATÔN.  Chthonic goddess, holding two torches diagonally, rushes to l. (her shoulder cloak and chiton  billowing behind her mean rapid movement).  She is evidently bareheaded.  Von Fritze, AMNG IV (Mysia) 277, Taf. V, 8 (the reverse of the Berlin specimen).  It is v. Frritze  who calls her Demeter, but I haven't read his text on types yet.   Pat L.
CLICK ON IMAGE TO MAXIMIZE
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dougsmit
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« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2010, 08:57:42 pm »

Using a white background required me to make a support dowel out of thinner material to lessen the shadow from it.  This was no problem for larger coins but I had to use wire for smaller ones.  I shot four smaller coins but lost two to vibration of the wire.  There will have to be a more stable material (glass rod???) with a smaller disk/dowel on top. 

The two obols that survived the vibrations are an archaic Athenian owl (three tail feathers show) and a Perrhaebi.

Bill was right - d1d7dc matches the background.
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moonmoth
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« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2010, 03:38:02 pm »

Here are some variations using my cheap setup, a translucent plastic sandwich box lined with (usually) white paper.  These are unretouched, and my own view is that the less pure colours and the tiny variations in tone across the backgrounds caused by asymmetrical lighting add a depth to the whole thing that needs to be judged differently from photoshopped backgrounds (I normally use a photoshopped white background).

Of these, I think the cream background looks good with the dark patina of the copper coin, and the green goes well with the silver.  This shows it's easy to switch and try new colours.  But I will still use white.

Click to enlarge.

Bill

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dougsmit
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« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2010, 05:10:19 pm »

I can not bring myself to use colors other than black, white or gray.  I did the Forvm blue/gray more as a joke.  I have always prefered the look on black but admit that it runs into more edge problems than the white but am not sure I have it in me to reshoot the whole collection for that.

In trying some of these new photo techniques, I got out a few coins I had not seen in person for a while and note that many of my Greek coins have changed a lot through toning.  I suppose this makes them easier to shoot but they are not all better looking than they were in my old photos taken on film way back then.    This Philetairos is toning after over 20 years in my (lack of) care.
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James A2
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2010, 08:58:05 pm »

Doug- I didn't mean to criticize your use of black backgrounds. All your coins look beautiful on black. I just meant that sometimes, for some purposes, a different background might be in order. I make mostly images of coins to put on Wildwinds or other databases, with the only idea being to make the images look as much like the coins as possible. Most of these coins are kind of ugly, so I couldn't make them look beautiful anyway. Jim A
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