Numismatic and History Discussions > Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage

Your advice needed for cutting and cropping coins

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Hi Pat,

What a great piece of advice, an improvised "light table" arangement.

Below is my current photo set up, no tripod but the right number of Numismatic Literature volumes from the ANS!

I used to just photograph against white paper but have started to use a piece of glass from a picture frame (no non reflective coating) on a white oven dish.

The bulb in the desk lamp is a daylight bulb.



What Istinpolin does and what Mauseus does both are great, only Istinpolin wanted to get rid of contguous shadows, and that is what the improvised light table does.  Once Tacrolimus sent me a picture of his set up, and I think he had glass on some blocks, or on the cannisters that 35mm film came in; Doug Smith uses dowels much as Istinpolin uses nails (!): the glass is much easier.  The oven dish (any size you wish, so long as it's flat bottomed) and the glass (any size you wish, so long as it securely rests on the oven dish) were used because that oven dish had been in the house for many years, but food sticks to oven glass, so I was glad to find a new use for it.  You also could use a white enamel pan, such as we used for developer in making black-and-white photo prints, or a white box that a shirt or handkerchiefs had come in, or writing paper, so long as it was strong enough to support the glass securely, without wobbling.  The opaque white glass dish seems to work very well, and I'd rather use it for photography than for baking lasagna and then trying to get it clean!
The lamp: almost any lamp can be made to work, but you might want to put something in front to diffuse it (as you like).  A lamp that burns cool is kinder to your camera and makes you sweat less.  But your camera has WHITE BALANCE.  This is a pre-set done over white paper or a gray card, perfectly neutral, 18% reflectivity, from the camera shop.  Without performing white balance first, you will get those peachy and purple and ochre colored coins!  Yuck!  It is so much work to try to normalize them in Photoshop and requires some skill, too.  Make the camera do it.  That is why it comes with a computer chip and software instructions built into it.  See the owner's manual, or consult with a friend who owns the same kind of camera.  It is no longer necessary to endure the agonies of buying different film emulsions.  Numerianus is right, too; a delicate tinge of environmental reflected color, whether from a red tee-shirt or from the green leafy tree outside your window, can show that your coin is in a real-life space.  These, however, need to be avoided for publications.  I took my advice from: (1) the ground glass over a light table we used to use for photographing sherds and coins, (2) everything Doug Smith wrote on his web site as cameras evolved (and half his stuff is home-made), and (3) the advice I got from Barry Murphy, who knows what CNG et al. want.  Then I took what I had and imitated.  A copy stand is a great help, and one can be bought at no great cost; you need a rather small one, not the huge ones for copying from large books and posters.
If you want to see a new 'portrait' just taken of a real silver coin, of good silver, see my Corinth stater just posted under Rupert's in Greek Coins.  With a shiny coin, the glass over the dish comes out gray, just as you see.
Pat L.
P.S. My glass is 12" X 12", which is similar to 30cm X 30cm, but it could be smaller, depending on the dish/box.
Paintbucket is a 'tool' in Adobe Photoshop.  Paintbrush just makes a daub, but Paintbucket, after choosing the hue you want, fills in the whole background (or the whole area enclosed, if that's what you need), adhering nicely to the difference in hues and levels.  Where there are shadows on a dark ground, it 'eats' them, or white areas on a white ground, too.  That is what the raised glass prevents.


If you still want to do it your way, rather than follow the valuable advice above, you can "crop" out the shadows by using the "Pen" tool in Photoshop is slow but fairly precise. Click "anchor points" around the coin's edge (or even the shadow), select the encircled area via "Window" > "Paths" > click on right pointing arrow, click "Make selection" and click "Copy" and "Paste" the image into a new window with white background or, if you encircled the shadow, click delete.


First thanks to Pat. Indeed woderful advice. Also thanks to the moderators for making this one sticky, as I am sure it will help many people.

I have followed your advice Pat. I have bought a 75watt fluorescent light. One of those that use a long bulb. It is pretty powerful. This one is pretty flexible and can bent almost any way, so I can adjust the light according to my needs. My camera is good to detect this and it uses a scale from -2 to +2. I always get it to 0 for copper coins, +0.3 for silver and -0.3 for gold coins. I have bought a smaller oven dish than Pat has, mine is 12 by 19 cm and the dish is 3cm deep. I have bought a picture frame for 1 Pound and am just using the glass of it. I melted shoe laces around it so I do not cut myself. I am a pyromaniac, you can just use rubber as well.

Below you can see my results. Now because I have started with Maximinus I I will use the same coin. The first one is the same image above, where I used my primitive method. Then you will see the coin with the new method, the last image is the same as the second but paintbucket was used on it and I added some writing and my logo.

Thanks again Pat, this is the end of the reddish colour frustration and it all cost me only 17 Pounds Sterling. I did not buy a copy stand. The oven dish and the frame is small, so I can still put under the tripod, and elevate the whole dish to bring it closer to the lense. I looked for some copystands (mainly Kaiser here) but they are really expensive. I was offered one for 200 Pounds and thought I rather pass on that. But I am very happy with the results that you can see below.

Best wishes,

There are universes of difference of the images of the same coin. The old lamp just gave me a horrible reddish colour. The new one well rocks.

The image below will show the same coin but I made the background black and added some writing.


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