Numismatic and History Discussions > Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage

Coin backgrounds - black, white, or? What do you prefer and why?

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Jay GT4:
Personally I like black backgrounds.  With silver the edges can be washed out by over exposure on white.  Similarly, with black the edges can be lost due to under exposure.  But I just like the look of black.  It pops.

Steve Moulding:
Black for me. I agree with Jay - coins do seem to 'pop' more, but there are good reasons when I'd use white instead. depends...

(Apologies...not an ancient coin, but my photography setup is basically be addressed soon. This photo I took a few years ago)

Many coins look nicer on black, but white is easier to use, trust me.

I like white because when you place it in a document it means the coin stands independent on the white page.  Though you will often discover that some backgrounds you thought were white were not completely white and editing is required.

Black backgrounds can be very difficult to convert to white because there are often black or near black shadows on the edges of the coin, in cracks etc. that are still part of the coin.  When you convert black to white these parts go from being a dark part of the coin to background - in other words you lose small bites out of the edges of the coins.  As very few coins (maybe some photos of AR coins) have white parts along the edges the phenomenon does not exist when you convert a white background to black or any other color.

I spent a great deal of time doing this for my book.  A not insignificant number of the images that various firms kindly let me use had backgrounds the required editing.


Ron C2:
Great point Sean! Though I will say that for my setup, I shoot on a physically white background and it rarely is pure white when the coin itself is properly exposed.

In those cases, I Photoshop the background pure white.  In fact I usually always do this, just in case, for consistency. Sometimes I can't use magic wand tools on silver coins as cleaned coins often have areas that PS can't distinguish from the background. In those classes, I have to manually lassoo.

I would have the same issue with a black background

After editing though, the white is more versatile as you point out, for future editing. 

Ron, Why don't you shoot your pictures on a blue or green background. That way you can key just the coloured part with the magic wand without worrying about whether the rim of the coin might be eaten into. You can then easily turn the background into black or white or purple polka dots of you want.


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