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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage  |  Topic: What is "true to life" in a coin photo? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: What is "true to life" in a coin photo?  (Read 6133 times)
jamesicus
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« Reply #25 on: July 27, 2006, 11:50:55 am »

What it comes down too for me is how accurately I have captured the essence and appearance of the coin when I compare the image on my computer screen(s) with the coin as I hold it in my hand sitting at my kitchen table. That is all I desire.

I have now acheived that goal by employing selected methodologies and techniques that have been posted in various threads on this Forum -- inexpensive digital camera with excellent macro properties (Pentax optico), black background for shadow suppression, fluorescent "sunlight" bulbs in a single desk lamp for illumination, mini camera stand for steady shutter release -- I am content and at ease with this set-up.

I save the images in .JPG format and, apart from cropping the background and resizing the image, do not apply any propriety software enhancements. I do not aspire to any heights of photographic excellence, but I am at peace with the way my coins are depicted on my Roman Imperial coin web pages.

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« Reply #26 on: July 27, 2006, 12:04:25 pm »

What it comes down too for me is how accurately I have captured the essence and appearance of the coin when I compare the image on my computer screen(s) with the coin as I hold it in my hand sitting at my kitchen table. That is all I desire.

I have now acheived that goal by employing selected methodologies and techniques that have been posted in various threads on this Forum -- inexpensive digital camera with excellent macro properties (Pentax optico), black background for shadow suppression, fluorescent "sunlight" bulbs in a single desk lamp for illumination, mini camera stand for steady shutter release -- I am content and at ease with this set-up.

I save the images in .JPG format and, apart from cropping the background and resizing the image, do not apply any propriety software enhancements. I do not aspire to any heights of photographic excellence, but I am at peace with the way my coins are depicted on my Roman Imperial coin web pages.



Well said...My thoughts exactly though I WILL always keep a copy of the raw data file jsut inc ase I  see a problem and want to go back. Nice site BTW and nice photos Smiley
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moonmoth
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« Reply #27 on: July 27, 2006, 03:28:47 pm »

Finally ... 

So, in digital photography, the final image can be controlled to a remarkable amount of detail, or photographers can use a range of automatic options which allow the software writers to dictate the results, or something in between.

The simplest way to achieve a good result would be to use the automatic options that work well, and manually control the rest.  (This is essentially what Pat said, anticipating my attempt at synthesis.)

The question for each photographer is, where to strike the balance that works best for you?  To find this out takes trial and error, work and experiment.  There may be new software to learn.  For example, setting aside the huge and complicated Photoshop itself for the moment, the RAW conversion plugin alone has many options and settings, which give very delicate control over the result (which is why I think an auto white balance is very much "processing").  Some of these options duplicate what Photoshop can do, and it does some of them better than Photoshop, some of them not as well.  I had to learn which was which.  I have saved good settings for silver and bronze as pre-sets, and manual adjustments are minimised.  I can now produce a good image from RAW in seconds, like the silver coin I showed earlier in this thread, but it took a long time to learn how.

There is no one correct approach.  Pat Lawrence has a system that works well for her.  Sometimes, like Pat, I use a high quality JPEG as the base image, but I can't help feeling that's a lazy approach (*) and mostly I keep a RAW file like DruMAX as well.  Now that DVDs are a cheap storage medium, I can archive them quite happily.

What I do suggest is that you can't find the best approach for you without knowing all the options, being aware when you are letting the camera do it for you, and trying out a range of techniques and ideas.  There has been much discussion of photographic techniques here, from which I have learned a lot, but not much on image processing.  I think both are critically important to producing a good final image. (Whatever "good" may mean to each individual.)

In a way I envy people who are completely satisfied with their pictures.  I am not.  I find that I can always go back to old ones and see how I can improve them using what I have learned since they were made.  And every time, I learn more about the coin, because I look at it in detail and with a different viewpoint.

Works for me!

Bill

(*)I am not accusing Pat of being lazy.  I don't think that's possible.  In fact I don't see how she finds time for everything.  I am explaining my own personal OCD-like feelings on the matter.
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« Reply #28 on: July 27, 2006, 04:19:18 pm »

I should say that I am seldom COMPLETELY satisfied with my results but IMO you have to draw the line somewhere. When I first started documenting my coins I had to learn a lot. I came to the project with extensive PS and photography experience but no experience taking shots of such small things, trying to get such detail while still keeping the overall look of the coin "true to life"

I came here and started posting my photos and looking at others, reading threads discussing techniques and getting helpful feed back (thanks for that)  and realized I had a lot of work to do to get something I could live with. It took filling my camera up MANY times with practice shots with different set ups, camera settings and learning everything there is to know about my digital camera until I got something I could live with. Because all my photos go onto a website and they need to be uniform I set up a template in PS that I would transfer to after initial upload of the raw image and any tweaks I find I might need to do in large format. The template is just the correct size canvas that I can transfer to quickly and save out to a final .jpg. (I save a small 200 pt width and a larger 600 pt width)

I DO save the RAW data files for ROMAN coins I have (not world, I dont obsess on those near as much) so if I ever feel I need to go back to them I can. So I would simply say I am satisfied with my results and feel the process I use is a good one but I would never say there is no room for improvement. I just got to a point where I felt my coin photos (on the whole) are very close to "true life" coming directly from the camera after testing and programing different settings for different type of coins and after a few tweaks in PS I am satisfied (as long as my RAW image is as focused and clear as possible, I can always go back to it) but in the end, you have to pick a technique and run with it or you will never get a finished product to post.
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« Reply #29 on: July 27, 2006, 09:03:46 pm »

Oh, I AM lazy, whenever I can get by with it.  I won't bother with a true digital SLR.  I'll take brand-new images of the required coins only for publication!  I have too many hobbies.  I haven't ironed any clothing for twenty years.  Just wait till you're 70+.  My old Nikon F2 camera bag with the lenses and filters just got to weigh too much.  I work productively only when I'm enjoying it (I think that is true of almost everyone).  Pat
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« Reply #30 on: July 29, 2006, 04:15:07 pm »

1. It seems that for lazy people Picasa may have werve well. It allows make an adjustment  very easily and keeps records only on modified parameter so the files are not touched. The problem is that cropping and pasting  should be done by another program.

2. I have a striking  example which shows that  "true" is relative. Both pics of this high grade small Constantine coin were
taken the  the same lighting. The difference is the angle of the camera. In fact, both images are "true". 
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« Reply #31 on: July 29, 2006, 04:49:35 pm »

I agree adjustments to the angle of the light, light distance, and camera angle is often key to getting the BEST 'true' shot. Those are the only REAL adjustments to make when it comes to trying to get the best detail, it matters how the light is hitting and reflecting thus the camera angle and light angle are the real key though I do have a few saved setting adjustments to the camera for low relief and high relief coins. I take MANY different shots with different light angles and camera angles and choose the one that shows best detail and truest color...as if I am holding it in my hand looking at it after finding a good angle that shows the detail best Smiley

BTW: the left shot is the most appealing with a more rich color and texture while the right seems a bit diffused with light like you are catching too much reflection assuming those are unaltered in PS and just show difference in camera angle..great portrait on the coin BTW.
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« Reply #32 on: July 29, 2006, 11:46:54 pm »

2. I have a striking  example which shows that  "true" is relative. Both pics of this high grade small Constantine coin were
taken the  the same lighting. The difference is the angle of the camera. In fact, both images are "true". 
That's an interesting demonstration. 

It's not just the angle of the light, of course.  It's the type and intensity.  Coins can look very different under different lighting, not just reflecting the colour of the light source - which you can make neutral, or neutralise using software - but also bringing out colours in the coin.
 
You couldn't pick this coin out of a group by looking for a green one.  It looks almost black until a strong light is shone on it.  Of course, it's hard to take a photo without doing that.  So the photo is a true image of this coin under strong light, but it's not what you'd see if you just picked it up in the normal way.  Is that "true?"

Bill

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« Reply #33 on: July 30, 2006, 12:25:53 am »

So .. JPEG or RAW?

To assist in this decision, here is a list of adjustments you can make manually if you convert a RAW file using the Photoshop plugin.

Temperature; tint; exposure; shadows; brightness; contrast; saturation; sharpness; luminance smoothing; color noise reduction; chromatic aberration red/cyan; chromatic aberration blue/yellow; vignetting amount; vignetting midpoint; shadow tint; red hue; red saturation; blue hue; blue saturation; green hue; green saturation.

If you allow the camera to produce a JPEG, you allow it to make all these adjustments (allowing for the fact that some of them are combinations of others, so there is some duplication).  Some you can trust, because they will be based on the characteristics of the sensor, and the manufacturers' software writers know those much better than you do.  Some, on the other hand, will relate to the characteristics of the lens and the lighting. 

If you use Photoshop, or have access to another decent RAW converter, You might find it worth playing around with some of these options to see if you can get a better result.  You should be able to save any useful combinations as presets for future use.

May be this isn't worth it for images for day-to-day use, but it will be for those special images.  And if you have a great pre-set setting for your standard camera setup, conversion will be so quick and easy you might want to use it all the time.

Bill
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« Reply #34 on: July 30, 2006, 12:50:25 am »

I would like to discuss some points about light intensity. I think that the effect of strong light is related
with a nonlinearity of the sensor response, otherwise we could just to increase the exposition.
Unfortunately, many coins have very dark, sometimes, black patina, and they are looking, indeed, black, i.e.
"invisible" under comfortable light. That is why we need to manipulate with photoeditors and adjust the picture.
So, the "natural" colors are not really natural. Our eyes refused to work properly when light will be of the corresponding intensity.

I wrote  many times that  the coin (even bronze) is a mirror  reflecting the environment.  The environment we use for macrophotography is very specific: the black body of the camera and its interior (this poses great difficulties with photographing of bright silver). Of course,  it is different when we use just eyes
The left  photo was taken   when the camera was perpendicuar to the coin surface. For the  right photo there is an angle and the surface reflects the abatjour of the lamp and the camera reflections play no role.
I like more the left pic but I like some  the appearance of the right one as well - sometimes turning the coin I see exactly this image, colorless (one should not forget that our eyes-brain is  an image processor).   
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« Reply #35 on: July 30, 2006, 04:39:56 am »

I would like to discuss some points about light intensity. I think that the effect of strong light is related with a nonlinearity of the sensor response, otherwise we could just to increase the exposition.  Unfortunately, many coins have very dark, sometimes, black patina, and they are looking, indeed, black, i.e. "invisible" under comfortable light. That is why we need to manipulate with photoeditors and adjust the picture.
So, the "natural" colors are not really natural. Our eyes refused to work properly when light will be of the corresponding intensity.

I agree.  Sometimes I can sit in front of the screen holding the coin and try to match on screen what I see.  Sometimes I have to shine a bright light on the coin and match that.  Sometimes I just try to bring out as many features as I can, even if the result differs from what I can see with the naked eye.

Bill
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« Reply #36 on: July 30, 2006, 01:49:12 pm »

It is a relief to turn from trying to define 'cult' and 'god' to merely defining 'truth'  Wink.  There are several real (cf. res) truths (yes, I know that verus and treu, considered etymologically, make hash of that statement).  Many scanners and digital cameras sense and convey truths that even keen eyesight in noon sunlight does not register by itself.  Not only does that sweet Deultum of Diadumenian come out green, it also is proven to be clean, undoctored patina.  My old scanner (which only worked in a SCSI chain...) revealed retouching in glaring terms.  For that matter, a RAW image harbors the same information as a Canon or Nikon JPEG yields.  False-color Landsat images also record real differences.  One needn't get into subatomic physics to realize that true-to-life is not all there is to truth.  Cameras help us to see.  Even early ones did.  We make tools to extend our vision.  Pat L.
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« Reply #37 on: July 30, 2006, 02:08:28 pm »

We make tools to extend our vision.  Pat L.

I'd accept that as a summary of the reason why I started this thread!  Image processing software is just such a tool.

Incidentally, that green patina is very strange when examined with artificially extended vision.  It looks like crazed glass.  As far as I know, you can't get glass without heating silica or other minerals to quite high temperatures.  Something like 1700 celsius is needed to fuse silica (sand), and the range goes down to about 500 celsius for boron glass.  You could probably get a realistic glass-forming mixture with sand, soda ash and limestone somewhere in between those temperatures.  I wonder if coins with this kind of patina have been through an intense fire?

This enlargement includes the left side of the letter T in the exergue.

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« Reply #38 on: July 31, 2006, 02:49:24 am »

Unlikely without melting or at least distorting the metal! There is a similarity in appearance, but i don't know enough of the processes involved in the formation of patina to have an answer.
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« Reply #39 on: July 31, 2006, 03:06:51 am »

We make tools to extend our vision.  Pat L.

Wow!  This is a sentence to make Keats jealous.  As a brief conversation with Oscar Wilde went, "I wish I had said that. . .!", Wilde.  "Ah, you will, Oscar, you will", James McNeill Whistler.

When I use your sentence, Pat, I will--of course--give credit where it is due.

Cleisthenes (Jim)
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« Reply #40 on: July 31, 2006, 12:45:14 pm »

Unlikely without melting or at least distorting the metal! There is a similarity in appearance, but i don't know enough of the processes involved in the formation of patina to have an answer.

Yes, Pat sent me a message with a similar import.  I did some internet research and found that bronze melts at around 950 Celsius, and any realistic glass components wouldn't melt below about 1,000 Celsius.  So despite the glassy appearance, that's most unlikely to be the origin of this patina.
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