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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Coin Photography, Conservation and Storage  |  Topic: what is the best light source for macro photography 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Johnny
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« on: November 25, 2008, 04:20:34 pm »

well,  I finally caved and bought a new camera  finepix s2000 HD,  wich has a fantastic macro function,  but I have run into the following problems

problem 1.  I can't figure out what kind of light source to use to get a natural look.  all light sources so far seem to render the coin lighter that it really is,  and the colors are off a bit.   I'm pretty sure the settings on the camera are correct

problem 2.  this is not really a problem that anyone at forvm can solve,  but it turns out that this camera is smarter than me   Grin

So  tre question in this case is what light source do you  use to get a natural look  (  like the ones in the Forvm Catalog. ) This is afterall my goal as far as pic quality goes

here is my first coin I chose. As most of you remember it that Constanitne I vot XX with beautiful red Syrian sand patina

the first pic is from a scanner and the colors are  100% accurate

the second is from the camera under macro with fluorescent bulb (   the lighting is not set up to the correct angle,  but  close )

any tips  would be great
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casata137ec
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« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2008, 07:18:30 pm »

Try a more neutral backgroung and spot focusing if you have the feature on the camera. Maybe there is a lighting feature on the camera that you could specify florescent?

Chris
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« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2008, 07:34:27 pm »

Do you have lamps on either side of the coin? and To get the correct color settings put the coin on a white setting and cycle threw the white balance options and when you get to the on that makes the background look the whitest is usually the best one(There should also be a detect white setting)

Edit: woo 100th post
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slokind
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« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2008, 10:03:58 pm »

I use a pair of Ott-Lites, folding desktop lamps, nice and white and diffuse, and when needed I add a larger standing Ott-Lite, at some distance.  They have long, slender mini-fluorescent tubes in them, and good reflectors to spread the light.  They should be farther from the coin than the lens is.
My tutor in these matters is Doug Smith, a pro.  See the digital photography web pages in the yellow updates box near the head of his http://dougsmith.ancients.info/
Pat L.
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Johnny
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« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2008, 02:01:52 pm »

Thanks you all for the replies.

looks like I have some experimenting to do  Smiley


I have tried the different camera settings you mentionned here,  and there is some improvement to the color.

 I have gone to a pure white  background,,  trried all the custom setting WRT  light type  fluorescent, incadescent  ect. as Chris suggested with definate improvement

@ CzarMike (There should also be a detect white setting)..............  I'm  not  sure what you mean,  but  I did find the white balance option you mentionned  and the camera is now set to the best setting (  for the white background)

I'll be going to  http://dougsmith.ancients.info/ as Pat Suggested.  and I believe the problem has to be with the background lighting as she said,  but  we shall soon see  Smiley 

I'll shop around this weekend  for Ott-lites and give them a whirl,  I actually need more lighting on the desk anyway  so I'll be killing 2 birds with one stone with this one

I will keep you posted on progress and results as I can get them

LOL  another learning curve  Sad

thank you all again

cheers
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Johnny
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« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2008, 04:48:20 pm »

ok,  here are the next 3 attempts

let me know what you think.  These are still under single fluorescent bulb, 

Please keep in mind that the camera is still being held in hand  without tripod or support,  and that the angle is off a bit.  What I am trying to get at this point is a more realistic color

the first pic is attached  after the 3 new  pics  to avoid scrolling too much
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« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2008, 07:16:19 pm »

Yes, intelligent experimenting.
Every digital camera has a chip for a brain, and each one is different; for example, the older (and the cheaper) cameras have chips different from those in expensive cameras, even within each brand.  And different brands use different companies' chips (Doug Smith informs me that Canon makes its own, FWTW).
Then, DSL cameras work differently with different lenses, and they work differently from one-piece cameras (even like the hardly simple Nikon 8800).  The D80 is my first DSL camera.
It's like this: my Nikon D80 is nearly a year old, and I'm only beginning to get predictable results with it!  But it's worth the trouble.  After all, when in 1965 I got my first F Nikon, it was months before I could get decent pictures with it, compared with my humble Contaflex Alpha with its 3-element lens and between-the-lenses leaf shutter.  I still haven't forgotten that struggle.  But when I'd learned to think with that camera it was like an extension of my own mind and eyes (and the F2, which used the same lenses, in the 1980s was just like it in use).
You're doing quite well.  Do you have Photoshop?  With subjects so funny as coins (funny from the manufacturers' point of view) you do need to (at least) tweak in Photoshop.  But Photoshop cannot fully correct an image that wasn't fundamentally right in the first place.  Pat L.
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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2008, 08:19:55 pm »

Hi Johnny,

A few comments:

1) I'm not sure from your reply to CzarMike if you're just using the white balance setting that makes the paper look whitest (presumably the fluorescent setting since that's the light you're using), or if you're using the "Custom" white balance setting, which is what you want for the best results. You'll need to check the manual to see how to use the "Custom" white balance on your camera, but the idea is basically to setup the lighting you're going to use, then point the camera at a white background and click the appropriate button to have the camera adapt to that lighting (i.e. to make the white ground come out white/neutral not color shifted). Anytime you change the light position/lighting you'll need to redo the Custom setting.

2) I'm guessing that the first photo on the red background was taken with "Auto" white balance which makes the camera guess(!) the type of lighting you are using. Probably what happened here was that the camera thought there was too much red overall (because of the background), so internally lowered the red level causing the coin to lose it's color. If this is what happened then just using a white vs red background, but still using "Auto" white balance would also show some improvement.

3) Fluorescent lights take some time to warm up and for the exact color of the light they give out to settle down. This is an issue if you're using "Custom" white balance to adapt to the light... What you want to do is leave the light on for a few minutes at the beginning of your photo session before setting the "Custom" white balance.

4) To avoid color gradiants across your photos (not that these have it), you only want to use ONE type of light source - sunlight, fluorescent, or regular light bulb, etc. Don't use a fluorescent light if you also have sunlight coming in the window! It's best to close the curtains/blinds and shut off any other light so that your photo lamp is the only source of light. The result of not doing this is that your white background may appear white on one side of the photo, but yellow or blue tinged on the other side!

5) As Pat says, with digital photography you really need some software post-processing to get the best results. It's difficult to get a photo that looks perfect right out of the camera. The most common problem post-processing can help with is fixing up a slightly "washed out" look to your photos, but you can also fix slightly-off white balance, brightness, etc.

One program that's free and very easy to use is Google's "Picassa", which you can download from here:

http://picasa.google.com/

Take a test photo, then try the following Picassa adjustments in this order:

1) On the "Basic fixes" tab, click on "Auto contrast" (this will fix any washed-out look), then use the "Fill Light" to adjust the brightness which probably became too dark after the contrast adjustment.

2) On the "Tuning" tab, use the "Neutral color picker" by clicking on the eye-dropper symbol, then clicking on some part of your photo that should be pure white (normally the background). This will adjust for a slightly off white balance setting.

3) On the "Effects" tab, click on "Saturation" and use the slider to reduce the saturation a little until the coloration looks natural like the coin in hand. This is often necessary after using the "Auto contrast" option which increases the saturation.

Welcome to hobby number 2.

Ben

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Johnny
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« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2008, 05:14:08 pm »

Thank you once again for the help with this

@ Ben,  I took the liberty to copy  and print your reply.  I think your step by step working of Picasa will turn out to be very useful. I played with it before without fully understanding the working ,  but  as I am reading more on photography  and photo editing I am starting to understand 

@Pat.  I don't have Photoshop yet,  but  will be picking up a copy this week-end.  Do I need the add on pack such as illustrator with this ? or any other add-on packs ?

I will also be picking up a tripod  to alleviate the shaking problem I have  (  LOL  I do have to cut back on my cafeein )

I will try both software out. as these 2 programs are the ones that keep popping up in the photography board .

 I can see a struggle ahead. but  it has to be easier that ID'ing provincials  Smiley

thank you again,   I will keep you posted on the progress

cheers
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casata137ec
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« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2008, 06:31:05 pm »

The add-ons such as illustrator are not needed (but can be fun if you are doing other projects). Photoshop will be fine. As for the tripod, I tried a bunch of cheapies and had trouble with them all. The best thing that I have found, and it is not too pricey is this: http://store.tabletopstudio-store.com/smallcopystand.html . This has given me no trouble at all and has let me focus (pardon the pun!) on trying to figure out the camera! I have been trying to take a good picture for quite a while now and am just now getting...comfortable...with the results. One day my pics will be as good as Pat's, but not quite yet!  Grin

Chris
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« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2008, 11:26:08 am »

Ave!

I always use ambient sunlight for my photos and it's seems to work out best for me.

I use an old Nikon Coolpix attached to a translucent bell-housing that screws onto the lens; no shadows and keeps the same distance from the coin.

I thought I'd share something very creepy with you all: as many of you know, Sheri and I live in Orange County, SoCal. A couple of weeks ago, we had a few very serious wild-fires up in the canyons a few miles from our home. The air became so full of smoke in such a short amount of time that it appeared that were living close to Mordor. We're used to wildfires here, but this was the 1st time I ever saw the sun so occuded that the sky turned a deep red brown and all shadows disappeared.

Using the reddish ambient sunlight, I took the first picture seen below. No Photoshop hocus-pocus, this is how the photo came out. The 2nd photo is the same coin a few days later after the fires were out and the smoke blown away.

Spooky, huh?

Best,

Kevin
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Johnny
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« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2008, 03:22:36 pm »

Thanks Chris,  I like the look of your copy stand,  fortunately  i know a metalworker/machinist  who could make one  for a real good price  Smiley  thinking about having the camera set up so it can be angled forward too.  I'll keep you posted

@ Kevin... Unfortunately  this new province I live in is a haven for vampires  and sunlight seems to be a thing of mythology.  if the sun ever comes out here LOL  I'll give natural sunlight a try.  I am however  glad to hear you made out ok with the wildfires.  and yes  the coin is creepy, 

just how thick was the smoke to block out that much sun ?  I've seen pics on the news,  but they were from far away
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« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2008, 01:03:56 am »

Ave!

@ Kevin... Unfortunately  this new province I live in is a haven for vampires  and sunlight seems to be a thing of mythology.  if the sun ever comes out here LOL  I'll give natural sunlight a try.  I am however  glad to hear you made out ok with the wildfires.  and yes  the coin is creepy, 

just how thick was the smoke to block out that much sun ?  I've seen pics on the news,  but they were from far away

I highly recommend natural sunlight for macro coin pix; I think that one of the real tricks, as used in my bell housing, is to filter the light in some manner to delete the shadows. Perhaps common wax paper would be the answer?

Johnny, the two fires noted above began about 9:30 AM with very strong dry Santa Ana winds blowing in from East to West. By 11:30 AM, the sun was so covered with smoke that it appeared to be more like an eclipse; ash was falling like snow and piled up in drifts 3-4 inches deep.

Kevin
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« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2008, 07:18:51 am »

Hi all,

Reading this post and finding it very interesting, I have tested different light settings, yesterday evening with neon light (1st pic) and today with natural light, close to window (2nd pic) and far from window (3rd pic). My camera is a Panasonic lumix DMC-FZ18. I take pics with the coin a few centimeters above a black background. Then I use Gimp 2. I don't change colors at all, just increasing contrast a little bit, and adjusting brightness if necessary.

Regards
Potator

PS : Kevin, that orange pic is amazing, a pity you had to burn half of California to shoot it  Grin
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« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2008, 09:07:36 am »

"I highly recommend natural sunlight for macro coin pix;"

Not too useful in the evening/night. I use a Phillips "Daylight" bulb and it seems to work fine....with my antique Sony Mavica FD 73 digital camera.
PeteB
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Johnny
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« Reply #15 on: November 30, 2008, 09:47:52 am »

The problem I have with daylight is that in winter months,  most of my work will be done in the evenings ,  so no sun. Sad

here are a few more pics using 2 halogen bulbs .  these photo's are not edited yet,  but  they are close to natural

for these pics,  I was not worrying about orientation,  and I am still working on figuring out the best light angle and distance

what do you all think,  better  or worse?

I also keep getting that smeared spot on the coin at the 1- 2 oclock position,  not sure why  as the lens seems clean, I'll run some lens cleaner on it to find out

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Johnny
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« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2008, 11:21:36 am »

I think I got it,  here is the latest pic of the coin  under halogen whit bulb X2 , coin raised off surface about 1 ", Camera set to super macro with white balance set to show the background as white as possible,  Camera is also set on tripod, and my fingerprint cleaned off the lens at 2 oclock  Smiley

I'll repost the coin sin order  1st 2 are my first attempts,  third is photo of coin under scanner (  it's just a shade darker than in hand ) 4 th attempt,  and the most recent  with coin raised
the only thing left to do is raise the tripod a bit so I don't cut off the coin

these pics are un-edited and straight from memory card

anything i can do in your opinion to improve the quality ?  any comment or opinion appreciated

cheers  and that you all for your continuing support with this project

cheers

EDITED   

@ potator,  thanks for posting the pics,  there is definately a difference between the 3  natural light  . how close were the 2nd and 3rd pics from the windows  I definately like your 1st pic (  the natural light better than the rest )

@ Akropolis,  LOL  I'll have to get daylight bulbs too ??  are they a camera shop item,  or can the bulbs fit into anything ?.  you also stated " not too useful in evening /night."  Does that mean they are not worth the money ?  or not as good as natural light
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« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2008, 02:41:58 pm »

In order to obtain consistent results I use two daylight bulbs. I try to take my images in an otherwise darkened room. I always use a grey card to set my custom white balance before I start shooting.

I have experimented with daylight shooting and find the results too variable given the variability in the weather conditions here.

Martin
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« Reply #18 on: November 30, 2008, 03:08:54 pm »


@ Akropolis,  LOL  I'll have to get daylight bulbs too ??  are they a camera shop item,  or can the bulbs fit into anything ?.  you also stated " not too useful in evening /night."  Does that mean they are not worth the money ?  or not as good as natural light

Here in the U.S., you can get them at Home Depot and possibly Lowes. They fit into any home lamp-type socket.

My comment as to not being useful in the evening or night pertained to the use of natural day light.

Most (all?) of the images at my web site (link below) were taken with a "daylight" bulb. I agree with comments above that daylight is too variable, especially with moving clouds in the sky. I have tried it.....with variable, unpredictable results.

PeteB
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« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2008, 02:26:12 pm »

Just a quick update to let you all know that I have made  very little progress in the last few days'  but  I am working on it.

I would like to take this time to also Thanks all of you for your help with this new " hobby "

question ...are hobbies supposed to give you stress and frustration.  Cause this is gonna drive me over the edge


AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

sorry  had to let it out.  but  thank you for letting me vent  Smiley
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Johnny
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« Reply #20 on: December 02, 2008, 02:39:06 pm »

OK,  here it is.  this image is run through Gimp. with brightness lowered by 25,  all other setting are untouched.  By holding the coin to the screen,  this is as close I can get ( with my corrent knowledge ) to the actual coin. 

there is still a bit of croping at the top and bottom of the coin wich I am working on

any tips on how to improve this to Slokind Quality pics  ?

EDITED   Sorry  a pic would be nice.  and on this note  does anyone know how to remove the background  ?

thanks
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« Reply #21 on: December 02, 2008, 08:04:51 pm »

Now, don't get anxious.  You just haven't yet got the secrets of your camera and your photography situation.    One thing to do is series, since digital storage on those SD cards makes it so cheap.  Take one simple set up, such as with one lamp in a particular position.  Then set the coin at a certain distance, such as 7 inches from the lens, and let the camera take it from every setting available, including your White Balance (or Color Balance, depending on what your Manual calls it) pre-set and all the fixed ones, whatever they call them.  Then see how they relate to one another (this involves making a list).
Then try, say, two lamps one farther than the other from the coin, say, one at 10h position and the other at, say, 1h or 3h position and farther, say, the 10h lamp about 10 inches from the coin and the other one about 14 inches, and take the same series of settings.
Probably none of these, or other series you do so 'mechanically' will be perfect, and, if you do get a perfect one, chances are that it won't work so perfectly on a different coin.
But it's a valuable and, as an exercise, non-anxiety provoking procedure.  I did it with my D80 when I got it and did learn.
Pat L.
P.S. So long as you're studying photography, leave that background as it is.  It tells you things.  Good post-processing software will let you excise the coin.  The worse the background looks, the likelier it is to tell you something, especially when the actual background was white.  P.L.
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Johnny
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« Reply #22 on: December 03, 2008, 02:20:24 pm »

Thanks Pat for more fantastic advice.

I will do as you suggested and go through all the settings and features  and keep a visual record.  Actually I am going to write the settings on the pictures itself once they are transfered to the CPU.  This should allow me quick reference to what setting gave what results.

I will also use different types of coins WRT patina,  Black, green, sand, silvered, and silver, and of course brown  and mixed.

this is going to be a long process, But should allow me to learn more ( as you had suggested ) . I will start off with the same coin  and work from there

Thanks again,  I truely am grateful for all your help,  and all the help I received from everyone else here  ( lol  this is harder to figure out than provincial legends  Sad  )

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