Photographing a Dupondius of Nero

First Photo Try

Nero, 54-68 AD, Dupondius, Lugdunum Mint, Securitas seated reverse, 13.2g. Invert (6 o'clock) axis

Our subject coin was featured on my page comparing two dupondii of Nero. This coin looks better 'in hand' than in the photos. It is difficult to shoot a good color image of a shiny patina. The reflections tend to appear a cooler in the image than the natural color but can not be corrected simply by adjusting the overall color of the image without introducing other color problems. My first attempt failed to capture the true look of the coin. It is actually an image of the glare from the coin more than a record of the surfaces themselves. Millenium Sear illustrates a similar (but much higher grade) coin with glossy surfaces as number 1968. This can be effective in black and white but usually fails in color. I will need to photograph this coin several times before I get it 'just right'.

Second Photo Try

Same Coin, Different Lighting

A small variation in lighting angle can make a big difference in the reflections on the coin surfaces. The second improved the color balance between highlights and shadow areas but overemphasized surface variations introducing color shadings not seen on the coin itself. At the same time, the second image fails to capture the bold legends as seen in the first and on the coin itself. The difference between the two was a only small change in lighting angle. Can either (both?) of these be a fair representation of the coin? The goal is an image that tells the truth rather than on fooling the viewer into believing the subject is better or worse than it is. I will try again ...and again.

Third PhotoTry

Same Coin, Again

Another try differs from the last with yet another minor change in lighting angle and the addition of a diffusing tissue to soften the light. The result is somewhere between the two earlier tries in several respects and captures the actual appearance of the coin better than either. The image may not be considered as attractive as the first since it does not hide the surface variations present on the coin (but exaggerated by the second try).

Fourth Photo Try

Our next attempt shows the result of even more diffusing the lighting used for the photo. In place of the small (almost 'point') light source used for the other images, this was taken with a broad light from two screw base florescent bulbs reflected by a large silver cone. The result was a reduction of the high point glares and a more accurate rendition of the color of the coin made possible by the elimination of the excessively blue highlights. Whether or not it is the most pleasing, this is the most accurate image of the coin.


Following the original posting of this page, I received a note suggesting that I should have tried imaging the coin on a flat bed scanner. I am embarassed that I did not do that in the first place. Below is a scan reduced here (as are all of the images on this page) to the same size asr the other images on this page. Looking at the coin and the images, I would place the accuracy of the scan below the third try but similar to the other two images. The coin is better looking than the scan which emphasises the surface textures beyond what we see on the coin 'in hand'. Certainly it is not a bad solution to imaging this coin. Thanks for the suggestion.

Scanned on Flatbed Scanner

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