Step Two: Setup and Lighting
For the record, most of what I will be saying about methodology in this series isn't set in stone. There are many combinations of settings, and many lighting methods, which will result in an excellent picture. The things that favor older copper don't necessarily favor lustrous silver, and vice versa. There's one member posting here who can achieve beautiful results with a flashlight (Learjet, you listening?
), although that's not high on my recommendation list.
However, we're talking about doing the best
you can with the camera you have, and two techniques are absolutely imperative if you are to achieve your best. First, the camera must be on a solid mount of some sort
. Copystand, tripod, sitting on a table while the coin is on its' end, it doesn't matter as long as you're not the one holding the camera. Second, use a delayed shutter
. Virtually every camera on the market has a shutter timer, so you don't have to be holding the button down when the shutter snaps. These are necessary because of the very small field of view and depth of field associated with macro shooting. Remember, your goal is to get the biggest and clearest picture you can of the tiny details on a coin's face. If the camera moves by the slightest amount while the shutter snaps, you run the risk of blurring the shot.
Use a solid background behind the coin. Generally, darker backgrounds behind lighter coins, and vice versa, will help define the rim more clearly and bring out color/luster. Many really good shooters mount the coin on something small (like one of those pedestals they use to hold up the center of a pizza box), to help make the background fade out of focus.
You can light your coin in two different fashions - direct (light shining straight onto the coin), and indirect (light source bounced off something reflective before reaching the coin). The choices I will be making for lighting here are just how I like to do it, and don't represent the only good way to light a coin shot. Once you've got the rest of the process down, experiment. Play with indirect and axial lighting (search this forum for definitions). I generally stick to direct, undiffused lighting, myself, and that's how we're going to do it here.
Just to emphasize the low-dollar aspect of this deal, for those of you who haven't seen it I'm including a picture of my ghetto mount/lighting rig:
The tripod was $20. The lighting is a 4' track unit with gooseneck 50W halogens, picked up for $14 on Clearance at Home Depot. I wired a dimmer inline with the power cord. All told, I had about $40 in that setup, and I've taken some of my favorite pictures with it. The coin mounts on 3 stacked computer CD players and an old black t-shirt. I use two sheets of white paper on top for the light background. And that's all it takes.
I was finally able to snag a decent copystand on eBay last year, so the tripod won't be in use, but the lighting is unchanged. It's always the best policy to try to get the lighting as close to vertical above the coin as possible; that's the reason why I settled on the goosenecks and small bulbs. The dimmer is so I can wick down the heat between shots; after all, silver melts at 1600 degrees.
Friday night: Step Three: Baseline pictures
The best thing about a bicycle is that it uses no gasoline, therefore the chance of fiery death is greatly reduced.
First Catman, then Gary Burke and now Bigg Fredd - there's one heck of a coin club in Heaven.