A key part of any coin photography setup is the light modifiers. Mine (based on rpmrpms smile directors) was made of paper, tape and Lego, and it was falling apart. It was also a huge pain; it was inflexible, hard to adjust, and hard to position correctly and consistently. It also didn't work well with all the coin sizes I wanted to use it for.
It also wasn't quite repeatable; if I bumped it, it was very hard to get it right back to the position it was in before, and it was very hard to reproduce the same conditions on a different day.
Old and busted :(
But I recently got myself another toy I've been wanting for quite some time; a 3D printer. And I immediately put it to work on a new smile director system. This is what I've got after a few weeks of designing, tweaking and learning.
The new hotness!
I started with a handful of 40.5-43mm filter step-up rings. I printed a tube with a frame at the end which friction-fits inside the step-up rings. For use with those, I printed a selection of inserts with various sizes, shapes and positions for the "smiles" with some diffusion material glued to one side.
I can switch to different frames to adjust the height of the lights; since the frame attaches directly to the lens, it's always fixed and repeatable distance from the coin (assuming it's in focus). Likewise, I can easily swap out inserts (or print new ones) to adjust the shape and size of the lighting to light the coin's features just right and get the perfect balance between luster and color.
(luster comparison between 50 and 70 degree wide smiles)
I designed the geometry of it to work with any size coin up to roughly an ASE
, so I don't have to jury-rig some new light setup any time I'm photographing coins outside of my regular fare.
Because it's rigid and repeatable, I can do stuff like take a picture with a two-light setup, and then add a third, helper light. The two pictures can be combined to let me adjust the power of the helper light in post.