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Newbie Question: What Are You Looking For When You Photograph A Coin?

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 Posted 12/07/2021  4:32 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add mjkzz to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
I stumbled up on a neat lighting technique, axial lighting, used a coin as a test and it worked very well for my computer vision experiment. Now I am just curious about what are coin pros looking for when photographing a coin? Thanks in advance.

Here is one example, though not pure axial lighting because I modified it a bit to reveal more scratches and defects. Note, it is stitched from 6 stacked images with 16 images each.

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 Posted 12/07/2021  4:41 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add mjkzz to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
oops, that was not lit with axial light, this one is (sorry, too new, do not know how to edit a post).



Here is the setup



Here is another setup for a different coin

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 Posted 12/07/2021  5:22 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add ijn1944 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I use axial lighting when I have the time to take serious coin photos. Very cool.
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 Posted 12/07/2021  5:51 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add mrwhatisit to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Right below your username, there are small icons, one of them is edit post... I use it all the time ...
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 Posted 12/07/2021  11:15 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add gunbarrelcoins to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I worked for a coin dealer taking photos for his eBay sales. I tried axial lighting but thought it took the life, the luster out of the coins.
I built my own rig with one stationary light offset by 10 degrees and a second I can adjust to get just the right look.

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 Posted 12/08/2021  01:01 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add mjkzz to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
thanks gunbarrelcoins, I guess luster is an important factor.
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 Posted 12/08/2021  09:22 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add rmpsrpms to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Luster is important for many coin types. It is one of the primary factors for grading business strike coins, so having luster show in a coin photo is extremely important for those coins. Indeed some coin photographers shoot to emphasize luster above other concerns in order to make coins appear higher grade. For proofs, medals, ancient coins, etc luster is not so important. In those cases different aspects of lighting come into play, and often an axial approach is preferred.

Luster is created due to reflections of the light off fine surface finish of the coin. Its appearance relies on contrast between the bright reflections versus immediately adjacent area with minimal reflections. Axial light does not hit the surfaces in a way that shows this contrast. Ringlights and domes and other techniques with low directionality also produce minimal to no luster as they shine light on the shadows. They "seem" like a good idea because they provide a very even illumination, but without the contrast between shadows and highlights, you lose important aspects like luster and definition of fine features.
Contact me for photographic equipment or visit my home page at:
http://macrocoins.com
Edited by rmpsrpms
12/08/2021 09:23 am
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New Member
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 Posted 12/08/2021  4:51 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add mjkzz to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
thanks, jbuck, fascinating community.
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 Posted 12/08/2021  4:57 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add mjkzz to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
thanks rmpsrpms, so much info to digest.

For axial lights, I think they produce too much contrast, particularly around "cuts" or deep scratches, hence it can capture more details.

On the other hand, true dome lights produce flat profile, but good at reading stuff off curved surface. I think there is a video by Edmund and it is also true with my experiments.
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 Posted 12/08/2021  5:12 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add ijn1944 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
When I shoot axial, I place tracing paper between the light source and the angled glass plate--mitigates contrasty images very effectively, while still allowing for a decent show of luster. Perhaps 20% of the time I'll add a second light source to bring out the luster just a bit--if the coin even has luster to begin with.
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 Posted 12/08/2021  5:13 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add hfjacinto to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The issue with the way most coin pictures are taken is that the light hides flaws. I don't use any extra light. But I want the coin to look like it really does, not a model shot. So some coins look like this.




And others look like this




I'm showing it like it is.
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 Posted 12/08/2021  5:22 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add mjkzz to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
hi ijn1944, thanks for your info. I do use that diffuser on that 50W LED panel in my 2nd post along with some other light (by accident). So the axial configuration produced more 3D effect than the dome light did (very first post). Look at the lettering, under axial light, those letters appear rounded and curved, under dome light (very first post), these letters appear flat, as if they were chiselled or machined.

I am new, so I still do not have a concept of what exactly luster is, I think it might be one of those terms that is very subjective, different person have different preference. For example, I shot this, I think it has "luster' because edge contrast is low, it is still very reflective and appear to be metal, yet it still has "axial look'

Edited by mjkzz
12/08/2021 5:23 pm
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 Posted 12/08/2021  5:28 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add mjkzz to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
hi hfjacinto, VERY TRUE, SHOW IT LIKE IT IS! But sometimes, that way of shooting also hides some details. Axial lights bring out more details/defects than other type of lightings, but, from what I read here, axial lights do not produce much luster, something some viewers like to see.

What I am trying to get at is that maybe there is a way that we can trade luster and 'axial look' :-)
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 Posted 12/08/2021  5:39 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add mjkzz to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
For example, here (Japanese 10 yen), all details (scratches, defects) are visible if zoomed in. Yet, in my eyes, it has "luster", unlike images produced with axial lights where edges have very high contrast and almost appear black.



Edited by mjkzz
12/08/2021 5:39 pm
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 Posted 12/08/2021  8:12 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add rmpsrpms to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
@hfjacinto's first coin is an excellent study in luster presentation. It is showing two "luster bars" in an almost X-shaped pattern.From that pattern I can tell that there were two primary light sources, one at 11:30, and one at 2:00. The luster bars present perpendicular to the light direction. They are not as dramatic as they would be if only one light source was used, since the "other" source reduces the local shadow contrast, though not as much as if there was light coming from the opposite side of the coin.
Contact me for photographic equipment or visit my home page at:
http://macrocoins.com
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