“Knowing how to photograph coins can lead to your having more of them!”
There are many reasons that someone may want a photo of a coin and knowing how to photograph coins can mean extra work. Here are some tips on getting photos of a subject that seems easy but not all is what it appears.
5 Tips on How to Photograph Coins
Keep the background simple and dark. No stripes or patterns that distract the eye from the coins should be used. Whether you have a box with a construction paper in it or a more elaborate set up keep the coins centre to the photo. White will reflect light, which can help reduce the light needed somewhat and reduce glare on the coin.
Watch the lighting. The light too bright can mean the image on the coin is hard to see. If someone is selling a collector coin this is an obvious problem! The reflection of light on a shiny coin can obscure details as the shiny surface reflects most light rather than absorbing it.
Natural light is by far best for coin photography. This can include fluorescent light if you are photographing inside the studio. Indirect diffused lighting eliminates shadows and harsh dark spots that, equally, can spoil a shot. A diffuser can spread the light – one of the big points to keep in mind on the topic of how to photograph coins.
Another option is using light from both sides but not pointed at the coin. For example, you have your box that you’re shooting in; there’s a light at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions pointed at each other, camera in the centre over the coin. Instead of shooting dead on alter just slightly so that the camera catches it but doesn’t reflect the light back at the camera from the coin.
Remember that with macro shooting it takes a very small change to catch light. Your position of light can highlight the raised image on the coin or capture the entire coin lit evenly to see in detail.
Watch the depth of field. Remember that when we photograph coins we want to catch the image of the whole coin, not just part of it. There are often dates, letters and images on the coin and the wrong approach can mean losing these details. How to photograph coins then means shooting with the macro lens, something you’ll want to practice on before the shoot.
With a manual setting this means using the largest F-stop available to focus on the entire coin. Digital cameras usually have an auto-focus feature that allows the camera to focus in on close objects.
Use a tripod. No person can hold still enough to reliably shoot macro shots without slight movements that result in blurred photos. This can be frustrating for the photographer as many movements are so small we don’t feel the movement, but the camera records it in a blurred photo. Save the frustration! Get a tripod or copy stand to hold the camera absolutely still on a solid surface. These need not cost a great deal of money but will increase the good shots that come with the use of the macro lens.
Equipment – from simple to elaborate is available. How to photograph coins includes consideration of equipment and if need be making it basic until enough income justifies additional purchases.
There are table top complete lighting studios for taking photos of coins (as well as jewellery, stamps, small electronics and other products) that can run to about $800.
You can also create a shooting box with light on one side a piece of glass at a 45-degree angle shooting through it as well as professionally made cone shaped tents that allows shooting small objects with consideration to light and other factors mentioned.
Photographer Bill Mullan found his answer to equipment in a clean milk jug, a spotlight, a raised non-reflective piece of plastic to hold the coin off the surface and four soda cans to hold the plastic up. Low tech, it takes a little experimenting but works like a charm!
Shooting coins is one use for the macro lens. Experiment with shooting not just one coin but piles of coins and remember the different coin colours (not all are silver!) can mean adjusting slightly to get those great shots. How to photograph coins doesn’t take a high dollar set up but does take a willingness to improvise!
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