1. The Basics - Key elements in watch photography
Photographing coins can be an easy or hard job, depending on the tools you are using to photograph. As you might already know, coins have reflective high polish surfaces that can easily show reflections, shadows and hard spots in photographs when they aren't correctly illuminated and in an adequate setting. Therefore, understanding a coin's qualities and features will help you understand how various surrounding, illumination and reflections will affect the outcome of a photograph.
To begin with, we are going to talk about the basic elements of photography:
The key to high quality coin photos is using the right equipment, and having a basic understanding of how photography works. In our opinion, here are the six most important elements you should understand in coin photography:
- Continuous natural daylight lighting: To evenly reproduce the colors
- Diffused lighting: To eliminate shadows and hard spots
- White Balance: Setting up your camera's custom white balance
- Depth of Field & Focus: To get a sharp and clear image
- Shutter Speed/Exposure time: Understanding the correct time exposure
- Stable camera mounting: Using a tripod or other form of camera's mounting
Natural Daylight Lighting
Although not all coins are completely reflective, the coins that do contain
reflective areas may be difficult to photograph because their shiny high-polished
surface reflects, in many cases, up to 99% of the light it receives. If
you use flash photography, you’ll usually end up with glares and hot spots.
The key is to use continuous natural light which has the ability to evenly
and accurately reproduce all the spectacular colors found in the different
elements of coins. Therefore, for photographing coins we will be using
fluorescent daylight light.
Remember: all of our photography lighting systems contain
continuous fluorescent lighting in at least the bottom, right
and left sides of the box. Other lighting systems, like the
MK "The Box"™ also contain light on the back, top and doors.
Other features include LED lighting, rotating platforms, halogen
lighting and more.
When illuminating coins, you have to make sure never to expose
them to light directly, as direct light will be reflected on
the coins, and will create hot spots and shadows. What you
need to do is expose your coins through diffused lighting,
which is light that has passed through some sort of light diffuser.
The diffuser should evenly spread the light, and eliminate
all hot-spots, shadows and reflections. Remember, that all
of our photography lighting systems already include natural
daylight that is exposed through the boxes’ acrylic walls that
act as light diffusers.
A key element of successful product photography is white balance. You need to be able to program the white balance setting on your camera. Although many cameras will come with pre-program options or presets, you need at least one custom white balance option. This means that the camera can "read" and self-adjust itself to be able to take pictures under many light conditions. This feature is very important.
If your camera cannot perform this custom adjustment, it’s very likely that you’ll end up with badly colored product pictures, especially if you are trying to take pictures of products against a white background. You’ll likely end up with all kinds of color variations: yellow, blue, magenta, green etc.
Do not misunderstand the white balance feature to mean that the background is going to be always white. White balance means that the camera needs to adjust itself to the ambience light you are using, to give you accurate and true colors of the items being photograph.
Want to learn more? View our tutorial on Setting the Custom White Balance
4. Depth of
Field & Focus
Setting the Depth-of-field in your camera is an important element in photographing coins. The first thing we need to do is to take advantage of the maximum depth-of-field that any camera has to offer. The camera should be set to manual mode so that the smallest aperture (biggest "F" stop number) setting can be selected. This will allow us to focus the entire coin (supposing that its a big coin) , rather than only parts of it.
The second thing we need to do is to focus the lens to get an image as clear as possible. Most digital cameras have an auto-focus option which can be used, please select this.
Want to learn more? View our tutorial on Setting the aperture and focus
5. Shutter Speed/Exposure Time
Cameras need to control the amount of light so that an image is not too bright (over exposed) or too dark (under exposed). Similar to our eyes, light enters through the lens and strikes the inside of the camera. Digital camera uses a charged coupling device (CCD) to capture the light of an image. Think of a CCD as 'film' in a conventional camera. Therefore, term exposure generally refers to a combination of aperture and shutter speed control to obtain the correct amount of light.
6. Stable Camera Mounting
When photographing coins, we recommend you to mount your camera to a stable surface (either a Tripod or our lighting systems' "L" bracket) in order to get the sharpest photographs possible. If you hold the camera with your hands, it is very likely that you will slightly move the camera while photographing (even if you don't notice - because we as humans can't perfectly hold it still) , and your photos will come out blurry.