A few days ago, I was contacted by a friend concerning a medal that he had photographed by someone other than me! 😊. To be exact, he didn’t like what he got and wanted to know my thoughts on the photography. Now, if a person asks me questions about photography, they will always get more from me than they asked! The pictures my friend sent lacked details. The devices were hazy and had a strange blue hue. The fields on the medal were basically flat. Because the medal had a reverse proof finish, I photographed a 2013-W reverse proof SAE from my collection to make a few lighting comparisons.
First, I photographed my SAE using a 45-degree axial reflector. This transparent reflector directly underneath the lens reflects about half the light from a perpendicular lighting source to the lens. The remaining light passes through the glass and is absorbed by the black surface inside its holder. From my picture, notice that I fashioned my reflector from a CD case lid.
An obstacle that I always have to deal with using this method is too little or too much light. If a coin is in a plastic holder, it compounds the obstacle. Getting just the right light is difficult because the light is often hazy, and the focus is not consistent over the entire surface of the coin. Usually, I have to use a diffuser on the lighting source, adding yet another variable into the mix. The picture I am posting of my SAE under this form of lighting is my third take. Despite the difficulty experienced, this is my favorite image of the SAE.
Next, I photographed the SAE using my lens aperture LED ring light. Because this light is precisely perpendicular to the coin, the picture is much like the one using axial lighting. However, axial lighting is reflected, and this light is direct. You will notice the mirrored surface of the coin is much more reflective than the picture using axial lighting. This type of lighting is advantageous when photographing darkly-toned copper coins. In fact, I used this light to photograph the Conder Token pictured in my last ANA post.
Standard lighting will always be at an angle other than 0-degrees because the camera is in the way. This method of lighting is perfect for capturing the luster of your coin. You will notice the luster present on the obverse field of my SAE in front of Lady Liberty. Because the lighting is at an angle, the highly reflective surfaces on the coin appear black. If this were a standard-proof coin, the fields would be black, and the devices would be silver because of the non or less reflective surface of the devices. Most often, I use two lamps to better light the surface of the coin and reduce the effect of shadows.
Recently, I imaged a chocolate-brown, lightly toned Conder Token that I had difficulty capturing the fine details. In the end, I used one standard light in front of the token to finally get the results I was looking for. Basically, I use whatever form of light that will give me the result I want, and it often takes a lot of shots to get it right.
I hope you have enjoyed my post and my pictures. I am also posting a non-silver Ronald Reagan reverse proof dollar using axial photography. Which is your favorite SAE picture? If I ever photograph your coins, I might ask you this question. You can be sure that my friend didn’t have a choice. Love it, or hate it, he had to take what he got ☹