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Contrasts in Lighting

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coinsbygary

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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

2013-W_SAE_$1_45_Degree_Axial_Reflector_Reverse Proof.jpg

2013-W_SAE_$1_Lens_Aperture_Ringlight_Reverse Proof.jpg

2013-W_SAE_$1_Reverse Proof_Standard.jpg

Contrasts in Lighting_A.jpg

2016-S_Ronald Reagan_Reverse Proof_Dollar.jpg

1794_Conder_Lace_Manufactory_Z5_ringlight.jpg

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I always admire what you do but I've largely given up on using standardized set-ups and I just use 1-2 lights and move them as needed to get a shot that I like for that coin - a lot of trial and error and iteration until I'm happy. And then sometimes I'll throw in some global editing / adjustments in photoshop to force the image to pop the way I want. Between the different needs of each coin combined with issues arising from scratches in the slab and such.... :frustrated:

Here's one I've had some fun with lately:

625289100_bDSC_7915b.thumb.jpg.3edc919db3718efade2797f350615f2f.jpg

BTW, way to make Reagan look like an evil genius, Dude. lol 

Edited by Revenant
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Hi Gary,

An excellent post as always.  Your photos are a great comparison of techniques, but I'm surprised you didn't try side lighting on this coin.  Many years ago, I took photos with a very cheap camera and two lights shining towards each other from the sides in an otherwise dark room. The lights are at the same angle as your 45 degree axial, but without the glass (or in your case, the CD cover)..  I was just trying to do comparisons, so the final quality isn't great.  I wasn't concerned about dust or the camera lens reflecting on the coin. This technique only works well for cameo proof coins, but the effects can be quite dramatic. The fields can appear totally black which sets off the cameo devices.  A similar effect can be achieved using a flat bed scanner. I have not tried either technique on a reverse proof though. I would be curious to see what that looks like.

1000_2003W_Eagle_SideLight_obv.JPG.fc197d672297dd2e4002508523707347.JPG1000_2003W_Eagle_SideLight_rev.JPG.6481f8f3e6f99a5cbe057cc68e20cbce.JPG

Above photos taken with a very cheap camera and two side lights.

01000_2020S_Silver_Eagle_NGC_PF70UC_20201015-01_2_obv.thumb.jpg.4173ff8fb7ff5ffe79d9cdf91a43d53b.jpg01000_2020S_Silver_Eagle_NGC_PF70UC_20201015-01_3_rev.thumb.jpg.88cc817fb72283f5afe127d145c1f649.jpg

Above images acquired with a flatbed scanner.

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On 10/4/2021 at 8:57 AM, coin928 said:

 This technique only works well for cameo proof coins, but the effects can be quite dramatic. 

01000_2020S_Silver_Eagle_NGC_PF70UC_20201015-01_2_obv.thumb.jpg.4173ff8fb7ff5ffe79d9cdf91a43d53b.jpg01000_2020S_Silver_Eagle_NGC_PF70UC_20201015-01_3_rev.thumb.jpg.88cc817fb72283f5afe127d145c1f649.jpg

Above images acquired with a flatbed scanner.

I may need to steal this idea for imaging my Presidential Dollar proofs That has given me hell :pullhair:

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On 10/4/2021 at 8:57 AM, coin928 said:

Hi Gary,

An excellent post as always.  Your photos are a great comparison of techniques, but I'm surprised you didn't try side lighting on this coin.  Many years ago, I took photos with a very cheap camera and two lights shining towards each other from the sides in an otherwise dark room. The lights are at the same angle as your 45 degree axial, but without the glass (or in your case, the CD cover)..  I was just trying to do comparisons, so the final quality isn't great.  I wasn't concerned about dust or the camera lens reflecting on the coin. This technique only works well for cameo proof coins, but the effects can be quite dramatic. The fields can appear totally black which sets off the cameo devices.  A similar effect can be achieved using a flat bed scanner. I have not tried either technique on a reverse proof though. I would be curious to see what that looks like.

1000_2003W_Eagle_SideLight_obv.JPG.fc197d672297dd2e4002508523707347.JPG1000_2003W_Eagle_SideLight_rev.JPG.6481f8f3e6f99a5cbe057cc68e20cbce.JPG

Above photos taken with a very cheap camera and two side lights.

01000_2020S_Silver_Eagle_NGC_PF70UC_20201015-01_2_obv.thumb.jpg.4173ff8fb7ff5ffe79d9cdf91a43d53b.jpg01000_2020S_Silver_Eagle_NGC_PF70UC_20201015-01_3_rev.thumb.jpg.88cc817fb72283f5afe127d145c1f649.jpg

Above images acquired with a flatbed scanner.

I got to hand it to you, the flatbed scanner for your standard proof SAE really looks nice! :golfclap:

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On 10/4/2021 at 8:57 AM, coin928 said:

I have not tried either technique on a reverse proof though.

Just for fun, I set this up with two remote controlled flashes on either side of a soft-box with the coin set back into the soft box. The room light was on but it is not bright (certainly compared to the flashes) and the soft box shades the coin so essentially 100% of the lighting for the shot comes from the flashes but I'm not sitting in a dark room or using hot lights. I set the camera to f/16 to try to get the whole coin in focus, focused once and then set to manual-only focus so I could just flip / swap out the coins and hammer through without refocusing each time.

243643744_6197652543609749_9223312203955024396_n.thumb.jpg.bc2b8c6800632708a84d07307018a28e.jpg

Proof:

380372787_40ReaganObverse.thumb.jpg.3f88b747b3a10d7b411cde25773ca52b.jpg1975619728_40ReaganReverse.thumb.jpg.79a872faaead0c7caa093935a8758e40.jpg

Reverse Proof:

856723011_AI1Obverse.thumb.jpg.4b7fed97f6a7b04c983cb581e93e713b.jpg1465876351_AI1Reverse.thumb.jpg.71db19fe7d8356456d97d03ced7ee8fd.jpg

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On 10/5/2021 at 8:48 AM, Revenant said:

Reverse Proof:

856723011_AI1Obverse.thumb.jpg.4b7fed97f6a7b04c983cb581e93e713b.jpg1465876351_AI1Reverse.thumb.jpg.71db19fe7d8356456d97d03ced7ee8fd.jpg

Your photos are excellent, but the results for the reverse proof are not as appealing as for a regular proof coin.  The side lighting technique accentuates the frosted portions of the coin, which brings out the details of the devices on a regular cameo proof.  Unfortunately, on the reverse proof, the background is accentuated and the details of the devices are lost.  I would opt or Gary's Standard Lighting technique when it comes to reverse proofs since it provides the most detail for the devices and represents the frosted fields as nearly white.That appears to me to be the most dramatic method for photographing a reverse proof coin. I may still try one on my scanner to see how that looks. Don't look for the results any time soon though.

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Oh, so that’s why I ended up with too many weird reflections when I recently took pictures of a reverse proof. These 3 different proof finishes were all taken with the same lighting setup using my iPhone and a couple of LED lights. My reverse proof came out similar to your LED ring light picture. I might have to try your CD case trick in the future for the reverse Proofs 🤔

FA939148-2EE5-4005-877F-32D2172DA355.jpeg

BE9854F9-E3F2-4394-AA5A-CA9B1A4315AF.jpeg

29E8471E-BA3F-4336-A92F-8E0F27D4C28B.jpegHere’s a couple of pictures of my set-up

AF6F90DF-57A4-47A2-B1F6-3F2D3ECE3128.jpeg

0577C5B0-608A-4C64-8023-A5CA52231C5D.jpeg

Edited by Mr_Spud
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