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Images's Journal

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The photo process



How I photograph my coins

I am not a professional photographer, however, I have always loved photography and also consider it a terrific hobby. I realize that many people do not have the time or money to invest in good equipment, but for me it is just another extension of my coin hobby. Documenting my collection has been a very enjoyable process. I can now keep my collection in the safe at the bank, yet pull out my photos and enjoy my collection any time.

My equipment:

Digital camera: Fuji FinePix S1 Pro 6.1 mega pixels (The new S2 runs about $1,200.00)

Lens: Nikon 105mm f2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor ($625.00)

Copy Stand: Beseler

Lighting: (2) 75w GE halogen flood lamps

Software: Adobe Photoshop V6.0.1 (The new version 8 runs about $375.00)

The photo process:

I lay the coin on a white sheet of printer paper and place the camera about 2 feet directly above the work. I have a copy stand but a tripod would work just as well. A copy stand gives you a place to mount the camera perpendicular to the work, and it gives you arms to mount flood lights on. I keep one flood light pointed at about 30 degrees to the coin, this causes some shadow and picks up the detail in the strike. I hold the other light in my hand at about 80 degrees above the coin. Moving the hand held light around can highlight the coins' luster and attributes. The type of flood light you buy will affect the color of the photo, but I have found that the Adobe software has a feature that will cancel this effect. I take one photo of each side of the coin close up and then raise the camera up and take a photo of each side of the coin in the holder. I then copy the photo to my computer and use Adobe Photoshop to make the final adjustments.

The editing process:

In Photoshop I first rotate the coin "Image/rotate/arbitrary" so that the coin is straight. Next I use "Image/adjust/level" and pick the "white balance eyedropper" and select the white paper I placed under the coin. Picking the white paper will get rid of the problem with the yellow-orange color of the image. The final step is to crop the image and erase the background. For the close up picture, I use the elliptical marquee tool and set the style to fixed and use trial error to get the right height and width. Once this is set I right click the mouse and pick select inverse. This provides a mask for the coin. You can then simply erase all of the unwanted background. Then, just save the image in the desired format and resolution. I keep a high format tiff image to print out and a low res jpg image for viewing on the computer. Sounds like a lot, but it is pretty easy when you get familiar with it. I can photo and edit 1 coin in about 15 minutes.

I am not suggesting that this method makes sense for everyone. I just wanted to share how I do it, and encourage others to share. The camera and software are expensive, but to me it is worth it, and I use them for all of our family vacations as well. The one advantage we have with this web site is the ability to share our collections. Pictures make a great database to study our hobby. I love looking at other peoples coins and hope other people have enjoyed my photos.



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