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What You Need to Know: Online Resource Review: Coin Photography Technique

24 posts in this topic

What You Need to Know: Online Resource Review:

Coin Photography Technique


By Michael Parrish (pendragon1998)

Originally Posted: 23 September 2006

Updated: 01 November 2006



This article was originally posted on 23 September 2006. I have since updated it to include additional links of interest to the coin photographer. NGC forum threads have been updated through to the current date. I've added a review of PCGS threads from 2006 to present. The rest of the PCGS threads will have to wait until my batteries recharge. NEW resources are indicated next to their entry. I've added in total nearly 50 NEW resources to this list. Enjoy!



One of the most enjoyable activites in numismatics is getting the opportunity to share your collection with others to get their opinions about a favorite coin or their assistance evaluating it in some way. The internet age has brought numismatists a wonderful NEW medium in which to showcase their collections. The only downside to this is the sometimes steep learning curve associated with learning the skills and techniques needed to accurately and quickly image your coins. Luckily for us, the digital age has also done away (for the most part) with film, and modern digital cameras offer their users the ability to create high-quality images with almost immediate feedback on their computer screens as to what works and what doesn’t.

Nevertheless, many collectors have much still to learn when it comes to properly using their cameras. (Good) coin photography is much more demanding than simply snapping a photo of the family at a picnic. Below, I’ve reviewed many online resources for the coin photographer. These resources are not exaustive, but they will provide a good starting point for the beginning and/or intermediate photographer to start learning about coin photography technique. Each resource is briefly annotated and assigned a relative grade out of 5 points (5/5 being highest).

I’ve classified my research results into three categories:

NGC Photography Threads
Useful threads from the NGC forums on relevant topics.
Articles and webpages of interest to the coin photographer.
Additional Threads
Discussion forum threads which at first seem useful, but contain little or no relevant information.

After searching through heaps of threads on the NGC boards, I discovered that NGC moderator Architecht had an idea much like mine for a similar thread. Some of the links he mentioned in his Photographing Coins - A compilation of expert answers and samples entry I have posted here (some of which I independently found prior to discovering his blog entry). Architecht - thanks for your previous work!

Finally - and obviously - I cannot have reviewed all the info out there; if anyone comes across anything juicy I've missed, please add to the thread. I hope to eventually perform a similar review of the Collectors Universe forums as well; I will post here when it is complete. Until then, I hope everyone finds this useful!


NGC Photography Threads:

Does anyone KNOW how they DO it? 5/5

Kryptonitecomics, IGWT, and rexcat show photos of their setups. Rexcat is using an axial lighting setup. RWB offers useful tips on lighting in several postings.


Finished taking pictures of my coins...I think 5/5 UPDATED

Beijim gives a stellar description of how 18% gray cards work. There's some discussion of white balance, both in-camera and in image editing software. Also some good imformation on metering modes.


How I photoed "Splatter" 5/5

Fantastic series of photos by spy88 as he varies the lighting on a coin. Excellent treatment of the subject.


Photography help, please? 5/5

A thread concerning my own learning experience as I try to get a good image of a SBA dollar. Lots of very helpful suggestions on lighting, focus, camera settings, and many of my ever-improving photos of my coin.


Images of Coins; Film vs Scanning (Images Embeded in Text) 4/5

TomB started this juicy, though short, thread with discussions on photo rigs, lighting, scans vs. photos. Dead image links.


OTT Lighting For Coin Pics 4/5

Yet another OTT thread, with discussions of white balance issues, lighting, and many examples. Also some links to threads across the street.


Photo Editing Help Please 4/5 NEW

Solid treatment of basic image editing procedures for coin photos.


What You Need to Know - Grading and Buying Based on Images 3/5

Not on coin photography per se, but Bruceswar wrote this useful article on picking out good photos from bad when looking to buy coins online.


Cameras and Macros 3/5

A series of recommendations on what sort of camera and lenses to buy for macro work. Includes a number of photos for comparison.


NGC coins are the toughest to photograph... 3/5

An (eventually) useful discussion on how to photograph NGC slabs, with their white backgrounds. This discussion really gets meaty on page 4 with Architect's post and subsequent replies. Be forewarned, there's a number of dead image links and a little minor flaming.


what's best camera for taking close pictures of coins???? 3/5 NEW

Copperman06 asked about which digital camera would take great macro photos of small coin details. Subsequent replies were quite useful.


Picture help please… 3/5 NEW

A discussion of the imporatance of white balance and some notes about shutter speed and aperature.


Background Picture Help Please 3/5 NEW

Instructions and suggestions on how to crop out coin photos and create a composite image on a background color of your choosing.


When posting pics do you hit the auto adjust?? 2/5 NEW

Discussion on the usage of the 'auto-adjust' feature common to many image editing packages.


Practicing coin photography 2/5

Some discussion of lighting, particularly OTT lights (daylight spectrum) and some info on SLR camera bodies and lenses.


Help with pictures. 2/5

Another thread giving light attention to the subject of lighting.


Coin Photograph tips and hints........ 2/5

Some discussion about camera models, but not much in the way of tips or hints, with some moderate flaming towards the end. Not especially useful other than for the camera recommendations. Some dead image links.


Splatter with Tensor vs OTT 2/5

Spy88 performs a lighting study on a favorite nickel of his. Unlike many other threads, no dead images as of today.


Camera's and Coin's 2/5

Camera reviews, a DIY camera stand, and some suggestions on technique. (gripe) Let us not forget, however: "Camera's" is possessive and "Cameras" is plural (/gripe)


This image cost me $800 1/5

Not a lot of discussion of technique, but does include an image taken using the 'milk jug technique'.


Sizing down photos 1/5 NEW

Instructions on resizing photos in terms of pixel extent and image quality using various image editors.


Pictures of my "made" NGC coins 1/5

Some minor discussion on OTT lights and setup, nothing fancy.


Best Digi Cam for 500 - 1000 bucks? 1/5

This thread is from May, 2004, so the info and suggestions are likely not current. I'd consider reading through this prior to getting a camera, but also be sure to review more current reviews and recommendations prior to buying.


Nailed it 1/5

Leeg briefly describes a setup on page 1.


My first real picture.... 1/5 NEW

A few pointers about cropping and lighting. Nothing ground-shaking.



PCGS Photography Threads: NEW


Coin photography - a short Photoshop tutorial. / My coin process in Photoshop (3MB+ of large pictures) 5/5

Absolutely fantastic treatment of photo processing techniques in Adobe Photoshop CS. Wonderful post!! That said, I do things a little differently, but I can't take away from this post in the least.


Question for the Photography pros... Half Dimes 4/5

Great discussion thread on photographing small coins such as half dimes.


I want to improve my photography. Would you mind critiqueing this pic? Added: Details on how it was taken. 4/5

Excellent post with details on an inexpensive setup. Only problem is the demo photo of a coin has a dead link! Nice photo of the camera setup, though.


photography article online. 3/5

Mark Goodman's announcement thread concerning his articles (mentioned under 'Websites' above). Includes some commentary on the article.


Photography question. NEW set up and pics. 3/5

Good information on setup, lighting, and other goodies.


Does anyone here use a Nikon D50 for coin photography? 2/5

Discussion of different camera bodies for coin photography and of scanners vs. cameras.


Coin Photography, White Balance and Flash 2/5

Comparison of different combinations of white balance and flash while photographing an ASE.


Coin photography tips and how-to 1/5

Some information on copy stands.


coin photography:it's all in the slab!.. 1/5

Interesting note about photographing coins in different TPG slabs.


Feedback on Photography, please. 1/5

Minor information regarding setup and white balance.


Feedback on Photography 1/5

Minor information on white balance and focus issues.


Photography tip for cameo proof coins 1/5

Minor tip on photographing proofs.


http://forums.collectors.com/messageview.cfm?catid=26&threadid=525637 1/5

Some suggestions regarding photographing through plastic.


EZcoin Pro Photography Studio 1/5

Brief description of a photography setup, but no followup with photos or technique information.


Wrote me an article on coin photography. 1/5

Discussion of one of Mark Goodman's threads (linked to above under 'websites')





The Understanding Series - Michael Reichmann at Luminous-Landscape.com 5/5 NEW

A fantastic reference source of articles relating to photographic concepts and techniques. Highly recommended.


My Approach to Coin Photography - Mark Goodman at browncopper.com 5/5

A detailed treatment of the subject, with sections covering equipment, lighting, camera settings and techniques, and even coin preparation (e.g. slab polishing). Interspersed in the article are excellent illustrative pictures of his setup and numerous sample coin images taken with the techniques he discusses. Highly recommended.


Coin Photography Lighting Shootout - Mark Goodman at browncopper.com 5/5

The author reviews seven different types of bulb for use in coin photography and presents both silver and copper examples. Read the 'Take Home Points' section at the bottom of the page if you don't read the entire article.


Coin Photography Techniques - Tabletopstudio.com 4/5

A discussion of focus and lighting techniques with several illustrated examples of selected objectives a coin photographer might face. Also includes links and photos to equipment used in making the images.


Photographing Coins?–Got Milk? - Frank Van Riper at washingtonpost.com 4/5

An online NEWspaper article detailing the 'milk jug technique' for using an old milk jug as a makeshift light tent. Photos of the setup and results.


Digital Coin Photography - Howard Spindel at shieldnickels.net 4/5

A series of tips and tricks for using digital cameras to image coins.


Light Box / Light Tent - Bill Huber at pbase.com 3/5

Do-it-yourself instructions on building a light box/tent. Could be moderately useful for coin photographers.


Secret is in the Lighting (part 2/2) - Beth Deisher at coinworld.com 3/5

A brief treatment of directional (a.k.a. side lighting) and axial lighting.


Nikonians: Micro, Macro & Close-up Photography - Message Board at nikonians.orgNot coin-specific, but a good place for general camera help.



Additional Threads (to ignore):

You may come across these threads while searching for topics related to coin photography. These threads are not included above because they either (a)don't contribute much information; (b) repeated info from another (better) thread, or © had one little juicy tidbit that I outlined above. This list isn't meant to denigrate any posters in these threads, but is intended to save search time for future readers.


NGC Threads:

Coin Photography

Info included above.


Taking Photos of coins?

No discussion of technique.


19th Century Proofs Rephotographed

Rehash of info mentioned above - but a little more background included on rexcat's post in the 'Does anyone KNOW how they DO it?' thread.


My final image layout... check it out and feedback appreciated.

Not especially useful - some minor discussion on arranging coin images. Don't bother.


Can you believe this photography???

Don't bother - nothing on technique.


taking pictures

Minor tips, nothing stellar.


Purchased a Nikon D70; Coin Images!

Nothing on technique, although I have a soft spot for that particular camera body.


I've been working on my coin photography.

A few good links (included above) but nothing to jump out at you. Nice coin photos though.


Half Cent lighting variations

What reads like a very informative thread is ruined by the infamous Dead Image Links - Shame.


Ended up rebuilding my old computer system and attaching my old flatbed scanner

Scanner imaging thread with dead image links.


Some NEW coin picks...and interesting results.

Not on the topic of photography, plus it's got dead image links.


Alternative to traditional cameras for coins

No info on topic and dead link to boot.


Camera help please!!!!!!!!!

Yet another OTT thread, nothing much to offer. One nice image not using OTT.


I tweeked and I tweeked... NEW

No information on technique.


How to take coin photos NEW

All links duplicated in this article.


The danger of putting too much stock in small digital images (thumbnails) NEW

Short treatment of scale issues in photgraphy. Nothing much on technique.


NEW picture question... NEW

Question about photographing proofs, answered by linking to this article.


Doctored photo or what?? NEW

Discussion about whether a photo on eBay was doctored in an image editor. Nothing much on technique.


NGC Coin Images NEW

Comparison of some of NGC's imaging service photos with user-produced photos. Nothing on technique.


PCGS Threads: NEW

Photography Critique

Just a photo critique thread. Nothing on technique.


1884CC - grade and comments on photography...

Just a photo critique thread. Nothing on technique.


How accurate coin photography can add 2K to a coin's value

An interesting question, but nothing to do with technique.


Anyone have the link to that coin photography article by mgoodm3?

Yes, this article does. See the Mark Goodman articles linked to in the websites section.


My Progression of Photography Skill

Nothing on technique.


Professional quality digital photography at major shows...would it work??

Interesting concept of photographing clients' coins while they wait at a show. Nothing much on technique, unfortunately.


Why Don't ONe of You Write the "*spoon* Guide to Coin Photography"?

Request for someone to write a book on this subject. If someone would do it, I wouldn't have had to write this article!!


Does anyone here agree that mgoodm3 is da man when it comes to coin photography?

A worshipful thread about Mark Goodman. He does indeed do great work! However, this thread contains no technique info.


Heritage / Superior / B&M Auction, PL / DMPL Photography

Complaint thread about online auction house photography. No technique information.


Thanks for all of the photography recommendations I received...bought this baby yesterday...

Poster bought a microscope with camera, but nothing on technique and no example photos.


Photography at it's finest

Completely useless thread.


coin photography (1)

Completely useless thread.


Coin Photography (2)

Completely useless thread.


Help with coin photography. *Photo Fixed*

Talks a little about macro lenses, but not much information.


Today was a good day. NEW coins and improved photography!

Completely useless thread.


Heritage photography - what are they thinking ????

Heritage Auction Photo Service complaints thread. Completely useless thread.


ANR launches a photography service...

Completely useless thread.


ANR--Top notch auctions, now getting into photography, but what can be done to bolster its Retail Business?

Completely useless thread.


Copyright and Contact Information:

This article is copyright © 2006 by Michael C. Parrish. All rights reserved.

If you wish to duplicate this article, please contact Michael for permission via the private message feature of this forum.

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Well Pendragon, I see you have too much time on your hands... why not search through Lincoln cents like Zack and Billy do?


AND me grin.gif




I think I might have to get that microscope now, Hays. After five rolls of cents today through a 10x loupe, my eyes are killing me!



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Well Pendragon, I see you have too much time on your hands... why not search through Lincoln cents like Zack and Billy do?


AND me grin.gif




I think I might have to get that microscope now, Hays. After five rolls of cents today through a 10x loupe, my eyes are killing me!



thumbsup2.gif That's the whole reason I got one in the first place.



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I don't know - I've been behind a scope for hours on end before looking at geological samples, and I can tell you that you get some awful eye-strain there too.


Back on topic, it's not that I've got too much time on my hands, SilverEagle, it's that I'm interested in learning about coin photography and thought my research would help others too.

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Some new coin picks...and interesting results.

Not on the topic of photography, plus it's got dead image links.


This was my thread. I can dig up the images again if you like. I can't edit the original post but I can add an new updated post. It was an interesting thread in that I showed that depending on how you photo the coin it can look totally different. Nothing earth shattering but fun nonetheless.


I can also add a few more threads from the PCGS board if you want. Some good info...especially the Shylock threads.



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It's up to you; you (and anyone else) are welcome to review online resources in this thread. If you don't have the time or inclination, PM me the url, and I'll do it. I was planning on doing an addition to this thread soon (probably next week after I get back from my vacation) and I was going to go through the PCGS forums for similar threads to review.

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ahh yes its nice to go back and look at some of the older articles. I remember reading most of them the first time around. Best thing for coin photos is time. And for anybody who does not believe me. If you could see my first photo with the camea I have now, vs what I can do now. and I am using pretty much the same setup.

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Bruce, I completely agree with you. I put in a few hours today of trial and error and reading those threads, and here are my results:


Both pics are of the same coin. The first was taken a few weeks ago, the second was taken today. both were taken with the same camera.










I still don't have the color quite right, so I will try some more tomorrow. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for digging up all of those threads, Pendragon! thumbsup2.gif



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here is a funny quote by Chinook... "Jeremy, thats a great pic of the lincoln. I can't get pictures anything close to that. " We all know now what kind of pictures he takes now! His pictures are great as well as Jeremy's.

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I'm a lousy photagrapher and the one time I listed coins on eBay, the only way I could get them to come out at all was to take the picture at a straight ahead angle by taping the back of the coin holder to a flat surface. It was the only way I could eliminate the glare. This worked better for slabbed than raw coins in my case.

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