BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Elijah J. Kihlstadius

Coin pictures

What is the best way to take pictures of coins (i.e. $20 gold pieces) so they have even exposure and not really bright in one area then dark in another?

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3/27/2008 9:57:03 PM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Elijah,

Photographing coins i.e. any shiny object requires special lighting. This is accomplished by creating a tent made from some type of translucent material. You can buy a tent light or construct one yourself using a white bed sheet. The subject is placed inside the tent. The tent is illumined from the outside with several light fixtures. The idea is to cause only diffused light to illuminate the subject. The light is completely diffused meaning it has no apparent direction i.e. it seems to come from everywhere. You can make a frame using PVC pipe and cover with cloth. Bed sheets work but this material is flammable, fiberglass curtains are fireproof. Another material that works is translucent plastic, the type sold to replace the diffuser used in ceiling florescent fixtures works nicely. The camera peeks into the tent via a hole just large enough to allow the lens to enter.

If this is a casual situation, wait for a cloudy or better a foggy day and shoot outdoors. Other tips; spray the coin with a dulling spray made using water and talcum power. Spray on the subject, and when dry, the metal will be lackluster. Some hairsprays work too as well as clear flat spray paint.

You can use a polarizing filter on the camera to subdue reflections but polarizing filters wonít work if the subjectís material will conduct electricity. However many metals are naturally over-coated with a transparent oxide that is a non-conductor. Polarizing filters fitted on the camera and lamps are a luxury that works wonders.

Best of luck,
Alan Marcus

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3/28/2008 6:31:35 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Actually Elijah, this is one of those rare times that I somewhat disagree with Alan. While a light tent is commonly used to photograph highly reflective objects like jewelery, it's not always the ideal solution which depends a lot on the objects you're shooting.

I'll help you out here, but first I want you to think about lighting and what possible solutions you have to light shiny objects, aside from the one Alan proffered. To come up with the answer, ask yourself how we use light to perceive objects and what different types of basic lighting there are. Then ask yourself two means of how we measure light.
You'll likely discover that the solution is essentially the same as the one employed to answer Sharon's question below (at this time) re. how to get rid of glare [without using polarizers].
Take it light ;>)

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4/1/2008 1:21:28 PM

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