Thursday, December 4, 2008

Good Coin Photos: Diffusion Is The Key!


I have been working with my coin photo lighting today and after a couple of years, I realized that until one masters lighting then one is lost. As I was lying in bed last night, I noticed how well diffused the light was that came from the white shade of my bedside lamp. I was thinking of how I could get the same effect. My shade is too large or I would have used it.

This morning I went about the house looking for something that would give me the same results as my lampshade. I found where V had stuck a one-quart milk container in the back of one of the cabinets. I cut the top half off the container, leaving me with the bottom half. I now had the bottom half of the empty milk container. I cut a large opening in the bottom, placed the container over my coin, illuminated each side with two of my shop lights and I now had a “light tent”.

I proceeded to photograph a bright penny and the results were good but I needed more diffusion. I am an artist/pack rat so I was able to locate a nice piece of fabric within my inside studio. I cut the cotton fabric to size and wrapped the container with two layers of the fabric. I then placed the coin on a one-inch length of dowel to achieve some elevation so as to avoid coin shadows.

I placed the open end of the container over the coin, turned on my lights and I knew at once I had the proper diffusion! I shot the coin with my Canon XTI and Sigma 105mm Macro lens and as I shot the coin I ran the EV up and down the scale to make certain I had a good shot. I looked at the results and I am terribly excited. Not a shadow or a reflection! Take a look at the Aretas IV you see above and let me know what you think.

I mentioned the Canon I have. I truly believe one can get great results with a point and shoot camera. I think one needs a macro setting, ISO changer (ideally) at and at least an aperture priority mode. I would look for a camera with a manual setting mode. Remember, one does not need 7 mega pixels! One mega pixel is enough. I have looked on Ebay many times and there are all kinds of bargains to be had with gently used or seldom used cameras. There are many used 3 and 4 mega pixel cameras with the settings you need. Take a look.

I would like to mention that I know I am not the first coin enthusiast to use a milk carton. However, I had tried a larger one-gallon container in the past with poor results. I think moving to the smaller one quart container and wrapping the unit with the fabric is what made things fall into place for me. I am going to try to locate a piece of frosted Plexiglas and create a tent using the Plexiglas material. I can’t get past the aesthetics! Thank you for reading and I hope this article generates enough interest to get you started. Please bookmark my site and return on occasion to see what we are up to. God Bless.. Jerry..


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jerry,
I just wanted to compliment you on your ingenuity with the milk carton. You got some great photos in my opinion! I am still looking for the camera to buy for my coin needs (PLUS some general use). When I get it I will certainly try your diffusion technique.
I'd like to say here that I read all of your submissions to the Coin Photography site and enjoy them all.
Please keep it up.
God Bless,
Chuck (brchck@yahoo.com)

Chuck said...

Hi Jerry,
Killer Nabatean coin you have there and Killer photo of the coin.
Will have to try your new technique.
Chuck (Chuck@ChuckBurks.com)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jerry

You're right, lighting is everything! I'm very interested in your results and plan to have a look at something similar.

Keith