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Taking good quality pictures of coins is a must, even if you donít build a website. Cataloging your coins is essential as your collection grow. Achieving good quality photos can seem intimidating. However, there are some simple techniques which even amateur photographers can use to obtain dramatic results with minimal effort. You might think that the key component is the camera. Itís wrong. The keys to good coin photography are focus and lighting. 

You should be as close as possible to your coin to capture fine details.  This requires a macro mode on your camera. Macro mode allow you to focus on very close objects. Most of the digital cameras allow for focusing at less than 30 cm and some allow the object to be as close as 5 cm. You can consult the user manual of your camera for the macro focus distance. Focus mode of your camera should be set to spot focus instead of normal focus. Normal focus takes an average of the image you will take. So the areas outside the coin will also be considered if normal focus is used. With the spot focus, you can focus only on the coin. You can use tripod or a copy-stand to stabilise your camera. As you get closer to an object any motion of the camera is greatly magnified. A sturdy tripod or copystand is essential for sharp images. 


You have probably already discovered that unless you are using a special ring flash, an on-camera flash does not lead to good coin photos. Not only is the camera's flash too bright at such a close distance, but it is probably in the wrong position to actually light up the coin properly. On camera flashes were designed for medium range shots, not extreme close-ups. The good news is that because the camera is so close to the coin and because you are using a tripod, you can use a relatively weak light for coin photography. We prefer daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulbs. Not only do they provide nice natural colored light, but they produce very little heat so they can be left on for long photo sessions without heating the coin, the camera or the photographer. Compact fluorescent bulbs fit in standard light fixtures, so a simple adjustable desk lamp fitted with a daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulb makes an excellent (and very low cost) light source for coin photography. (If you can't locate a daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulb, you can use a standard 60 watt light bulb. However you will need to compensate for the yellowish color cast it will produce. You can compensate for the color either with your camera's white balance (WB) setting or with imaging software). 

If you want to have a shadowless picture, you can use an illuminated flat panel. In that case be sure that both the panel and lighting use the same colour temperature. 

One way to ensure you get the best exposure is to take at least three pictures. The first exposure using the default camera setting of (0). The second, exposure is increased by (+) to make the image lighter. For the third, exposure is decreased (-) to make it darker. I

f you are ready letís shoot.

1. Place your coin on the light panel, and view it through your digital camera display. Wear your gloves to rotate the coin until it is aligned properly within the display. The use of a light panel for the background completely eliminates background shadows, and makes it super easy to completely strip out the background later if that's your goal. 

2. Secure your camera to a tripod or copy-stand.

3. While you are looking at the camera display of the coin, adjust the light, until the coin highlights fall in a pleasing manner to you. 

4. Shoot a few different exposures, and be sure to use your self-timer, or remote control and a tripod to prevent any un-intentional camera motion caused by physically pushing the button. 

Coin Photography Tools 

Small Copystand
 Base size is 30 cm x 20 cm 
Two tier adjustable height 

Illuminated flat panel 
5000k color temp 
Flicker-free 
6" x 8" lit area Provides an evenly lit background 
10,000hr lamp 

Compact Fluorescent Bulb 
5000k color temp 
Color corrected "daylight colour" 
10,000hr lamp 
Fits most small desk lamps
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