“A Different Lens: Numismatic Photography” by Jack Topping.
[13 January 2017]
It’s almost two weeks into the New Year, and many people are still enjoying the last final parts of the holiday season. With the New Year comes new things: new holiday gifts, new memories, and this year, a new President (in the United States). While many enjoy the “new” things in life, classic traits to numismatic photography remain the same. I use the same camera (Sony DSLR), same techniques, and same simple tricks to get an interesting depth of field, interesting angles, and overall, an interesting picture.
While I am in no way a professional photographer, I do want to share two interesting finds over the past year of tinkering with my coins, my camera, and my free time.
The most interesting technique I learned of is using a magnifying glass on a regular camera with a “point-and-shoot” lens. This gives the resulting image a type of fish-eye look, a unique distortion, and impressive magnification on very finite details of every coin. There is truly no way to explain the effect through words. The strange, but beautiful distortion is something that needs to be observed in person.
The second interesting piece of information I discovered is intense lighting. When taking photographs, one can use studio type lighting, with light boxes, overhead lamps, and other expensive materials for a truly impressive look (i.e. the “catalogue” type images used for professional companies like NGC, PCGS, and others) however not everyone can afford that type of setup, myself included. The other option is using what is available to your advantage. For example, when I was taking a picture of a proof American Silver Eagle from 1989 (pictured above), I placed the coin directly under a lamp with a regular lightbulb, one that had a slight yellow/gold hue. What this did, especially with the cleanliness, shininess, and perfection of a proof coin, made the coin in the image appear gold. Clearly an American Silver Eagle does not contain any gold whatsoever, the lighting alone confused many friends who weren’t familiar with U.S. coins.
In conclusion, it is worthy to experiment with numismatic photography. You will find that it is a meaningful experience, and you will almost always learn and see something new every photo shoot.