How to Photograph Coins with Macro Photography

The true definition of macro photography states that the object being photographed needs to be represented at it's true size on the photographic medium (the film or image sensor). Photographing coins fall under the umbrella of macro photography. In some cases, the representation in the photographic medium might even be larger than the real coin. Because of it's nature, the best way to photograph a coin is to lay it flat on the ground. You're going to want to take shots of both its sides.

Positioning the Coin

The first step is to find a background for the coin to rest on. This could be any material that you want; white board, black board, formica....the choice is yours, as long as it complements the coin.

Depth of Field

For most macro photography situations, you need macro lenses to help maintain depth of field at extremely close differences. Because the coin is literally resting on the background, you can get away without them. The only thing that needs to be in focus is the coin. This lack of depth of field also makes lighting easier, as you do not need to shoot with a closed aperture.

Positioning the Camera

Since the coin is laying flat on a surface, you need to compensate by bringing the camera to it. You're going to need the lens to face directly down. You can achieve this by going handheld because you will not be using a slow shutter speed to compensate for lighting. If you don't like that idea, then you can build a rig to position the camera to point directly down. Using the tripod in this configuration is a little risky and could easily lead to your camera falling over.


The camera's flash should work well as the only source. If it is too bright, you can diffuse it. You should also build small walls around your set from bounce card along with a bounce card ceiling. This way, there is general soft light all around. If your camera flash with diffusion is still too bright, then you'll have to turn it off and use a continuous source to help you out. Take a small light and bounce it into your top bounce card. The light should bounce off the rest of the cards, giving you a very nice, soft fill.

It's important that your images are not bright and have no overexposure. When an image is overexposed, there is no way to fix it because the information is lost. If an image is slightly underexposed, you can alter it in a photo editing program.

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