How To Best Photograph Your Coin Collection (Coin Photography)

One way of presenting a coin collection is via photography. However, photographing your coin collection can also help when it comes to dealing with insurance and theft. However, to make the most of this handy tool, you need to understand how to best photograph your coin collection.

The best way to photograph your coin collection is to stage it in the most favorable setting you can create. This includes using high quality equipment, creating a background that makes the coins stand out, and arranging your lighting so that it catches the essence of every single collection piece.

That may sound easy, but it takes a specific process to do correctly. Not taking these measures can cause your collection to look dingy, depriving viewers of coin details and luster. Read on to see the correct way of staging and presenting your coins for the camera.

Tips For Taking Pictures Of Your Coin Collection

There is one goal when photographing your coin collection: Make it look as good as it would if the viewer were seeing it in person. If you have ever tried to stage a photograph, however, you know what a tall order that is!

It all comes down to three things:

  • Lighting
  • Angle
  • Equipment

Decide Format Beforehand

It will help your cause immensely if you know what you want the final product to look like. If you are selling your coins, a specific background helps. If you are displaying them, you want it to be well lit, but not harsh. If you are photographing them for insurance purposes, you want all the details captured.

Whatever the reason, you want to make sure your staging, lighting and background match your desire, which means you need to prepare each of these before you take a single photo.

Illuminate Flat Panel Lighting

This is simply a flat platform that illuminates the base of the coin. You want to invest in some flat panel lighting if you can for presentation or sales. It helps prevent shadowing.

Determine Your Angles

Old coins with worn edges work better presented flat. Newer coins with sharp imagery photograph better at an angle.

Use A Flexible Tripod

You might be as steady as an old west gunslinger facing his nemesis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can shoot a great photograph. Even the slightest tremor can obscure the luster of your coins. A flexible tripod will help you get the angle you want to get the most out of your photograph.

Use A Smartphone

Many collectors think that you must have state-of-the-art photography equipment to shoot great pictures of your coin collection. Under that formula, you must invest hundreds if not thousands of dollars into photography equipment. Fortunately, that does not have to be the case.

If you are one of the roughly 3.5 billion people on earth who own a smartphone, you have options. Your smartphone can take photos of your collection that are almost professional grade. Plus, your smartphone is a much less expensive alternative (if you already have it).

Another excellent feature of your smartphone is that you can instantly send photos to a friend to get a second opinion of what photos put your collection in the best light.

Take Photos Of Different Angles

Make sure you take photos from different vantage points. Not only will this enhance some coins, but it will also give you a sense of what angles work best for various types of coins. You also can give viewers different angles to look at your collection.

To the greatest extent possible, you should have your light source come in from above. The highest possible angle that you can get and still take a picture is best. If you do not have a ton of angle options, standing on a chair can help you capture the ideal angle with ease (just be careful of course).

You should also keep your camera or smartphone as close to the light source as possible. This helps improve the luster of your coin collection.

Shoot Both Sides Together

Depending on how you have your coins presented, shooting all of one face and then the other might be tempting. Resist this! Shoot both sides, one after the other. That way, you can use the same settings on the same coins. Over the course of your shoot, the optimum settings might change, so doing both at once ensures that you do not have completely different conditions for the same coin.

Consider Going Professional

If you are taking pictures of your coins to sell them, you want the most professional presentation possible. You can achieve this by hiring a professional photographer to take the pictures. It might cost you at the start, but it will help you get top prices for your coins, whether you are selling to dealers or other collectors.

How To Best Photograph Your Coin Collection

Set Up Your Coins

Even if you are shooting your coins individually on the same staging platform, you should test both horizontal pictures as well as those presented at an angle. Positioning each coin before you take a photo lets you adjust each coin to the best lighting possible.

Test Test Test

One of the great things about smartphone and video camera technology is that you can test the shots you will be taking. This is important because it means you can eliminate any of the less flattering photos before you take them and focus on the ones that make your collection really pop.

Demand The Right Perspective

The temptation will be to give up on staging and start shooting photos. Do not start until you have the perspective that puts your collection in the best view. Even if that means putting it off until the room you are shooting in has better lighting, a product you are proud of makes the wait worthwhile.

Pick Your Distance

To cut down on reflections showing up in your photographs, keep your camera as far away from the coin as possible while still being able to capture the coin’s important features. Determining the right distance will also help reduce glare.

Adjust The Lighting

Lighting is a coin collection’s best friend. The proper lighting can highlight the beauty of the coins presented. Inadequate lighting guarantees your collection will look a lot less attractive and will leave those viewing it straining their eyes to see the details of your coins.

Shoot several pictures with various different lighting options. Pick the one that best meets what you are expecting in terms of the lighting. Remember that there is no standard, so the photos you want are the ones you should take.

Play With Camera Settings

Your camera needs to shoot sharply focused photos, which means you will have to adjust it to get the best pictures possible. Even if you are using an iPhone, you can adjust the various settings you need to in order to get the best photographs.

AE/AF Lock

This feature helps lock the camera in a focus setting. To get it on an iPhone, hold your finger down on the face-screen until the “AE/AF Lock” prompt appears in the upper middle of your camera. This makes taking multiple pictures with the same focus very easy.


A photograph’s exposure is the brightness or darkness of the environment at the time of the picture was taken. Experiment with different settings of exposure until you have one that accurately reflects your collection the way you want it to be seen.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed is how long the camera’s shutter remains open to snap a picture. Shutter speed might be manually managed on your smartphone, or you may need a third party app. Experiment with various shutter speeds until you get photos you like.


ISO controls light sensitivity. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive to light the camera is. For shooting coins, you want a low ISO.

White Balance

Adjusting the white balance eliminates color casts in the image. When you have it adjusted properly, your white in the background will stay white, with no streaking.


Once your settings are adjusted, it is time to press the button and take the picture. Take several photos of each coin from different positions to ensure you can get the best picture possible.

When you have taken your pictures, pause and look at each one. Be aware of what picture makes your coins look the most attractive. When you have that angle, you can start there with other coins, which will eliminate some wasteful picture taking and save you time.

Examine, Rest And Redo

Look at your photos as soon as you have shot your last coin. Pick out the photos you think are the best. Then, forget about it for 24 hours. Then, go back and look to see if you still like the same photos.

If your choice has changed, chances are you had a subconscious bias for or against certain photos. Leaving and coming back lets you look at the photos with a fresh eye. If you still like the same photos, you know your choice is probably the best one.

Final Thoughts

To best photograph your coin collection, pay particular attention to your lighting setup. You want to be able to capture the details of your coin collection, and it’s also important to consider why you’re photographing your coin collection, as this will influence the photos you should take.

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