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How to Shoot a Coin with Your iPhone

An amazing iPhone photography from Tilo Gockel

Tilo Gockel – a professional photographer and expert in the field of lighting and flash lighting.

He has published countless articles on photography and image processing in popular magazines (digit, DOCMA, DigitalPHOTO, Photographie) and has written several books.

His blog, fotopraxis.net, offers numerous tips and tricks learned from his extensive experience with photography.

This is another cool BTS from Tilo. This time it is about taking pictures of a coin.. with iPhone!

Tilo Gockel

Here we go:

Imagine, you want to shoot a beautiful specially minted coin. You want to show the nice embossment, and you only have your iPhone at hand. You want to make it look like in the teaser shot above, but your result looks more like this:

Yuk! But actually not a big deal, we can fix that. And no, you don’t need a new camera, because both photos were taken with the same camera––with an iPhone 4s––to show, that the camera does not have a really big impact here…



If you compare the two shots, then you will spot, that the ugly shot lacks SHARPNESS. This is an easy fix, because you just have to use a tripod and a cable remote or selftimer and the shot will be tacksharp.


Also it helps, to use a more capable app like 645 Pro Mark III, to become able to finetune the EXPOSURE and the WHITE BALANCE.

And then you might notice, that the light is totally different between the two shots. For the ugly shot, I simply used the ambient room light, but for the cool shot, I set up a little darkfield illumination.

A darkfield illumination is a directional light in a low angle, which helps to show sander marks and embossments. The next sample shot shows this kind of illumination with a small torchlight, shining across the coin’s surface. What was bright, becomes dark and vice versa – that’s why we call it Darkfield illumination.


For the final setup I used three LED torchlights in a star configuration, which shine against a small cardboard cylinder. The cylinder has a little collar at the bottom, made from parchment paper, what makes the light softer and what guarantees, that only the low sidelight reaches the coin.


And then, since as we are talking about MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY here, you also might wish, that your subject fills the frame. This would work with a little lens attachment from Olloclip or so, but this also works without!

Just get as close as possible, and then fill the frame later-on via a tight crop in Photoshop. This costs resolution, but my coin shot in the original version still has 2500 x 2500 pixels.

I achieved this high resolution by taking 15 almost identical photos and by combining these using the SUPER RESOLUTION algorithm in the software PhotoAcute.


And at the end you might need some PHOTOSHOPPING to let the coin really shine. The screenshots show the procedure.

The Final Image



Then you also might like Tilo Gockel’s new book “Creative Flash Photography“, that is to be released in the middle of December ’14 (makes a perfect Christmas present …).

Definitely worth a closer look!

Lots of stuff in there, how to calculate with light, how to choose your equipment, how to light food, people, products, … even underwater shots, splash shots and extreme macro shots.

Here you can preview image gallery from the book



Tilo ~gallo~ Gockel, [email protected] 

Also visit Tilo’s blog, fotopraxis.net, which offers numerous tips and tricks learned from his extensive experience with photography. (in German)

Photographers also take these courses

This course is aimed at showing you how you can get professional looking commercial photographs using just a smart phone and a handful of do-it-yourself items.
You will not need a lot of fancy equipment or other expensive items to take professionally looking photos of your craft, merchandise or just for fun!

Learn how to take images like this with your phone:

1 responses on "How to Shoot a Coin with Your iPhone"

  1. Profile photo of Slava Druk

    Thank you Tilo. Interesting article; coin on final image definitely look impressive but the coin is black and very different from original coin which also have two colors/metals. Is it possible for this setup to have one more light on top so coin shows its colors?

    It would be interesting to see the coin shot with studio lights. I was trying to photograph gold mint coin top-down and it also turned black. I’ve checked in YouTube but there are no videos with professional setup shooting coin. Maybe Vadim C. can teach us how to shoot coins? Especially highly reflective surface coin. I’ve seen one nice coin on his FB. Thank you!

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