How To Photograph Coins With An iPhone: Complete Guide

How To Photograph Coins With An iPhone: Complete Guide

Precious American Dollars Collectible Coins Closeup
Coin photography is not exactly an easy thing to do.

So, you own rare coins that you want to put up in an auction and sell. The thing is, how will you make sure that your coin will stand out from the rest of the coins available in the market that people would want to buy it at a price higher than what you have expected? Well, good quality images of your coins hold the key in enhancing the market value of your coins. 

Here comes another problem, taking good quality photos of coins is easier said than done. Thankfully, there are some techniques that you can use to have amazing coin images with just your iPhone. As a coin collector or dealer, knowing how to take amazing images of your coins is very beneficial for you. But, how will you do it? Keep on reading to find out. 


1. Place the coin in an illuminated flat panel. 

3D render illustration pedestal isolated on whith background
Placing the coin in an illuminated flat panel will help you capture more details while avoiding the appearance of shadows.

An illuminated flat panel simply refers to the small platforms which give light to the base of the coin which prevents any shadow from appearing. Follow these simple steps when setting up your coin on the illuminated flat panel. 

  • Put your coin on the illuminated flat panel and see how it looks in your iPhone’s camera. If not properly aligned and needs some adjustments, wear your gloves when handling the coin. 
  • When checking out how the coin is displayed on your iPhone’s camera screen, you can do adjustments on the light as well up until you are satisfied with how your coin is highlighted. 
  • Try taking images of your coins at different exposures to find out which exposure works best for your coin. 

2. Decide on what angle are you taking the images.

American One Dollar Coins and Other Collectible Coins.
The angle from which you are taking the image depends on the quality of the coin.

The coin you are photographing will help you determine the angle from which you will take the images. If your coin is an older and worn one, you should take images of it either from a flat or standing straight up vertical to the flat panel.

On the other side, if you are photographing an almost new coin, you should take the image at a slight angle only for you to give it a dimension. 

3. Secure your iPhone with a tripod or other stabilizing device. 

smartphone on a tripod
Using a tripod reduces camera shakiness.

When trying to capture all the details of your coin, you will eventually use a photography technique known as macro photography. Macro photography is all about putting your camera closer to your subject which means that even a very slight movement could change how your image will come out. 

The very close proximity which makes the depth of field very limited, even just a small shake of your hand could make your camera out of focus. That is why you should make sure to keep your iPhone as stable as you can. 

The iPhone devices are not exactly that ergonomic, so what you can do is to come up with a rig for you to hold your device easier. You can just simply clip a tripod adaptor to your iPhone for you to attach a tripod to it, then you are all set to take amazing images of your coins. 

The tripod could also serve as a phone handle to make your phone more stable than holding it with your bare hands. Or, you can position it on a flat surface for you to take images of your coins without the need to hold your phone while shooting. 

4. Adjust your external lighting source. 

3d studio setup with lights and white background
An external light source helps capture clearer and crisper coin images.

Although you already have the lighted flat panel that distributes light around your coin, you would still need some external lighting directed towards your coin. The external lighting that you will need could either be natural or artificial lighting. Natural lighting could either come from windows or doors with a bright light. On the other hand, artificial lighting refers to light sources such as ring flashes and the like. Righ flash is commonly used in macro photography since it will be attached to your iPhone’s camera lens. 

5. Adjust your iPhone’s camera setting.

 Iphone user interface photo frame design camera.
Adjusting the camera setting is important in getting high-quality images.

It is very important that your Iphone’s camera is mainly focused on the coin. The next thing that you should check out in order to come up with the best coin picture possible is the white balance option of your camera. The white balance option serves as the detector of the ambient light you are using in order for your camera to give you a true and accurate representation of the colors of your subject into the images. 

Not using or adjusting your white balance accordingly will result in strangely colored images most especially when you have a white background. The best thing that you can do to find out if you already have the right white balance is by doing the trial and error method. This means that you need to take an image or two to look up to then do the necessary adjustments based on how the images came out. Keep on doing the process until you get the ideal white balance for your coin image. 

6. Take the pictures.

1 euro coin isolated on white background.
Remember to get the best photo possible when it comes to coin photography.

Consider formally taking images of your coin like some sort of experiment. Check out each picture and find out what is wrong with it in order for you to know what to adjust. Do not be afraid to take as many images as you can, you can simply delete the images that will do not pass your standards afterward. Doing do might consume a lot of your storage, but sure enough, it will all be worth it in the end. 


Lighting and Lighting Angle

Realistic illustration of black vector lamp isolated on white background.
Having a good light helps you capture every single detail of the coin.

Thinking that your camera is the single most important thing that you need in order to come up with spectacular coin images is entirely wrong. Sure, most cameras will “work” when you take coin images but are these images online-worthy? So, how will you make your lighting and background word for your coin then?

Actually, lighting is of equal importance as the quality of the camera you are using. There are different lights and bulbs that you can choose from. The type of bulb that you are using actually does not matter as long as it provides you with a good white balance setting on your iPhone’s camera. 

When it comes to the lighting angle, it is best when your light source comes from the highest possible angle from the coin you are photographing. This is because high angles are known to help prevent the appearance of dark spots by improving the overall lighting of the coin. Furthermore, higher angle lighting also improves color and luster. In order to get the lighting to the highest possible angle, keep your light source as close as possible to your iPhone’s camera lens. 

iPhone’s Camera Setting


Iphone User interface photo frame design camera.
Your camera should be focused on the coin to get a detailed image.

It is very important that your camera is sharply focused on your subject which is the coin in order to come up with clear and detailed images. Setting your iPhone’s camera is very much needed since you are taking a close-up image. This is because the depth of field is very shallow and only a little part of the picture is in focus. When not correctly focused, the image of your coin will come out blurry.

Thankfully, your iPhone has the capacity to accurately set the camera’s focus on your coin. To set your iPhone’s camera in focus, you can just simply tap on your camera screen. A yellow square will appear in the area where you tapped. Once you take the image of your coin, your camera will be sharply focused on it. 

You can also lock the focus of your iPhone’s camera with AE/AF Lock by tapping and holding the screen for a few seconds until the phrase “AE/AF LOCK” appears on your screen. Your iPhone’s camera will keep its focus on the coin even after you are done taking a few images. This feature is very helpful when you are taking several images of the same subject. 


Exposure Camera Setting
Exposure refers to the brightness or darkness of an image.

To adjust the exposure of your iPhone’s camera, you need to set the focus first as mentioned above then simply swipe up or down the adjustment level next to the yellow box. Swiping up will make your coin image brighter while swiping down will make your coin image darker. 

In as much as possible, set the exposure to a level that displays most of your coin’s details. The exposure will also let you be more creative with your shots but remember to stick with the shots that will show the tiniest and fine details of your coin when doing so. 

Shutter Speed

If you think that adjusting the shutter speed is only for DSLR cameras, then you are definitely wrong. Yes, you can also adjust the shutter speed of your iPhone’s camera. But, what exactly is this shutter speed?

Generally speaking, your camera’s shutter speed refers to how long the camera’s shutter is open when taking a photo. It is measured either in seconds or fractions of seconds like 2s, 8s, 1/30s, 1/250s, 1/500s, and so much more. If you ever hear someone say that his shutter speed is fast, this means that the camera’s shutter is open for just a fraction of seconds. On the other hand, a slow shutter speed indicates that the shutter is open for a longer duration, usually for a few minutes. 

To change the shutter speed on your iPhone, you have to use third-party apps such as the Camera+ that offers a wide range of shutter speed options ranging from very fast to very slow.


ISO 9001 with person holding a white smartphone
The ISO option controls the light sensitivity of your camera’s sensor.

ISO is another important iPhone camera setting that you should not forget when taking coin images most especially when you have low light. The ISO option controls the light sensitivity of your camera’s sensor. A higher ISO means that your camera’s sensor is more sensitive to light. Therefore, the ISO has something to do with the exposure. 

Using ISO is advantageous in low light scenes but a high ISO can cause the appearance of grains in your photo which reduces the quality of your coin image. So, in as much as possible, avoid setting the ISO at a very high level. 

Your iPhone’s camera does not allow you to manually change the ISO level but the camera is the one who automatically adjusts the suitable ISO setting, based on how much light is in the scene. If you are capturing your coin image from low light, most probably, the camera will use a high ISO to capture more light but will give you grainy images in the end. 

White Balance

Your iPhone is very good at accurately capturing colors. But there are times that it fails to do so and that is the time when you have to do some adjustments with your camera’s white balance option. 

Adjusting your camera’s white balance prevents the appearance of color casts in your images by cooling down or warming up the colors. Choosing the right white balance will help you ensure that whites appear white in your images. Unfortunately, you can’t manually adjust the white balance of your iPhone’s camera as the cameras itself do it automatically. 

When Shooting Coin Images

Closeup of heap of gold coins isolated on white background.
There are a lot of things that you have to consider when taking coin images to come up with a superb result.
  • Camera Distance

In as much as possible, get your iPhone’s camera as far as possible from the coin but make sure that the focus is maintained and the coin fill up as much space as it can in the viewfinder. Doing so will allow better lighting and keeps away reflections of your iPhone from appearing into the image. Using a macro lens will help you take coin images from a certain distance.

  • Lighting Amount

The number of lights used is an important factor that determines how well-lit the coin is. More often than not, around two to three lights are used but of course, it still depends on the coin you are trying to capture. Remember, different coins require different amounts of light. Using more light means that you need more wattage and faster shutter speed which results in sharper images. 

  • Contrast

Low contrast is for circulated coins with little or no luster and dark copper while medium Contrast is lossy copper; most RD and RB copper; most MS silver and gold; and lustrous AU silver and gold. Lastly, high contrast is for glossy MS clad/silver, brilliant proofs, and most modern proofs.


So, you already got clear and high-quality coin images, what will you do next? You could still do minor edits to improve your images before posting them online for auctions or sales. When doing so, do not just display one picture, but aim for two or more images instead – at least one front view and one back view of the coin in order for bidders or buyers to see the two sides of the coin since they can’t personally expect it yet.