How to: Axial Lighting Macro Coin Photography
Axial lighting is a term used to illuminate the subject through the lens for macro photography.
The light source comes parallel to the surface the subject rests on and is pointed directly to a sheet of 3mm glass placed at an angle of 45 degrees.
Some of the light is reflected downwards and provides perfect, even, overhead lighting of it.
Some of the light will pass through and it’s important to have something black (or dark) to absorb the light to stop it reflecting back which would then get passed upwards and cause lens flare. We use a piece of black velvet.
The various images will show the equipment we use.
Important here is the 100mm 2.8 macro lens which gives more room to work with – there is room to place the glass over the subject but under the lens. We couldn’t do this with a supermacro lens like the 65mm.
The glass is normal 2mm or 3mm thick window glazing. We’ve tried both and cannot see any difference. We have taped the edges with insulation tape to aid in moving it.
The glass can be supported using any stand or simply hand held. What we are offering here is a simple stand to hold that glass. We have a laser cutter so made a stand for the glass. The side supports are a perfect 45 degree angle to the light and subject and allows our hands free to attend to focusing and exposure. Sometimes 46 degrees looks better so you can tilt the glass very slightly using left hand and looking through the viewfinder see how the light changes on the subject – using your right hand to press the shutter release. Of course a modelling lamp is very useful for this.
We also use a rubber tube to shield any other light from entering – I got mine from a plumbers merchant – but to be honest any old cardboard tube (toilet roll cut to 2 or 3 inches) will do. We dont supply those.
The copy stand holds the camera and a spirit level is used to ensure everything is lined up straight.
Different effects can be achieved with different modifiers. Our preferred choice is barn doors with a grid fitted. This keeps the light parallel and shows up more contrast. It also shows metal objects more as they appear to be if we were holding them. Notice how the silver field (background surface of the coin design) shows the reflections and slight dimples of the metal.
Using a softbox gives a wider field of light and gives a more illustrated result.
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Perfect for jewellery, coins, bugs and any small object where you need an overhead straight on perfectly even lighting.
Please note: the only product being supplied is the axial illumination glass support stand. No lights, copy stands or glass is supplied.
For more information about axial illumination macro photography please see this video (which we have no affiliation with)