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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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I'd like to show you how I make my living in Photography.
Old 03-14-2010   #1
Darkhorse
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I'd like to show you how I make my living in Photography.

I've mentioned a couple of times I'm a numismatic photographer. What does that actually entail? Well, I take photos of coins. They can range anywhere from something might have pulled out of their sofa, to coins that can be worth multiple millions of dollars.

As an example, I just recently photographed a complete [dated] 1937 Edward VIII proof set. As you well know he abdicated before his coronation, and only 4 of these sets were actually made. This just sold at auction for 2.1 million dollars.

http://www.coinlink.com/News/world-c...937-proof-set/

Image of the obverses:
http://formerairline.com/wp-content/...tuff/edobv.jpg

Image of the reverses:
http://formerairline.com/wp-content/...tuff/edrev.jpg

This, of course, is atypical of what I do every day. I mostly handle US coins. I've taken tens of thousands of photos, maybe I'm even approaching a hundred thousand. I'm definitely sure I'm more than half way there. But typically I average about 500 photos a week more or less. A typical image I prepare looks like this:

http://www.pcgs.com/trueview/large/08609801.jpg

Personally I'd have preferred a dark background instead of the branded one. But it doesn't matter due to how they're saved, and the results from our marketing department's use of them look great. Posters, brochures, calendars etc.

Lately things have been more high tech. My company launched a paysite for comprehensive coin information: http://www.pcgscoinfacts.com/

The site is predominantly my images (within the content pages) except for the one at the very top (which bugs me but it's not my call).

One of the projects I'm most proud of recently is our Photograde Online site. It aids people in how to grade their own coins. Navigating the coins in the site is fun, but doing it in App-form on an iPhone is even more fun!
http://www.pcgs.com/Photograde/

Hopefully this gives you a good idea of what I personally do to make a living in photography.
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Old 03-14-2010   #2
FS Vontz
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That's really bizarre
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Old 03-14-2010   #3
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What a great niche!
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Old 03-14-2010   #4
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Well, now you've done it. Everyone will be after your job! Undercutting your prices. Shooting coins with cheap P&S'es.
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Old 03-14-2010   #5
Michiel Fokkema
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Fascinating!

Cheers,

Michiel Fokkema
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Old 03-14-2010   #6
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There are a few numismatic photographers out there. The two main ones I can think of charge much, much less than I do for individuals. However, I have to do much more ambitious projects, and work with much more volume, and the advantage I have is the ability to photograph coins outside of their holders. Premium coins are usually in plastic holders from coin grading services... I work with the top grading service so I can photograph them outside the holder then seal it up.
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Old 03-14-2010   #7
John Lawrence
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Fascinating.

In a similar vein, I've always had a yen (no pun intended) for auction catalogue photography with one of the major auction houses such as Christies or Sotheby's. Thought this would be a great way of combining my interest in antiques with my passion for photography.

Applied a few times to them and others, but with no luck!


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Old 03-14-2010   #8
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That's a direction I may consider going toward, but I need more experience with lighting, shooting product etc. Certainly I'll come into contact with some unusual items my company comes in contact with, and can build up a portfolio.
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Old 03-14-2010   #9
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The hig res jpeg is great, what kind of eqiupment do you use? Do you happen to shoot stamps as well?

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-14-2010   #10
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I've photographed a couple of Jenny Inverts, specifically this locket (that's not my photo though). But I don't really see the point for the most part. Simply scanning them may be easier. Coins are very 3 dimensional and have a hugely varying degree of surfaces so photography is necessary.

I don't really wanna get into the detail of my equipment and techniques as a matter of confidentiality.
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Old 03-14-2010   #11
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Very interesting work.
No doubt that other numismatic photographers envy your access and technique.
Thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-14-2010   #12
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Really interesting, I've tried something along this line for a friend's 50th high school reunion website (medals from the school, competition ribbons, dance cards), it is not easy.

Last edited by charjohncarter : 03-14-2010 at 16:05.
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Old 03-14-2010   #13
robklurfield
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cool work. and, you get paid, so doubly cool in my book.
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Old 03-14-2010   #14
Roger Hicks
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I enormously admire your skill and dedication, and the fact that you must be at the top of your profession. There must be very few people who can do what you do, but I have to say, I'm not sure I would be able to muster the dedication to stick with it in the way that you clearly have. This is something most people tend to miss about most successful specialist photographers: I thought the same about an acquaintance who specializes in photographing petrol (gas) stations. Please take this as a criticism of me, not you.

Purely practically, insurance must be interesting. I remember once when we had £100,000 in notes in the studio where I worked in London: they were spread out like a carpet, and went up the walls as well. This was in the 1970s. The client paid the insurance for the day...

Cheers (and congratulations),

R.
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Old 03-14-2010   #15
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You definitely need to at least like coins, or whatever niche you may find yourself in for that matter.
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Old 03-14-2010   #16
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How on earth did you get into this line of work?
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Old 03-14-2010   #17
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I just had a hobby and I was too poor to maintain it. So I had to sell my coins, and thus I had to use my little point and shoot to sell them online. People liked the photos so I started doing the odd photo for a website, then entire collections, then it just sort of escalated to where I am now.
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Old 03-14-2010   #18
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Your photos are beautiful! I just want to keep staring...
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Old 03-15-2010   #19
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Lately I've been traveling more and more for the job. Baltimore, Orlando, Fort Worth, these are trade shows. However travel to Europe may be a possibility in the future. Fingers crossed!
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Old 03-15-2010   #20
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You are an inspiration, thanks for sharing this.
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Old 03-15-2010   #21
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I passed on this thread just because making photo bucks is not in my personal interest, more fool me as this is really interesting . It is a credit to you that in this day and age such a niche can be turned into success.
regards
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Old 04-27-2010   #22
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Just as a little update, my company came out with an iPad app. It's all my photos of course:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pcgs-...364737016?mt=8

This are pretty busy for me. But right now I'm more looking forward to taking photos on my honeymoon in Kauai next month.
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Old 04-28-2010   #23
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I have no idea what that is.
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Old 04-28-2010   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkhorse View Post
Just as a little update, my company came out with an iPad app. It's all my photos of course:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pcgs-...364737016?mt=8

This are pretty busy for me. But right now I'm more looking forward to taking photos on my honeymoon in Kauai next month.
Thanks for posting that!
Rob
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Old 04-28-2010   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkhorse View Post
I have no idea what that is.

Any idea where I can read more on coins collecting?
Thanks.
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Old 04-28-2010   #26
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I'm completely ignorant about this type of work, but it seems like a scanner would be the tool to use for a lot of it...
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Old 04-28-2010   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fbf View Post
Any idea where I can read more on coins collecting?
Thanks.
That all depends on what specifically you'd like to collect. A good place to start for US coins is the Red Book:
http://www.amazon.com/Guide-Book-Uni.../dp/0794827667

Quote:
Originally Posted by roadchuck View Post
I'm completely ignorant about this type of work, but it seems like a scanner would be the tool to use for a lot of it...
If that were the case then I doubt I would even have this job.
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Old 09-09-2012   #28
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Someone mentioned what I do in another thread, so I wanted to give some updates. Most of the links in the original thread are dead because I don't really use my personal site anymore (hence it's been suspended) and the imaging file structure has been changed on my company's website.

When I first posted in 2010 I was a one-man department. But now I'm in the process of hiring my second employee. Putting together my photos is a time-consuming process so I need lots of help doing basic edits in Photoshop and the little things that come up during a work day. A lot of my energy is now focused on producing videos for my company, shooting and editing them. You can see one video at the company's main site at PCGS.com/.

Of course photography is still the most important and my work is becoming more important for dealers, I'll plug my best customer at Legend.

Social media is also becoming a big part of what I do since it's becoming a marketing necessity, and my new employee will help me out with that. I'm having fun, the future looks good, it's not all doom and gloom out there. Why not buy a coin? They're pretty neat.
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