... it is time consuming and expensive to photograph finds and, from my own experience, I can say it is often easier to identify and enter a coin in a database than to properly photograph it. These online databases simply do not have the funding to hire someone to enter the photographs into a database.
How much does it cost to photograph a coin and how can this be reduced?
The ANS charges twenty bucks per coin (both sides). They have a highly skilled staff photographer, Alan Roche, who has a degree in photography and is capable of producing beautiful pictures suitable for glossy annual reports sent to donors.
I'm not talking about those kind of photographs.
To document the basement boxes the biggest expense may not be the camera operator but security. The ANS learned this when Sheldon (the large cent expert and psychologist) demonstrated his deep understanding of kleptomania doing swicheroo thefts from the ANS's trays. I photographed a few coins at the ANS last year and they watched me like a hawk!
I'd like to propose the use of glove boxes to deal with the security issue. Trusted guards can place coins in the glove box and untrusted photographers can manipulate them with very low risk.
We can further reduce the cost by eliminating the camera operator. If we don't worry about orientation or correct lighting coins can be dumped into a hopper and photographed as they ride a conveyer belt. This may seem dumb, but we don't need correct orientation to document a coin for theft, or later restoration, or automatic computer classification. It may even be possible for computers to make very good guesses and orient the images later. Lighting is important, but if we can reduce the cost of taking a single coin image to near-zero then lighting angles can be handled by taking six pictures, using six different light sources, also for near-zero cost.
(Taking multiple pictures of coins under good lighting is a good idea anyway. When buying a coin in person most collectors tilt the coin -- the motion changing the lighting and revealing details. If I buy clothing online most catalogs let me rotate the garment but coin dealer sites don't....)
Perhaps in the future computers will be able to take better pictures of ancient coins than the best human experts? Far-fetched, but this is already the case for ancient cuneiform tablets! Check out the pictures in this paper by Sean Eron Anderson and Marc Levoy.