How To Nail Your Next Ring Shot

It all started when, at one wedding, we had three hours of dancing to shoot and the same ten people were on the dance floor the entire time. The cake was cut, the glasses were clinked for the toasts, the parents had all danced (and cried) and we had enough grab and grins to fill a whole gallery. So we decided to try our hand at getting an awesome picture of the rings with all sorts of little detail. Follow along on this blog post and we’ll show you exactly how we get it done.

THE GEAR YOU’LL NEED

The first step is having the right lens. While not required, this is where a dedicated macro lens really shines. We’ve shot rings with both the Nikon 60mm f/2.8 Macro and the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR. You can get great results with both, the main difference is the working distance. We find the longer focal length of the 105mm leaves a bit more room for lighting. We also like the 105mm because it serves dual purposes during makeup & bridal prep and the added compression is a bonus.

If you’re a Canon shooter, the 100mm f/2.8 IS Macro is a similarly awesome lens. 

THE BEST TIME TO SHOOT

A lot of times, people will ask us during the ‘getting ready’ stage if we want “the rings”, but invariably the wedding bands are with the guys and the engagement bling is on the bride’s finger — so we wait. At the reception we’ll have access to all three rings, and some time on our hands to play with them. We usually divide and conquer and one of us tracks down the bride and groom to get the rings while the other is rounding up gear (the macro, an off camera flash, and a diffuser for the light).

FIND A BACKGROUND

Our next task is to look for or create a unique background on which to shoot the rings. Really try to think outside the (ring) box. Flowers are always a great standby…but often times you can do better if you really look around! Look for a program with their names, cute favors that are meaningful to the couple or something unique in the centerpiece.

We’ve gone as far as borrowing a guest’s purse or shoes in search of the right textures and colors to showcase the rings. Even some placed votive candles, or some twinkly lights can really punch up a ring shot. The fun part is that you get to construct your own miniature set for your ring shots, so get creative with materials and composition.

3 RING CIRCUS

When it comes to setting up the rings to photograph, some couples have fingers that are close in size so making a little stack works best.  Often, though, one ring is a bit smaller and you can have fun balancing one vertically inside the other. Use petals or props to make things interesting and pay close attention to filigree, inscriptions or other fun unique details about the rings. If you want to really take it up a notch, we have some friends that swear by fishing wire or even a clear wax to get creative with ring posing.

CAMERA SETTINGS

We start at ISO 100, f/8 – f/11 @1/125 sec on the shutter. Because of the macro, you’ll need all the depth of field you can get…often you’ll have the prongs of the engagement ring in focus while the diamond itself is out of focus!

Now that you’ve thought out the setup, it’s time to think about the lighting. You want to get a shot that really highlights the details of the rings. For us, the trick is to take control of your lighting by using off camera flash. For all of our ring shots, we use our Nikon speed lights, like the Nikon SB-5000, wirelessly via the i-TTL Commander mode. Then we set the internal flash to off and use commander mode to trigger the off camera flash.

GETTING THE LIGHT RIGHT

Most shots are done with just one light and a collapsed 40-50” round diffuser. We use a Photoflex Lite Disc but most any diffuser will do. The goal is to send your light through three layers of material giving you really soft source that you can still shape a bit. We use manual mode on the flash so we can be sure our lighting placement tweaks aren’t being canceled out by the camera’s TTL sensors.

Our basic settings vary based on the distance of the flash from the rings but generally you’ll find the sweet spot tends to be around 1/8 or 1/16 power. This isn’t absolute, especially based on the material on your diffuser, but again, adjust your distance/power until you get a good exposure.


We usually like to do a few setups–once your camera and light are dialed in it is easy to take one shot on a flower with a nice reflective table, then grab a favor with the couple’s name on it, and then maybe a super close up with just a plain backdrop and an interesting positioning. You can also mix up the lighting a bit with a second pair of hands to manage the highlights and reflections.

All in all, it takes about 10 minutes and we like to joke with the couple we had a great trip to the pawn shop before handing their rings back!

Ready to give it a try? Check out the links below to some of the gear mentioned in this post.

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