Ring Shots: Tips for Photographing Wedding Rings

In Portrait by Erica Kay35 Comments

Photographing wedding rings is one of my favorite parts of a wedding day.  It's my chance to sneak away from the hustle and bustle of the wedding and create something truly epic and creative for my clients.  Whether I'm catching things on fire, getting in touch with my inner pre-teen girl with sparkles, or hunting down the special elements that make up a particular wedding, I always find myself searching for something that will help me create epic ring shots.

If you've ever found yourself wishing you could create more dynamic, interesting, and unique ring shots, then read on to learn about some of the things I do to keep my ring shot game fresh and new.

Ring Shots:

Photo by Erica Kay Photography
Bonus points to whoever correctly guesses in the comments how I made this!

Macro Lens

Let's first talk about the equipment I believe is necessary for creating great ring shots.

The most important necessity is a macro lens.  As I discussed in my last post, a macro lens is a must-have lens for wedding photographers because photographing small details like the rings requires a macro lens.  I use the Canon 100mm f/2.8, which is the perfect lens for me when I need to shoot the details of small objects like the rings.  This lens allows me to photograph the details of even the tiniest of diamonds with beautiful clarity and shine.  I simply wouldn't be able to do this with any other lens.

Ring shots: macro lenses

Photo by Erica Kay Photography
Macro lens + candles + watercolor paper handmade by my client.

If you find yourself wishing you could add a macro lens to your bag, consider buying used, buying non-L series lenses, or buying an extension tube.  All of these are suitable alternatives to the top of the line macro lenses out there.

Small Lights

The second most important necessity is light.  Many photographers use speed lights or Ice Lights or something similar when photographing details.  While I've used these things (and occasionally still do), I've found that I typically prefer to use a very un-sophisticated and very inexpensive tool I found on Amazon.  These tiny magnetic LED lights have been the perfect addition to my ring shot kit (details below) and have stood by my side (literally) in the creation of approximately 100 ring shots. These little guys may be small, but they certainly are strong (like me!) and I can't sing their praises enough.

An image of the small LED lights I use to create epic ring shots.

These are the LED lights I use when photographing rings and other small details.

I carry two on me at all times.  When photographing rings, I prefer to have one act as a back light, while the other acts as a key light.  Because they're magnetic and have a flat base, I can usually stand them up while working with them, eliminating the need for an assistant or for morphing into an octopus (seriously, how amazing would octopus arms be on a wedding day?!).

Ring Shots - Photo of a ring shot using a 2 light set up

Photo by Erica Kay Photography
This ring shot was created using two small LED lights – one underneath as “back lighting” (since I was shooting from above) and one as key light.

Aperture

We've got our gear and our lights figured out, so now let's talk about settings.  I personally prefer to shoot at approximately f/9.  This is, for me, the sweet spot, as it is closed down enough to ensure that all parts of both rings are in complete focus, but still wide enough to allow a bit of fall off, some beautiful bokeh, and blurred out backgrounds.  Occasionally, I will shoot wide open during ring shots (or close to it), however I will admit that I generally get the dreaded “do you have another photo of the rings” question from clients if I don't have at least one shot with both rings completely in focus.

Moral of the story:  if you're dying to shoot wide open, make sure you get at least one shot at f/9 or higher just to be safe!

Ring Kit

Let's now take a look at some of the cool little details I carry with me and the effect they have on my ring shots.

As mentioned above and in one of my recent blog posts, I have a ring kit that I carry with me to every wedding.  My ring kit includes:

  • the two LED flashlights mentioned above
  • dental wax
  • a variety of sparkly and textured scrapbook paper
  • random sparkly objects
  • two strings of battery-operated Christmas lights
  • a glass prism
  • a glass convex lens
  • a hand mirror

I'll talk about the sparkly stuff in a bit, but first let's chat about dental wax.  Have you ever found yourself in the middle of setting up for a ring shot, battling the rings to stay in position, and resisting the temptation to violently throw them against the wall in a fit of frustration?  Well, dental wax is here to save the day.

Ring Shots: Photo of the dental wax I use for ring shots

Dental Wax: Saving the gums of our youth AND the sanity of our wedding photographers everywhere.

Simply put, I use dental wax to position the rings.  Yes, it's the dental wax you used on your braces back in the day.  The wax that prevented those devil machines from transforming the inside of your mouth into something resembling a scene from a horror movie.  And, now, it's the wax that holds the rings together.  Whether I'm trying something new and exciting like hanging rings from the ceiling or simply trying to place a tiny little bride's ring inside her husband's gigantic ring, dental wax saves me the headache (and fit of rage) associated with said ring battle.

Ring Shots: A photo I created using dental wax to keep the rings in place.

Photo by Erica Kay Photography
I used dental wax to keep these three rings in the perfect position on the slanted edge of a glass bowl.

Pro-tip:  Be sure to carry a lens cloth or jewelry cleaner with you in order to remove any wax residue left on the rings.

Sparkly and Reflective Stuff

Now this is where we get to the pretty stuff!

One of my go-to ring shot set ups includes sparkles, sparkles, and more sparkles.  Whether I'm using sparkly scrapbook paper, loose glitter, sparkly jewels, or stealing a bridesmaid's sparkly clutch/the bride's sparkly shoes/the mom's sparkly shawl, I'm bound to get beautiful ring shots when using sparkles.  The key here is to make sure some of your light is hitting the sparkly object(s) so that you get a nice sparkly bokeh in the background.

I also love using mirrors or reflective surfaces during ring shots.  I mean, who doesn't love a double dose of diamonds?!

Ring shots: A photo using a mirror and sparkly scrapbook paper.

Photo by Erica Kay Photography
I placed the rings on a hand mirror and placed blue sparkly scrapbook paper behind the rings. This resulted in double diamonds AND a full frame of sparkly bokeh.

Decorative Lights

I also love using my battery-operated Christmas lights to create some interest in ring shots.  We all know the bokeh that Christmas lights create, so by incorporating them into a ring shot, you can quickly and easily add a dash of sass.  And, if you don't have Christmas lights on hand, grab some candles, some LED lights, or heck, even some sparklers!

Ring Shots: A photo of rings on a mirror with two rows of colored lights behind them.

Photo by Erica Kay Photography
This was created by using a mirror plus two sets of LED lights. I colored the lights in during post-processing. The lights were plain white originally.

Shoot Through Stuff

Looking to beef it up even more?!  Shooting through things is an easy way to add some interesting foregrounds to your ring shots.  The decorative lights mentioned above are perfect for this, as are the glass prism and lens I keep in my ring shot kit.  You might also consider shooting through wine glasses, flowers, sparkles, sparklers, or any other interesting material.

Ring shots: A photo of rings surrounded by lit sparklers.

Photo by Erica Kay Photography
I shot this using a mirror and 3 sparklers. Thank goodness for assistants!!

What's Important?

Sometimes, it's more important to think about your clients' wedding than to find something sparkly, reflective, or pretty.  If your clients are having a wedding in which there is a major theme, consider incorporating aspects of this theme into your ring shots.

For example, I recently shot a wedding that had a southern theme.  The bride wore a dress that one would envision a southern belle wearing, the venue looked like it was plucked from a scene in Gone With the Wind, and the dinner was southern comfort food (obviously, this was my favorite wedding dinner EVER).  In sticking with the theme, I decided to ask the caterer if she would mind styling a plate for me.  She brought me a beautiful plate covered in chicken and waffles and I created ring magic with it.  Was it something that will win an award?  Not likely.  But, are my clients going to love it?  Oh heck yes.

Erica Kay Photography - A photo of rings on a plate of chicken + waffles

Photo by Erica Kay Photography
Doesn't this make you hungry?!

Similarly, think about things that might be significant to your clients.  Are there meaningful trinkets, cloths, decorations, etc.?  Think about all of the little things you see on a wedding day and incorporate something you've found to be special to your clients.  At another recent wedding, I had a bride who had recently lost her father.  During the reception, the bride, her siblings, and her mother did a bourbon toast in honor of her father (he was a bourbon connoisseur).  Later that evening, I grabbed a bottle of bourbon from the bartender, added some lights, and voila!  I created one of my favorite ring shots to date.  It wasn't sparkly or “pretty” in the traditional sense, but it was meaningful and unique and my clients loved it.

Ring shots: An image of the rings placed on a bottle of bourbon, which was meaningful to my couple.

Photo by Erica Kay Photography
This was the bourbon my client used to toast her late father. Meaningful and beautiful.

Do you have additional ring shot kit items or ideas for stepping up your ring shot game?  If so, I'd love to hear from you in the comments!


About the Author

Erica Kay

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I am a large-glasses wearing, scarf rocking, red lipstick bearing, shoe hating professional wedding and portrait artist living in Columbus, Ohio. When I'm not busy photographing couples in love through Erica Kay Photography, making portraits through UA Creative Photography, or podcasting and blogging with Improve Photography, you can find me traveling with The Manini Experience, spending time with my loves, going on adventures, watching trashy TV, playing fetch with my dog, reading, sleeping, or drinking sweet wine or dark beer.

Comments

  1. Great article Erica, going to keep this one handy for later. The first image of the rings was done on the back side of a CD-R by the looks of it.

    1. Author

      You got it!! The couple had their reception at the party deck of one of our local radio stations, so I incorporated a CD into their ring shot. Good eye!

  2. Your ring shot ideas, and ring kit are superb. I Started photography six years ago, selling my photos at country fairs. Got many requests for weddings and turned them down. But a persistent wedding photographer liked my eye and hounded me to be 2nd photographer. It is a different world. In October I have my first solo wedding. Scared????? Trembling!! However, your ring shot tips are going to be implemented. Thanks so much. I’ll keep my eye open for more of your tips.
    Sincerely,
    Charlie

  3. I JUST ORDERD THOSE LITTLE FLASH LIGHTS. I REALLY HOPE THOSE WERE THE RIGHT ONES YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT, LOL
    LOVE YOUR PICS BY THE WAY

  4. Killer work Erica! Thank you so much for the article. Definitely gave me good tools for my ring shot arsenal. The ring shots I did for my last two weddings were in my own words “meh.” This really broke down the elements and made it less intimidating. I always felt like I was scrambling for enough to just get one decent ring shot. Now my mind is going crazy with possibilities, which is a nice change. I like to feeling of “I got this” and you really gave me that here.

  5. Hope to see all tip’s on my mail box and I have to say thank you very much for all the information contained in this website

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