When I dove into wedding photography back in 2012 (something I had no business doing at the time, looking back on it now..) I had not even the slightest clue how to get an amazing ring shot. As many of you know from reading this blog, I have been 100% self taught along with the help of a few amazing photog friends and getting to shadow during wedding days. But truly, I was THAT person who thought that with a good camera and a little creativity that I could be a photographer too!
Boy, have I come a long way. Miles…. no, not even…. I am oceans and countries and time zones away from where I was when I began. If I can ever give any aspiring photographers advice it is to not do what I did and spend more time learning. But! That is another post, for another day. Back to the bling!
As I blindly made my way through weddings I started developing a distinct style in my ring shots…. and just last year in 2014 I learned to branch out from that style and try new things. The single largest thing that impacted the quality and sharpness of my ring shots was the purchase of my now beloved Macro 100mm L f/2.8. There are just things a macro can do that a regular lens cannot achieve and I pop it on an off during detail shots at almost every shoot. In spring of 2014 I even tried it out during an engagement session for portrait and it created this insane bokeh that looked a lot like the Brenizer method. Below is the shot of the ring I was getting with my macro, when I looked up and decided to try it on the couple who was standing in the distance. I just want to show you these so you can see the versatility this lens offers!
Pretty cool, right?^
Aside from upgrading my gear, here are a few things you can do at your next wedding to elevate your ring photos.
1. Look for a great light source.
Light, light, light. Isn’t that what it is all about, all the time? I love shooting in natural light and that is my go-to but if you can’t get outside look for strong window light or open doorways. If it is rainy and dark sometimes you will have to pop on your flash, and you shouldn’t be scared of it! Personally I hate flash photos, and can certainly always tell the when a photo has been taken with a flash. However, I have found facing my flash AWAY from my subject and bouncing it off a white reflector gives it enough diffusion to still look pretty darn natural. Play around with your flash if you aren’t super comfortable with it so you can always get great directional light for rich depth and contrast– which is what makes those ring shots pop!
2. Be aware of your background.
I sort of fell into shooting all my rings in the bride’s bouquet and really loved that for a long time. If you have big blooms this will work, but with lots of colors and flowers sometimes the rings will get lost in the busyness of the arrangement. Lately I have loved shooting on really simple backgrounds and letting the rings do the talking. If the bride and groom have pretty ring boxes, shoot the rings in the boxes. Layer details like the veil, shoes and jewelry to tell a story. I also really like shooting from above invitations. If you are struggling to get the rings to stay in the position you want them like I did (for so long!) then grab a pack of glue dots. The will hold your rings in place and you can’t even see them! I know, its pretty genius…you’re welcome!
3. Increase your aperture.
I know, we all love the creamy background and think shooting at the lowest 4 stop possible is the way to go. However, you can easily bump to a 5-6 aperture with the macro and because of the glass the background is still going to be smooth and gorgeous BUT you will get all your rings in crisp focus. During wedding days I usually shoot one of each, wide open and with my aperture bumped up. I seem to always choose the latter and don’t sacrifice the bokeh look that I aim for when shooting digitally.
4. A sturdy surface.
Wanna hear a horror story? A fellow photog was shooting rings on an unsturdy dock (you know where this is going don’t you)… and someone walked onto it, shook the whole thing and PLOP. Bye bye wedding rings. I am not even joking a little bit. Make CERTAIN wherever you place your rings that they are on a stable surface. If I decide to get fancy and hang my rings from a branch or tree I always have Jonathan or my second shooter hold their hands below so in case a gust of wind comes and they drop, we don’t lose them forever. Please be careful, these are very expensive items and you really don’t want to return from your detail shot time to tell the bride that her rock is somewhere at the bottom of a lake. (happy scuba diving!)
A few other tips now that we have discussed ideal shooting conditions…
1. Manually focus! I know most lenses auto focus, but trust your own eye. Manually focus so you get consistently in focus photos. Place your focus on the area of the ring closest to you. We tend to judge a photo’s clarity by point of focus, and if it is in the background most people will think the photo is out of focus.
2. Position rings out of direct light. If you point your flash or other light source directly at your ring, you will probably get a big ‘ol glare and lose all of the detail. Position you rings slightly away from the light source so you can pick up every pretty diamond and facet.
3. Desaturate! Some diamonds are so clear and pure that they are naturally going to pick up other colors nearby. If during editing your ring looks yellow or has held on to a foreign color, desaturate it a bit to bring back that white. It makes a huge difference!
Now you’re ready! Practice, practice, practice and try out different things! You’re on your way to getting the ring shots you’ve always wanted!