The smallest and usually most valuable (in $$ and sentiment) wedding accessory deserves special
attention. Styling and lensing a wow ring shot is worth specialized equipment, lighting knowhow and extra time.
Choose Right Gear: macro lens, tripod, cable release
This is a high class, storyteller product shot of a tiny object. You’ve got to get close, really close for the drama. Depth of field will be critical; if you hand hold and the focus is off even a little, it’s unusable. Most often I make the ring shot with available light at a high ƒ/stop and potentially slower shutter speed even when using high ISO. A cable release insures against unwanted camera shake. At a typical distance of 6-8 inches, even a high ƒ/stop will give you plenty of artistic Bokeh. I prefer the Gitzo carbon fiber sticks with crank center post for smooth movement. I use a Novoflex MagicBall50 head plus a swivel mount with quick release plate from Custom Brackets for infinite angle control. These people make the best swivels, flash brackets and release plate of all manufacturers I’ve found. I never overbalance the camera, because I don’t have to turn it on its side for a vertical – or replace a base plate when changing V to H format.
Choose Right Lens
A Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens or similar with close focus capability (about 1.25 feet) is reasonable but sometimes still not as close as you’d like. The older 28-70mm and the 24-70 f/4 function about the same. My favorite is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM. The tele allows you to get back a bit from the subject, yet fill the frame better. Reproduction is 1:1, with minimum focus distance of 1’. Another good choice is the Canon TS-E 90mm Tilt-Shift Lens (used by architectural and product photographers. This is going all out – at $1,399 street price.
Use Commercial Lighting Approach
Direct on lighting from camera position rarely will give the ring shot the pizazz you want. Make that diamond sparkle with contrasty, shape and angles side or back lighting – or rim light. Think of the ring as sculpture. You must show its planes and dimension. I look for angled, available light and have a mini reflector disk handy to bounce fill the shadow side.
What to do in Available Darkness
When there’s no suitable existing light to be found, bounce a speed light into a medium size reflector to create the angle you want. A dark background can be dramatic, making the silhouette of the ring really pop. Another lighting tool is a high intensity flash light (mine are SureFire brand). Have an assistant hold these at an angle for streaky bursts of light or into a reflector for softer, overall bounce.
Pick a Low Camera Angle
Low angle, sometimes as low as eye level to the ring will be the most dramatic. Choose a place for your set up at a convenient height, so you can easily experiment with different camera heights. The ring sold up in profile is best for solitaires. Today’s popular multi-stone rings meed to turn their facets at more of an angle, or even straight on to the lens to show off all parts of the design. Rings with a contemporary, irregular art styling must be carefully examined to choose the best direction.
Style the Set-up
Decide whether you”ll show the ring alone or with meaningful accessories from the wedding. My preference is generally to create a little still life with flowers, necklace, handkerchief, vanity mirror, cake knife (both great for reflections), ring pillow or invite. Be inventive with whatever you have to hand.
Hold it Still
Rings sure are slippery little devils. And you can get you fingerprints all over them. Handle with care. Laying a ring flat on its side, such as on a mirror, is obviously no problem. To stand it up in profile I use a tiny bit of Silly Putty, with I find is more easily hidden and more fully removable than the florist’s clay alternative. Sometimes you can position the diamond braced inside the two wedding rings.
Use the Cake Table
Often the cake table is a great place to stage your still life. There my be good spot lights, and it’s at a workable height with a plain background. AND – you can bee seen while you’re taking time on this important shot. Remember you’re fiddling with what can be a many thousand dollar item. For client comfort, we discuss this procedure in advance. I always give the rings back to the groom, so he has the pleasure of replacing them on her finger.
When there are simply no pretty accessories to hand, or you’re time crunched, take an image with any plain or even splotchy background and apply blur in Photoshop. (Filter>Blur). Motion blur give interesting diagonal streaks, and radial blur a circular pattern. Spin setting is usually better than zoom. Please your center point on the diamond, work with varied amounts of blur, on a layer, of course. Mask back in sharpness on the ring itself, and you’re left with dramatic bands or swirls. We used to do this in camera by photographing through a tube of mylar. Blur technique is great even if you do have accessories in your still life.
I can remember when clients demanded to see the hands “posed”, laying flat on top of the bridal bouquet. Not the most attractive angle on anyone’s hand. Shooters usually fired flash straight on, and it looked very punchy bland and amateur. Today’s photojournalists satisfy that request with an action closeup of the ring being placed on he finger.
Other Ring-centered Options
- ring being taken out of its box
- groom holding bride’s ring of showing it off to attendant in dressing room
- fastening rings on ring pillow
- exchange of rings closeup during ceremony or reposed
- bride holding hands with maids to show off the diamond