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How to Make These 35 Stunning Wedding Ring Photographs
You’re a portrait master, a storyteller, a memory maker, a documentarian of history: in short, you’re a wedding photographer. And, as if that weren’t enough, you also need to know how to make magazine-worthy wedding ring photographs. We’re talking crisp, clean, creative masterpieces – oh, and you only have five minutes because Stephanie wants that diamond back on her finger stat.
Don’t feel bad if wedding ring photographs aren’t your forte. We’re here with how-to’s, tips, and inspiration so you’ll be ready to rock the next time a client drops their rock in your palm.
Get the Right Gear
We love the adage, “The best camera is the one you have with you,” meaning (in the words of the great Tim Gunn) “Make it work!” But when it comes to wedding ring photographs, you really need a macro lens – or at least a reversing ring.
Macro lenses are designed specifically for making photographs at very close distances. But that’s not all they do! With a macro lens, you can go from photographing a portrait a few feet away to photographing a tiny diamond at less than an inch away, and both photographs will be crisp and in-focus.
Reversing rings are adaptors that attach to a regular lens, effectively converting that lens into a macro lens. Reversing rings are a cheap alternative to buying a macro lens, but they do have their limitations.
- You’ll have to manually focus your lens, as automatic functions will no longer operate.
- You can only create macro images once the reversing ring is in place – no normal portraits.
Consider your shooting style, and choose the macro solution that suits you best.
Take a Ton of Photos
Photographer Kelli Wilke adores photographing details, and she has tons of experience making wedding ring photographs. “Shoot a LOT,” Kelli advises photographers. “If you are hand-holding your camera, you will need to take a deep breath, steady yourself, and shoot a ton of frames. A few will be sharp!”
You’ll increase your odds of getting crisp images by using a tripod or a monopod, though those tools can be cumbersome to carry around when you’re rushing to-and-fro at a wedding. You can also experiment with auto-focus versus manual focus to see which works best for your shot.
Tiny Details are Part of a Bigger Picture
Up-close ring images are the gold standard, but it’s important to remember that the rings are also part of a larger story. They don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re part of the couple’s love story, wedding day, and future together. Incorporate other meaningful items into your wedding ring photographs, such as:
- invitations, programs, and other paper items
- other jewelry (earrings, cufflinks, etc.)
- textiles and floral arrangements that are part of the celebration
- elements whose colors complement the day’s palette
- architectural details indicative of the venue
“How do you make the rings stay in place?”
We hate to disappoint you, but… it’s not magic. It’s putty!
Sure, you can spend 20 minutes delicately balancing rings on precarious surfaces and praying they don’t fall into the floor vent; but clever photographers have long been using inexpensive adhesive putty to hold wedding rings in place. Use a small enough piece of putty, and it won’t show in the image. Clear dental wax is a terrific alternative; and if you have kids in braces, some of that wax may already be in your home bathroom!
In a pinch, you can also use a small piece of rolled tape, sticky side out, to help support the rings. (Word on the street is that gum works, too, but we don’t recommend it because: EW!)
Reflections: the Good Kind and the Bad Kind
Mirrors and other reflective surfaces can make beautiful backdrops for bling. Just watch out for your own reflection in the glossy surfaces! That goes for the rings themselves, too. At the wrong angle, a ring’s band (or even the stone) can reflect a clear image of your very own photographer-self, camera in-hand.
To avoid seeing yourself in someone else’s ring, experiment with varying angles. Make wedding ring photographs using a slight downward or upward angle that also showcases the band details.
Keep it Crisp
No one wants a fuzzy photo of the ring they traded two months’ income to obtain. “Shoot at a high f-stop,” recommends Kelli Wilke, referencing apertures of f/5.6, f/8, and above. “This is not the time to shoot wide-open. The compression of a macro lens already gives you a very narrow depth-of-field, so you HAVE to shoot at a high f-stop to get some depth-of-focus in the ring.”
Since higher f-numbers reduce the light that reaches your sensor or film, you may need to increase your ISO if you’re hand-holding your camera. Or, if you’re using a tripod, you can simply slow your shutter speed until you achieve the correct exposure.
PRO TIP: Manual Settings to Remember
- small aperture = high f-stop = less light = more depth of field
- large aperture = small f-stop = more light = less depth of field
- high ISO = more light = more grain/noise
- slow shutter speed = more natural light = more movement/motion
- high shutter speed = less natural light = frozen movement/motion
Limit Your Liability
When a client plops a stack of ring boxes in your hand, you’ve just taken responsibility for some of their most precious possessions. Protect these heirlooms – and yourself – with a few simple steps.
- Before walking away, open the ring boxes in front of your client to verify that the rings are, in fact, enclosed.
- Know in advance how you plan to photograph the rings. The longer you’re gone, the more likely a client is to worry.
- When you return the rings to your client, open the boxes again to reveal that the rings are safely inside.
In the chaos of a wedding day, it’s always best to over-communicate, especially when the treasured wedding rings are involved!
Color, Contrast, Texture, and Layers
Make your wedding ring photographs interesting with intentional background and foreground choices. Textures and patterns work beautifully behind a ring, particularly when softened by a bit of bokeh. And shooting through foliage or fabrics can deliver a stunning sense of depth.
If you’re photographing a colorful stone, look for contrasting background colors. Whatever is opposite on the color wheel will help your client’s ring stand out even more vibrantly! Think: a blue ring on a yellow background, or a green stone against a red background.
Let the Light Lead You
“Shoot a variety of locations with the rings – and from different angles,” Kelli Wilke encourages. “I often move around to look at the light and see what looks best.”
You want your wedding ring photographs to enhance the stone’s sparkle and shine, not dampen it. Position the rings so the light emphasizes to each tiny facet. If the bands have texture, ensure that they are similarly highlighted so those features are crisp.
Get Creative – Not Crazy
Wedding rings can be recovered from just about anywhere, from drainpipes to silty lake floors (trust us, we’ve heard it all). But there’s no reason to take unnecessary risks when making wedding ring photographs! Keep calm, stay focused, and make smart choices about where you place the rings.
Your clients will be just as happy with a “safe” photo as they would be with a photo that risked the wellbeing of their precious bands.
And since even the most careful photographer can encounter an unfortunate mishap, make sure you have business liability insurance before you handle those rings! PPA’s excellent photographer-specific coverage is a great place to begin your insurance research!
Create Your Own Light
If you’re photographing the rings at night or in a dim room, or if you simply want to play around with unique lighting, you’ll want to invest in a couple of small LED lights, like these that photographer Erica Kay recommends. Unlike large flashes that can overwhelm tiny rings, these continuous lights allow you to see exactly how the rings will be highlighted, giving you total control over the end product.
What are your top tips for making wedding ring photographs?
Share in the comments below!
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