Wedding Photography: Shooting The Rings

Wedding Photography: Shooting The Rings

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This bride and groom are both serving in the army, and both are gun enthusiasts. I asked the groom if he had their guns handy, and a bullet, and came up with this shot as one of the ring shots. This shot was taken in available light, under a tent outdoors.  EOS 5D Mark III with EF 100mm f/2.8L IS; ISO 2500, f/16, 1/125.

This bride and groom are both serving in the army, and both are gun enthusiasts. I asked the groom if he had their guns handy, and a bullet, and came up with this shot as one of the ring shots. This shot was taken in available light, under a tent outdoors. EOS 5D Mark III with EF 100mm f/2.8L IS; ISO 2500, f/16, 1/125.

In my career in photography, I’ve chosen not to focus on weddings as a business model, and shoot only a few every year.  I try to avoid being “traditional” in my approach to weddings, mixing traditional shots or types of shots with my own approach- which may or may not have been borrowed from other photographers I have worked with.

One such shot is the ring shot. It is what’s known as a detail shot, and while this may not be the most important shot of the wedding, it is one of the shots that helps sets the tone of an album, and can allow for a lot of creativity if you have the time.  If the shot fails, it will definitely be noticed.

The bride and groom in this wedding had a special affinity for the beach, and brought a beach theme to their wedding. Shells were scattered about the tables. I selected a few and quickly shot the rings on a table. The room was brightly lit with daylight pouring in the windows nearby, and I set my flash to bounce off the ceiling to add just a touch more light. . EOS-1D X, EF 100mm f/2.8L IS. ISO 800, 1/250, f/5.6.

The bride and groom in this wedding had a special affinity for the beach, and brought a beach theme to their wedding. Shells were scattered about the tables. I selected a few and quickly shot the rings on a table. The room was brightly lit with daylight pouring in the windows nearby, and I set my flash to bounce off the ceiling to add just a touch more light. . EOS-1D X, EF 100mm f/2.8L IS. ISO 800, 1/250, f/5.6.

There are many ways to go about these types of shots, some more cliche than others. The one that always comes to mind is a shot of the rings resting on the invitation, or the rings casting a shadow of a heart on a Bible opened to 1st Corinthians. My preference is to find something personal that connects the rings to the bride and groom, or else I’ll pull something from the theme of the day.  It may take some digging with your clients to find that personal connection- maybe a story about how they met, or something they share together, but once you find it, it can make shooting the ring shot a lot more fun. If I can’t find a personal connection, I’ll use flowers, the bouquet, or a even a champagne cork.  Be creative. There are a lot of ways to photograph wedding rings that will make them stand out.

There was no overriding theme at this wedding, and as a second shooter I didn't have time to get to know the bride and groom. I found a flower arrangement and played with several arrangements before settling on this one. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 100mm f/2.8L IS. I bounced the flash off the ceiling for this shot. ISO 800, f/8, 1/200.

There was no overriding theme at this wedding, and as a second shooter I didn’t have time to get to know the bride and groom. I found a flower arrangement and played with several arrangements before settling on this one. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 100mm f/2.8L IS. I bounced the flash off the ceiling for this shot. ISO 800, f/8, 1/200.

Technically, while a macro lens is helpful, it’s not absolutely necessary.  You can highlight the rings in whatever setting you choose, but be careful not to let them get lost in the setting.    Typically I use a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens, but any lens that will let you get fairly close will work, depending on your composition. Ideally, I would use off-camera flash every time, but weddings tend to me fast moving events, and there isn’t always time to do it the way you’d prefer.  In this case, I’ll set up a small reflector or bounce card to bounce the flash and give a better quality light.  I will often try several angles to get different looks.  Outdoor weddings during the day are a bit easier. I’ll look for a shaded area and shoot the rings in the available light.

Ring shots are often my most fun shot of the day.  There’s no one stressing about their hair or makeup, and no one trying to pull their attention in a different direction.  So use the ring shot as your moment of peace on an otherwise busy day, and have some fun with it.

This shot was also from the military wedding. The bride and groom are knife enthusiasts as well. The groom gave me one of his knives and I played with a few arrangements before shooting this one. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 100mm f/2.8L IS. ISO 3200, f/9, 1/125.

This shot was also from the military wedding. The bride and groom are knife enthusiasts as well. The groom gave me one of his knives and I played with a few arrangements before shooting this one. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 100mm f/2.8L IS. ISO 3200, f/9, 1/125.

This is another set up from the military wedding.  His 'n' hers .45's.  This shot doesn't require a macro lens, though I used the EF 100mm f/2.8L. EOS 5D Mark II, Ef 100mm f/2.8L IS. ISO 3200, f/16, 1/160.

This is another set up from the military wedding. His ‘n’ hers .45’s. This shot doesn’t require a macro lens, though I used the EF 100mm f/2.8L. EOS 5D Mark II, Ef 100mm f/2.8L IS. ISO 3200, f/16, 1/160.

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Rick Berk is a photographer based in Freeport, Maine, shooting a variety of subjects including landscapes, sports, weddings, and portraits. Rick leads photo tours for World Wide Photo Tours and his work can be seen at RickBerk.com and you can follow him on his Facebook page and on Instagram at @rickberkphoto.

Some Older Comments

  • Sharley September 23, 2013 11:43 am

    Will I maybe would not shoot rings on guns as my choice, but Rick knew the couple and knows what the couple liked. As long as the couple was OK with it, then I don't think it would be mine or anyone's place to judge the picture. I assume the guns were probably not worn at the wedding, they were simply props for people that obviously love guns and knives. If the customer is paying for pictures, a good photographer should get to know the customer and know what they would like. Maybe he could have used other examples, but again, it's his business, his article and apparently DPS wasn't upset because they published.

  • Kelli September 23, 2013 10:38 am

    Rick, the pictures are beautiful. Don't let anyone tell you differently. You're response was spot on not defensive. Weddings are all about the couple and what they want and like not what everyone thinks a wedding should be. Keep pushing the envelope!!

  • Lonni September 23, 2013 06:05 am

    Less we all have opinions and ideas I thought they were great ideas with the items that show who the wedding couple are. Fab just fab! Would it make any difference to note that the typical wedding ring shot with rings on the hands can also be thought of differently as the hands are used as weapons as much as man made items. I as a woman with a military father would be glad to have a gun to shoot someone who was trying to strangle me. So stay on point fellas the photography is the topic!

  • Jim Smith September 23, 2013 05:53 am

    I am sorry but I think people are missing the point. Guns, knifes & bullets are not something Rick carries in his camera bag, (well, I hope not) they are items that mean something to the Bride and Groom, who supplied them. At a wedding the photographers job is to bring something of the Bride and Groom into every picture. The point of this article is to show us less experienced photographers that we can to do more than place rings on an open Bible and take a picture. Rick took the time to know his clients and come up with an original concept that pleases them. So instead of trying to argue the points of firearms, we should be asking "How did the Bride and Groom like their photos". Great artical

  • Rick Berk September 15, 2013 09:37 am

    iliketag, I don't see what the problem is. I didn't resort to profanity, name calling, or any other sort childish behavior so prevalent online. I simply defended my ideas, and my images. He called the idea abhorrent. I explained why I disagreed. My position as a writer for DPS makes me ineligible to defend my opinions and images? I don't understand that.

    I understand how some might not "get it", as you'd have to know the couple I was shooting these for to really understand that I captured something reflective of them.

  • iliketag September 15, 2013 09:25 am

    I'm going to have to agree that bullets, guns and knives are super weird for props. The fact that you got defensive Rick, kind of threw me off and I really don't think that's how you should carry yourself as a quest writer here. Being unique should be encouraged - but you seriously went after the first guy who expressed his opinion... and it wasn't based off of "religion" or "politics", he simply did not like the juxtaposition.

    Also, I'm surprised to see a tacky white vignette as the top image... definitely not something to really draw people into the article...

  • Rick Berk September 15, 2013 07:01 am

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    @c.- The reason the ISO is cranked so high in these, is that when shooting at macro distances, 1:1 etc., the light transmission is greatly reduced. So at f/16 in bright daylight, shooting at such close distance, I had to crank the ISO. Also, at macro distances, depth of field is much shallower. So even at f/16, you'll only have a fraction of an inch in sharp focus.

  • Ash Roberts September 13, 2013 10:21 pm

    Rick, well defended! I love photos where a great imagination is used for the individuals taste - it is, after all, their big day, and the photos are personal to them - you've given them a present that they would probably never had thought of!

  • Ben Heys September 13, 2013 08:32 pm

    Not sure I'm a traditional white dress & chapel kinda guy but not sure I'd be down for guns & bullets as a wedding theme either. Nice images though, definitely a unique take!

  • Richard Spears September 13, 2013 02:55 pm

    Rick, I for one LOVE the shot with the bullet and the guns. As a wedding photographer, I always try to do something unique with the ring shot at every wedding. Sometimes I get creative, sometimes not. I like how you think outside the box with these shots, and it opens up some ideas for me in the future.

  • Eddie September 13, 2013 01:47 pm

    I like the idea, we had seashells at my wedding and I now wish the photographer had use them like you did. If there is a common theme that can put into a wedding photo than I see nothing but Love. I'll be shooting a small Wedding for a family member in Las Vegas I just might use a pair of dice as a prop, thanks for the inspiration.

  • reece September 13, 2013 11:25 am

    Great information on ring shots, but wedding rings, guns, knives and bullets ranks at the top of the weirdest pictures I have ever seen. I know it was a theme idea, but these shots did not inspire romance at all and gave me chills. Thanks again for the technique pointers, but flowers and seashells will be my priority in the future.

  • Rick Berk September 13, 2013 09:19 am

    Jeff, this column is about photography and I'm really not interested in anyone's political or religious beliefs. I have no idea where you are from but the couple from this wedding volunteered to defend my country and my freedom. Guns happen to be part of that, and they take pride in what they do and who they are, and I chose to use the ring shot to reflect what they do. I also asked if they had their unit insignias to use as a background but nothing was available. Whether you agree with the use of guns, knives and bullets in the shot or not, my goal was to simply get readers to give more thought to the ring shot than simply sticking them on an invitation or the flowers.

  • c. September 13, 2013 06:18 am

    These are very creative and very nice shots. I have a question about the ISO: Why is it necessary to crank it up so high, in what appears to be broad daylight and how can you do so without all the noise? Pardon me if I sound naive, but I'm not used to shooting with high ISOs with decent light. The first one really blows me away because you've used a higher aperture, yet it appears to have a shallow depth of field, unless I'm just seeing the effects of a vignette? I'm just curious because I would not have guessed these settings. Now I'm inspired to play! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jeff Rodgers September 13, 2013 03:50 am

    Thank you for a very helpful article, though I find the shot of the 'military wedding' abhorrent. Why did a day that should be about love have to feature the rings next to weapons designed to kill people?

  • Cassie Bailey September 13, 2013 03:05 am

    Here's one of my favorite wedding ring pictures that I shot last year for my cousin's wedding. [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/101650843@N03/9732931232/' title='Rachel's Wedding' url='http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7394/9732931232_944e883b31_o.jpg']

  • Paola September 13, 2013 01:30 am

    As for the military wedding....you did actually "shoot" the rings!

  • Hertfordshire wedding photographer September 12, 2013 05:42 pm

    I have to admit ring shots are something I can overlook so this is quite inspirational, thanks for sharing, love the guns one. Though it would mean investing in a macro lens.....

  • Pocatello Photography, Cramer Imaging September 12, 2013 12:49 pm

    There isn't anything wrong with being a bit cliche especially since most people pay good money for that. That being said, there is also nothing wrong with experimenting a bit with those cliches so they are not so overdone and boring. Those shots with the guns and knives are certainly interesting. I wouldn't want them for my wedding pictures but that is just my personal opinion. My gun enthusiast spouse might have some other ideas there. Those shots are certainly a non-traditional approach to a traditional shot. Given that some people want to be different with their wedding pictures, I will be giving this some consideration as I do wedding photography too. Thanks for sharing.