I wanted to write a blog showcasing engagement rings, because, well, they're pretty. And I like taking photos of them. Annnnd I've taken enough photos of them that some have fallen to the ebbs and flow of time, lost and/or forgotten through the years; this is, in a gratuitous sense, a way to put some of them together and show them off!
Simple, I know. But I also wanted to write a few tips on how to get the best shot, even if you don't have the best gear (psst: I totally do not have the best gear). It all comes down to lighting (& shadows), the position(s) you adopt (angles) and your own perspective that can make a world of a difference.
So, let's take a look at a few shots, break them apart and then we'll finish with a nice, neat "suggestion" guide that I believe works well and produces optimal images your clients will swoon over!
This shot is one of my favorites for an array of reasons: it's busy and colorful sure, but the tones are muted and the moss growth on what was a fallen tree is just right. The ring could have potentially gotten lost, but because of its placement, it immediately pulls your eye to it, begging to be the center (quite literally) of attention.
Another image of the same ring, but this time with the couple featured in the background. I wanted to give a bit more personality to this shot and show you the owners versus just a ring hanging out on a tree all by its lonesome, again. While I love both style and format of each of these two photos, having my engagement couple in the rear and set off to the left breathes a bit more life to the photograph as a whole, while not distracting the viewer from the primary subject: the engagement ring.
The ring on the vintage bike – this was a big hit over on my Instagram page! Anyway, I absolutely adore this photograph, despite the fact that the stone isn't entirely in focus. The metal bike-seat mounts is what is actually crisp and sharp here, and yet, the viewer's eye is still tornado'd in towards the ring. It's magic, isn't it? The addition of the subtle blues and the shallow depth of field give a nice bokeh effect here as well, with high-contrast highlights shining off from the metal springs and rear seat bar. This was just a random bicycle in New York City, but it became the perfect prop. I'll talk about seeing props while on the go a little later in this blog!
This is the same ring as #3, but back onto my bride's finger and I mean, it steals the entire show, doesn't it? It's turned just-so (this was not an accident, I positioned the ring appropriately to get this exact shot!) and shining so beautifully bright that any bride-to-be or engaged-to-be-engaged viewer would "ohmygod look at that ring!" immediately upon seeing it. Add in the single red manicured nail, the creamy colors and textures of their sweaters + the coffee and you have the perfect mood – I wouldn't be surprised if everyone goes off and gets engaged in their local cafe now!
Oh, Fall. How I love thee. Here's an image from late 2013 and I still use this method; the "rolling a crunchy-crisp leaf into a tube and slipping the ring on it" technique, if you will. Or, RCCLIATASTROI. Lol, that's a mouthful. Anyway! I really do love this particular pose, and if your clients are as in lust with Autumn as I am, they will adore this type of photograph. I have another more recent image that I'll share next, but this was the first instance I ever used leaves to enhance an already gorgeous piece of bling and selfishly, I needed to share it again.
Here's the most recent image where I used the "RCC.." method and it just gets better the more variety you see this format in, doesn't it? The early morning sunlight on the leaves in the background, the shallow depth of field + and intentional tilt-shift with a little bit of grain thrown in (added those last two in during post-processing, because I don't currently own a capable lens OR a film SLR!). The ring is centered but slightly angled, the leaf goes from small to big... this is all done with the intent to lure the viewer in so that they see THE ring and then everything else.
Beach ring alert! This was risky because if I had dropped the ring (which my internal voice was SCREAMING at me not to, to which of course I immediately begin to fear that I might, just because #luck), it would have been so time consuming to recover it! And time is everything when you're on a shoot, remember. The sunlight doesn't last, can't last, so you need to utilize it as best you can, and having an 'oops' like a ring drop is a thing you can't afford to have happen. For this photograph though, no rings were harmed in the making of it, so #luck! This absolutely sublime engagement ring was sat in a fluffy pile of freshly-picked sand, leaning against a wind and sea-battered lifeguard stand (remember, you have to train your eyes to see the props within your surroundings, no matter where you are!) in the shade. Indirect lighting was intentional here: I knew that if I had placed the ring in direct sunlight, the diamonds would have blown out, creating steep highlights and all detail would have been lost. And we don't want that to happen with such pretty pretty rings – we want to see the carat cuts and various angles of the stone, so using your best judgement in any given situation is absolutely essential!
Don't be afraid to go the fine art route with your images either! It shakes things up and keeps people interested, keeps them wanting to know what you might do next! True, not everyone may appreciate your bomb-ass artistry, but keep on going, expanding and changing your way of doing things. This keeps you fresh and in the moment, versus using tired, overdone techniques that everyone and their Uncle Photographer does. This shot is an example of that – it's my bride and grooms wedding bands, sitting on an old piece of wood, one inside the other. Sure, you could read into the symbolism, "two become one," or enjoy the shapes: circles, rectangles, etc., or the overhead "flatlay" appeal to it. But that's the point! It gives the viewer options to pick and choose what they love about just one photograph and for me at least, that's a roaring success!
And there you have my top 8 favorite ring photographs! Over on Instagram I wrote it would be my top 5, but who can reduce a career worth of ring images down to only 5?! Not me, that's for certain.
Let's Talk Tips & Strategies:
- Look around! Wherever you are on your shoot – a forest, a special, perhaps candlelit location, at a client's home, a theme park, a press event with shitty lighting (it happens!), look for props and unique areas to get your shot. Work with what you have and not the idea you went into the shoot with.
- Try different types of posing! Position your ring(s) every which way and cover the gamut when it comes time to fire the shutter. Shoot from above, the sides (yes both), the back and even underneath. You may end up hating 9/10 captures, but that 10th could be the award winner and that's why it's important for variety!
- Clear all decisions with your bride first! I cannot stress this enough. Ask politely to borrow the precious (I lovingly just went there) and make sure what you have in mind is okay with her (or him!). Don't just assume they know your intent with their ring – oftentimes our clients are not photographers, or accustomed to doing what it is we do, so walk them through it. If they reject your idea or don't feel comfortable with your methods, accept that and move on. It's better they earn your trust over time and will likely come around by the end of the shoot for you to get at least 1 notable image of their shiny new jewelry anyway!
- Light & shadow is everything: I can't hammer this home enough. Diffused lighting is key for engagement rings, as harsh direct sunlight will obliterate your histogram and recovering from that is almost slim to none. Soft, indirect light will earn you sparkles, details and a whole lot of "oh my GOD I love it!" time and again. Shadow is also your friend. If you like a bit of high contrast (like me!) to your images, where the details of the dark and light are strong and emphasized, finding the right lighting, whether natural or artificial, will help dramatically in achieving this look.
- Have fun! Seriously, engagement sessions are meant to be a dry-run for The Big Day and you have to incorporate a bit of levity into them. Make nerdy jokes (I do this and fail sometimes because I'm an introvert and my nerves get the best of me) and get to know one another. Share little tidbits about yourself, ask them questions that border on intimate friendship knowledge but not enough to make them feel as though you're being invasive. Prying is a no-no, but asking about their job or hobbies is okay. And respond in kind – don't be a robot with a camera. Everyone hates this, including you, so stop that right now.
I hope you enjoyed reading my Engagement Ring photo breakdown + Mini Guide! It's not much, but these are definitely the things I've learned shooting weddings and engagement sessions over the last seven years. If you'd like to read more blogs like this, give me a ❤️ on this post and drop me a quick comment saying so!
More weddings, family sessions & engagements coming soon to the blog!