After my wedding ring post on Friday, I received a great question from a bride in the comments, and I thought I’d turn this into an extended post for everyone out there who’s working with a point & shoot camera and looking to get a great shot of their engagement or wedding ring to share with friends and family!! (For this post, I’ll be using my own point & shoot camera, the Canon PowerShot SD870IS Elph.)
1. Take Off Your Ring
As beautiful as your latest manicure may (or may not) be, it’s going to be so much easier to take a great picture of all of your ring’s beautiful details when it’s off your hand. After this post, I hope to inspire brides to show off their rings in style and with creativity and personality! Maybe it could even be your new avatar online… ok, getting a little carried away now. So get the ring off the finger and get creative! (Can I just tell you how hard it is to squeeze my ring off of my fat fingers these days?! OUCH!!)
2. Find a Cool Background or Set Up
To make your ring shot “artistic” find something really interesting or different - I like things that represent you and what you love! Maybe it’s a cool band poster, or the first love letter or card you received from your sweetie, or your favorite book, or your favorite fruit (oooh.. I wish I had a kiwi in my house right now- that would be mine!), or your favorite flower, or your favorite pair of shoes, or just a cool texture like an awesome sweater or pillow you have laying around - whatever! ANYTHING can make a great background. Get creative! If you need inspiration, definitely check out the Rocktographers Blog.
3. Find Good Light
Good light is ESSENTIAL to a great photograph! The easiest light to work with is natural light because it’s the most powerful and consistent. Make your way to a nearby window or take it outside. If you don’t have any natural light to work with, you can get creative with a flash light, the light coming from your computer or TV, or just any ol’ light in the ceiling or from a lamp around your house. In order for the light to be bright enough in an artificial lighting situation, you may need to get closer to the light source, which is why a flashlight may sometimes work better in these situations.
Why shouldn’t you use the flash on your camera?! Because it’s going to blind the camera’s exposure meter and cause a pretty crappy picture. You know all that red-eye you get that makes your friends look demonic? It’s because the flash is essentially entering the eye in the same direction it’s leaving the eye - reflecting off of the red and veiny retina at the back of the eyeball. Gross, right? Yeah, don’t use your flash if you can help it. Use another source of light that’s not the point & shoot flash. Which also might mean turning off your flash so that it doesn’t automatically fire- you may need to read your camera manual if you haven’t already figured out how to do this.
4. Set it up
Think about the prettiest view of your ring - is it the setting from the top? The amazing details on the side? Think about the angle you’ll be photographing your ring in terms of how your photo will best highlight what you love about your ring. If you need help standing your ring up, find something you can stick it into, or if you need to, a glue dot or a little tape might help keep it upright if that’s how you want to shoot it. There’s no shame in this game - just play around with it until you like how your entire set-up looks with your cool background. If you’re anything like me and you never take your ring off, this would be a good time to give it a good toothbrush scrubbing to get rid of any soap scum (unless the metal in your ring is too soft for that kind of treatment- but most will be fine.)
5. Set Your Camera to Macro Mode
Most point & shoot cameras have a macro mode. It’s usually represented by a little flower or tulip. This allows your camera to focus at a much closer range than it would normally be able to. In macro mode, you should be able to get a close up shot in sharp focus even if you’re only 1-4 inches away from your subject (in this case, the ring.) If for some reason you have a not-so-great point & shoot and it doesn’t have macro mode, try zooming in from further away to get a great detail shot. iPhones and camera phones will simply NOT work for a great ring shot.
6. Get Closer
For the best ring shot, your ring should be no less than half the size of the screen, unless you’re giving your background equal or greater billing in this photo. It’s totally possible to fill your screen with your ring when you’re in macro mode or zooming in. Just make that ring take up as much of the screen space as it can on that beautiful LCD.
7. Just Shoot It
When you’re in macro mode, or zooming in tight, it is essential that you stay completely still for this photo because any little movement will pull it out of focus. Either brace your arms on something or use something else to balance your camera on, like a tripod, stack of books, upside down bowl, whatever- just keep that camera STILL if you want to get all of the details in focus. If you need to stand over your ring, pull your arms in tight to your body so they’ll be less likely to move around as you’re taking the photo.
Once you’re all set to shoot your amazing ring on your creative background- shoot the heck out of it! Try shooting it in different ways, try moving the camera around for a different angle or perspective, try framing the ring differently on the screen, try moving the light around, or positioning it so that the light hits it differently. Take multiple shots of the same set up because one might be blurry and the next one might be in focus! Rings are especially difficult because they’re often metal, which is reflective, and can fool the camera’s focus point into thinking it’s further away than it really is. With point & shoot cameras there are a lot of things you can’t control very easily - like the exposure and point of focus, so it’s good to take a lot of different pictures and then look at them all later on your computer screen before deciding which one is “THE ONE”. It’s all digital baby, so don’t be afraid to take tons of pictures- the goal is to get ONE amazing photo in the end, but it might take 30 or more shots to get that one amazing photo. Work it out!! (Um, yeah, I worked it out like 90 times. I may be just a BIT of an obsessive perfectionist! I’ll probably end up editing this entire post like 20 different times too. Whatever- make it rock or don’t do it all!)
After you’ve shot a bazillion photos of your ring, load them to your computer to view them at full screen size in order to make your selection rather than trying to choose one from the tiny screen on the back of your camera. You’ll get a much better look at the clarity and focus as well as the colors and exposure when you’re looking at the images on your computer screen. Force yourself to narrow it down to just one or two photos. As a professional, this can sometimes be the hardest part of my job, especially when there are tons of awesome images that essentially look exactly the same. But frankly - no one wants to see a bazillion photos of your engagement or wedding ring, they just want to see one or two shots with great detail to show off the overall design.
If you’ve done everything right up to this point, you should be done! If you want to get crazy with photoshop at this point, go for it, but remember to keep it about the ring itself and not about a bunch of crazy after-effects which will might just take away from the beauty and design of that awesome ring you love so much!!
9. Share it with the World!
Here are my results with my point & shoot camera… not as great as what I can do with my professional lenses, but hey, I worked what I got and you can too!! (Complete with five years of wear and tear on platinum and white gold - it’s been a good ride so far!!)
Gorgeous custom egg was a 5th anniversary gift from my husband, custom designed and created by our dear friend Liz Smith, who’s an indie craft artist. You can find more of her fun creations in her etsy shop–> Made in Lowell, or if you live in the Boston area, you can see her work in person and maybe even get a live demonstration of her techniques at Western Avenue Studios.
Some insider gossip for you… my engagement ring is actually a big fat one carat Ziamond. Yep, CZ baby. Alex and I were students when we got engaged and when we started looking at rings, I told him, “you don’t need to buy me a diamond because it’s not about the rock, it’s about the symbolism of commitment.” He really didn’t believe me at first, and I reassured him that, “after we’ve been married for like 10 years, and our commitment really means something, then we can upgrade if we have the money. But until then I don’t want money to prevent us from making this commitment to each other.”
What’s sad is that the jewelry stores actually gave him a hard time for saying he wanted a CZ instead of a diamond for my engagement ring!! They kept asking, “Are you SURE she’s OK with it?” I know they’re trying to make money, but damn, can’t a guy just do the right thing? Seriously. So, one day I’d love to design a whole new wedding ring and maybe even get a much more unique set of stones in the color green. In any case, we didn’t put a ton of unique thought or design into our engagement or wedding rings because they were just a symbol for us, not a statement. Eventually, though, I’d love to make it a statement… a unique and subtle statement of our marriage and how we’ve grown together over the years. If you’re reading this Alex, I love you - and if you want to upgrade your ring someday with cool enamel, different stones, or even some kind of ultra techie microchip, I’m all for it honey!! XOXOX