The Perfect Ring Shot | Guest Post by Photographer Katelyn James

We are super delighted to bring to you a Tuesday Tips & Tricks post from a fellow photographer and friend Katelyn James!


We met Katelyn a few years ago when she was new to the industry and now, four years later, her business is rocking and has been super blessed.

Let us brag on her for a moment – she’s not only one of the nicest people you’ll meet, but this lady has killer branding that you need to check out and her work has been featured everywhere! From Professional Photographer Magazine to The Knot, Southern Living Weddings, Virginia Bride, to big, high profile blogs from Grey Likes Weddings to Style Me Pretty to Green Wedding Shoes, Wedding Chicks – the list goes on and on!

Without any further ado, we bring you Katelyn!

Well HELLO to all the wonderful Zach and Jody fans out there!!! It’s such a huge honor to be over here on their amazing blog today!! I’m Katelyn James and I’m a wedding photographer based out of Richmond, VA. I share life with my sweet husband Michael and our little Bichpoo puppy, Bokeh! …. Yes, I named my dog “Bokeh”… NERD ALERT! So when Zach and Jody asked me to do a little guest post sharing some tips and tricks, I was so excited… until I realized I had to decide WHAT the post was going to be on! This was QUITE the decision!

Thinking back to my first year or two in business, I had numerous problem areas (don’t we all?!) but one area that always drove me crazy were the RING SHOTS! I was fortunate enough to have a Canon 100mm 2.8 macro lens when I first started but I STILL couldn’t seem to get the hang of these images! I would see other photographer’s ring shots and think “What on earth am I MISSING?!”. My shots weren’t horrible but they definitely were not crisp and clear and vibrant like I had hoped they would be. They were just ok….nothing special and definitely not impressive! When brides asks for a ring shot, they want their bling to look AMAZING and so I knew this was an area that I would have to work on! Over time and after a ton of practice, I began to understand exactly what I needed for a great ring shot! Slowly but surely, my images started to improve! So how did they improve you may ask? Well I’m going to tell you! This is what my ring shots looked like in 2009…. YIKES!

And this is a shot I took last week…..

So what changed between 2009 and last week? I’ve learned a TON about shooting details and I have a better understanding of the macro lens! There are certain things that I realized I needed to do and have available EVERY time I shot a ring in order to produce a great image and those things are:

1. A great light source! I’m a natural light photographer and so I’m constantly looking for WELL lit areas for my ring shots to unfold. However, ring shots with OCF (Off Camera Flash) can be AMAZING as well! I don’t care where your light comes from, you just have to have it! If you don’t have great directional light, your image will be lacking in depth and contrast.

2. A controlled, stable surface. I’m sure you’re thinking “Um, Katelyn, isn’t that ring shot above taken on a tree branch?!”… Yes, it is…but it was a very stable branch! :) It allowed me to focus on the diamond without having any movement. If it’s windy at ALL, these shots won’t work and you risk having the diamond blow right off the tree. Yikes!

3. A non-distracting background. Diamonds demand attention and so when you’re shooting a ring shot with too much going on in the background, you will start to lose the “pop” of the image. The image below was taken on a newspaper stand on the side of the road and the bokeh was created by cars passing by in the background.

So now that we’ve talked about the conditions that you need for a great ring shot, lets go over some super applicable tips and tricks!

Now, I realize that EVERYONE has a different approach to shooting and while this works great for me, there are definitely other options out there! Some photographers only shoot ring shots on a tripod…. I don’t even think I OWN a tripod! So here are some tips and tricks that have helped me out the last 4 years:

1. Always focus on the PRONG that is closest to the camera body. Our eyes play optical illusions on us all the time. We naturally look at the prong closest to us in an image to determine if the image is in focus. If you focus on the prong closest to you, our eyes will feel like the entire image is in focus, even if the other side of the ring is soft.

2. Make sure the light isn’t getting caught on the face of the diamond, causing a glare that will result in a loss of detail in your shot. Sometimes the light will reflect off of the flat surfaces of the diamond and instead of capturing every little cut of the stone, you’re just focused in on a GLARE! This is an easy fix! Just simply reposition either yourself or the ring to avoid the glare!

3. Try focusing manually! This is so helpful for me. When I’m trying to focus on small, intricate parts of the ring, I have found that focusing manually allows me to have more control. If you have a newer camera, you can also try focusing using “Live View” mode on the LCD screen. The focus of a ring shot is so important!! (I learned this from my good friend Kurt Baier of Jodi Miller Photography!)

4. Don’t feel like you have to stay at 2.8! If you’re shooting with Canon’s 100mm macro 2.8 and you love your bokeh, you will STILL have amazing bokeh if you shoot your rings at 3.5. Some settings have diamonds raised so high above the band that it’s almost impossible to get a great, tack sharp shot of the whole ring at 2.8!

5. Last but certainly NOT LEAST, when you’re processing your images, there is one little trick I use in Lightroom! When you’re shooting ring shots, no matter how hard you try, the diamonds will always pick up some colors in the cuts of the stone. Sometimes these colors are GREAT and really add to the image…. and other times, they can take away from the shot because the diamond doesn’t look CLEAR. So if I’m dealing with a ring shot and the colors in the stone are a distraction, I’ll desaturate the diamond! You wouldn’t believe how much of a difference that one little edit can make! Here’s a before and after!

I hope this was helpful and informative! Ring shots are tricky and so hopefully this will help you feel more confident next time you have some one on one time with the bling!! Have an awesome day and a HUGE thanks to the amazing Zach and Jody for allowing me to be a part of Tuesday’s Tips and Tricks!!! So honored!! Here are a few more pretties…..


Thanks everyone for joining us this week! To see more of Katelyn’s beautiful work, pop on over to her blog, and we will see you next Tuesday!!!!!