Rob + Lindsey Morrow
5 Tips to Easily Create an Epic 'Ring of Fire' Photo
Updated: Feb 4, 2022
Do you see photos like these and wonder how they were made? It has to be Photoshop, right? Wrong! We make pictures like this completely in-camera all the time, and are sharing our best tips in this article.
1 - Use a small copper tube.
You can find these pretty cheap on Amazon. Here's one that would work fine, but the specific one doesn't really matter. You're looking for a small piece of tube that's easily manageable. Something like a 1" diameter and 2" long, but both of those dimensions can vary a bit. You could also try it using aluminum or other metals for a bit of a different color and look to the ring that's produced.
2) Hold the tube directly against your lens.
Don't be afraid to hold the tube right against the glass of your lens. If you don't, you probably won't get the full effect - these types of shots can be pretty temperamental! If you're worried about scratching your expensive lens, just put a UV filter on it, which you'll probably want to have on there anyway.
3) Point the tube straight at the light source.
This is how the ring of fire photo works. The tube lights up when it catches some of the light shining at it. If you have the tube angled even just slightly wrong, nothing will happen - it has to be pointed right at the light source and will come to life when the sun/light hits the edge of your tube. It's pretty neat when when it works, plus it's so much fun to show your couple the back of your camera and the magic that you're creating during their engagement session or wedding portraits!
4) Slightly move the tube and/or camera until you catch the light just right.
Like we mentioned earlier, this can be a finicky type of photo to attempt, so if at first it isn't working, don't get discouraged. Try angling the tube around differently (while still pointed basically right toward the light) until you see it flare to life. Once you catch it, be sure to position it and yourself right so that the ring surrounds the subject of your photo in a unique and creative way. To do that, you'll want to be sure to position yourself so that your couple is nearly in alignment with, but not completely blocking, the light.
Also note that different lenses and focal lengths will react differently, so you'll want to play around to find which ones work best (for us it the 35, 50, and 70-200) and which probably aren't even worth trying on (for us that's the wide angle and 85, due to the larger diameter of the lens).
5) Try it when the sun is low or filtered through leaves.
If you go back and take a close look at the photos above, you'll notice that pretty much all of them use the sun as the light source when it is low in the sky and filtered through trees. This is really the perfect time for a ring of fire photo for two reasons. First, it's because the light is a bit softer and will nicely light the right of fire without over exposing it. Second, and more practically, this often provides the right angle for the image to work as desired. When the sun's close to the horizon, it's much easier to align the image so the ring encircles the couple. For the image below, the scene was so dark that we added an off camera flash to light the couple. Which leads us to our bonus point!
Bonus: this also works great with off camera lighting and can be perfect for a unique first dance photo.
The technique is the same as described above, but uses off camera flash (aimed at the camera) as the light source, instead of the sun.
When using off camera flash, you can get as creative as you want!
Pro Tip: use a holder for the tube so your fingers don't show up in the photo!
We get asked about this part a lot. How can you create these images without your hand ruining the photo? Here's our trick - we made a simple holder for it using jewelry wire! You can do this however you want, but the point was to have something that's rigid enough that it will allow us to manipulate the tube how we want too, while not actually holding the tube itself. This method works well because the wire is so thin and close to the camera that it won't show up in any of your photos. Plus it's basically free :)