How to Take Macro Ring Shots with a Reversing Ring | For Photographers

The Ring Shot.
Although it's only one image from entire wedding collection, it's an important one to a lot of brides... and it brings with it a whole set of unique technical challenges. Many photographers will buy a new macro lens and only use it for the ring shot, and while this is certainly a very viable option (and probably one I'll move to someday), right now I can't justify purchasing a lens that I will use once during the entire wedding day.
(**Clarification for the photographers out there who are saying, "The 100mm macro is a great all-around lens! I use it all day for portraits, details, the ceremony, etc.." To which I respond, you're absolutely right. I've rented it, loved it, and one day I probably will buy it. But I use an 85mm and a 135mm regularly (and love them both dearly!), so the 100mm is just redundant. FOR ME. I know this is not true for everyone. :))
(***UPDATE: I purchased the 100mm a few months after creating this tutorial. I still LOVE using the reversing ring and I think it's a wonderful technique, but since my husband and I shoot together on wedding days, he uses the 100mm while I continue to use the 85mm and 135mm. It works great for us and allowed us to add the macro to our collection without redundancy.)

So, instead of buying a new lens, I needed another solution for this one. shot. of the day. I did a bunch of research on extension tubes, and read a lot of horror stories where people bought off-brand tubes and they got stuck on their lenses and cameras. Which is not okay. The only totally reliable brand seems to be kenko, which I hear works really well and turns your lenses into fully automatic macro lenses... but this was almost TOO much for me. I usually manually focus on ring shots anyway, so I didn't need a bunch of fancy features.

Which is where the reversing ring comes in! It's just a simple ring that you screw on to the front of your lens that allows you to mount it backwards on your camera, creating an instant macro lens. You have to manually focus and use a video light, but I like the challenge and it works great for me!

I've shared some of my ring shots on a few photographer forums over the last few months and gotten a lot of questions about the whole process. Hopefully, the following information will help you understand how this works and help you decide if the reversing ring is right for you! :)


What You'll Need:

Your lens of choice (I use a canon 50mm 1.8) Your camera of choice Reversing ring that fits your lens (see below) A video light (this is the model that I use. It's super simple, but I like that it's dim-able. A flash might work too, I just prefer the simplicity of the video light.)

1. Screw the reversing ring onto the front of your lens. 


2. Mount the lens on regularly to set the aperture. 

You can't set the aperture once it's mounted backwards (for canon), so you have to do it while it's mounted regularly. I normally set mine to f/8. There's nothing magical about f/8, so feel free to experiment... I'm just usually trying to work quickly on a wedding day, and I like to use what I know will work.


3. Hold down the depth of field preview button while removing the lens. 

This is a bit tricky (and sometimes feels like it requires three hands). I usually try to set my camera down to do this... because I'm dropsy. And that would be a bad day. If I have to stand, the image below shows how I usually hold the camera in order to push both buttons at once and pull off the lens. Also, this is something that I *think* only canon users have to do. I *think* most nikon lenses either have a manual aperture setting on the front or back of the lens. I don't use nikon, though...  so don't quote me on that.


4. Mount lens on backwards.

My reversing ring has a red dot, just like the lens does, to help make this super easy. It should mount just like a regular lens.


5. Point video light at your rings and dial in your correct shutter speed and ISO.

This is where the fact that my video light is dim-able is super useful. I like to put it somewhere that it doesn't make a giant glare on the face of the diamond, and if my shutter speed needs to be too slow for a proper exposure, I just up the power of the light. Done. I also usually set my ISO around 2,000. Because I can. :) (Bonus points if you have an assistant to hold the light for you. Usually I just use creative propping.)

6. Manually focus on the subject and rock back and forth until it's perfectly in focus.

The back-and-forth-focus technique is common with macro photography, and it's especially useful here. There is one sweet spot that your lens will focus at, and you usually have to move yourself to find it. Also, if you look through the viewfinder and you're confused because everything is blurry.... you probably just need to move closer to your subject. You have to be SUPER close.

7. Take a super legit ring shot!

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Finally, here's some common questions....

What lens works best?

Honestly, I think it's a matter of personal preference. I decided to do this method with my canon 50mm 1.8 because the 50mm mounted backwards has a focal length close to the equivalent of a 1:1 macro lens. Also, I'd advise against using an expensive lens... I've had the ring get stuck on my 50 before (not permanently!) and that is not something I want to worry about with an L series lens. The 50mm 1.8 has great image quality, but it's also cheap enough that I wouldn't be massively disappointed if something awful happened to it.

What size ring should I get?

Make sure your reversing ring fits the thread size (the size of your lens cap or filter you might have put on it) of the lens you chose to use. The canon 50mm 1.8 has a 52mm thread size. When in doubt, google "X lens thread size" and it should be fairly easy to figure out.

Have you tried this technique before? Do you like it or is it not for you? Do you have any questions? Leave a comment below and I'll get back to you soon! :)