Ring of Fire Photography Tutorial | Photography Technique How To

May 8, 2019

Ring of Fire Photography Tutorial

I learned the ring of fire photography technique a while back but it was really hard to find a good tutorial online of how to do it. It’s one of my favorite ways to add some flair to a photo session so I wanted to share it with you all. If you’re a photographer, this is fun technique you can try at your next shoot, and if you’re not, then just ask me to create an image like this for your next session!

Step 1: Get the supplies

copper pipe for photographyOkay, it’s only one supply. You’ll need a copper pipe for this, which I got at the hardware store. You can also get one from amazon. You’ll want one that is about 1-2 inches long, and 1-2 inches wide. Or somewhere around there. The size I have is 2 inches long and 1.25 inches wide, but you can experiment with different sizes.

Step 2: Pick the right lens

I have experimented with shorter focal lengths but found that anything less than 50mm will not work well. 85mm works best, in my opinion.

For my first try at this I used my canon 85mm and put my Aperture at F2.8 and it worked out great.

Tip #3: You need a light source!

You need some kind of light for this to work, so on cloudy days, this will not be a technique you’ll be trying. My chosen light source is the sun, but I’ve seen people use Christmas tree lights with some really cool results. I love using the setting sun for this, but you could also use daytime sun.

Tip #4: Partially block your light source

What I’ve noticed about sun placement is that this works best when the sun is being blocked partly by something (horizon line, a tree, a building, leaves, etc).

For this photo, I used my 85mm and my aperture was at F2.2

ring of fire photography technique on a family

Tip #5: Try different placements

You will be holding the copper pipe up to your lens, but just be careful not to touch it to your lens, we don’t want any scratches! Use two fingers to hold the pipe up close to your lens, and then look through your viewfinder to see what it looks like. Try tilting the pipe a bit or holding it farther from your lens and see what happens. Sometimes you might see your fingers so you have to play around a bit. Experiment with where you’re standing in relation to the sun. You might get a complete ring, or a partial, or possibly a split in half ring. Basically, it it all just trial and error so have fun and see what you can create!

85mm at F2.8

I love that this one turned out looking like a rainbow over them. This was my 85mm at F1.8

ring of fire rainbow

85mm at F2.8

85mm at F2.8 – The sun was setting quickly so there was only a sliver, which is why you can see more of the pipe color on the outer ring. I don’t mind it ;). 

photography tutorial on how to take photos with a copper pipe

85mm at F2.0

Below is an outtake for more reasons than one ๐Ÿ˜†. My finger was totally in this shot, which is something you’ll be constantly trying to avoid. I find that the shorter the focal length, the harder it is to hide your fingers. This was my 85mm at F2.8

Using the Ring of Fire technique not at sunset

I’ve noticed that this technique is a lot harder to get good results when the sun is higher in the sky. It’s just so bright, so the ring takes up more of your image and turns out a lot more white. This was about 3 hours before sunset, and I used the tree leaves to filter the sun but it still isn’t my favorite. Here are some examples below. All were shot with my 85mm. (And don’t ask me what my daughter is wearing in these, she definitely has her own style๐Ÿ˜†):

Hopefully you’ve found this tutorial useful! Please leave me a comment if you plan to try this, or if you have any questions. And if you do try it, please share your results!

I also offer lifestyle mentoring to photographers, both in person and online, as well as extensive website reviews. Check my mentoring page for more info, I’d love to get to know you and help you grow your business!


[…] If you’re interested in how I do these ring of fire shots, you can check out this blog post. […]

[…] top right photo was made with a copper pipe and the technique is called Ring of Fire. I love getting creative and making unique photographs for the families who book with […]