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the ring of fire // photography technique
the ring of fire // photography technique
the ring of fire // photography technique

ring of fire photography technique

In late 2014 I was given a few pieces of piping. What you might call trash, but I call the ring of fire. It ended up being an incredibly useful tool in my photography. I quickly decided to add it to my (now literal) bag of tricks along with Prisming, Lens Chimping, my Broken Freelens, Anamorphics, etc).


These days camera lenses are designed so well that they’ll nearly never create a flare. The coatings are so incredible that even against the brightest, harshest sunlight they will not flare at all. This is a good thing! It’s really hard to recover from blown contrast in post processing, and flare is often unpredictable and difficult to compose with.

photography techniques ring of fire

But what if you could make real in camera flare on command with the ability to transform it and shape it into anything you want?

copper piping for photography

How on earth am I making the flare in these images? I give you – the ring of fire!

metal ring for photography

ring of fire flareblack and white ring of fire metal piping photography tool

Now, this is just a 1″ long and 1″ wide piece of aluminum pipe. But, held in front of your camera lens and given the right mix of direct/harsh sunlight plus handy live view – you have on demand, real, in camera flare. From virtually any lens no matter how new or old.

Incredible photographer Daniel Araiza has a super helpful video published to help you visualize what the heck is going on here.


Of course, with any new technique it’s probably best used in moderation. It’s a little too easy to get image takeover using this tool, but with enough practice you’ll surely get the hang of it.


My favorite lens of choice to use it with is the Nikon 58 1.4 – per my review here.

The flare can range from being be more subtle and bokeh-like in shape, or it can be very defined and circular. The shape, color, and texture of the pipe will all play into how your flare looks. That’s one of my favorite things about this ring of fire flare technique – everyone’s will look different!

flare technique

I’ll leave you with some more of my favorite ring of fire images and I suggest you get out there and experiment. Hit up your local hardware store and see what you can find.


16-760x485@2x 24-creative-use-of-flare 149-2015-760x441@2x 155-2015-760x508@2x 12694862_948679051835382_9162724557279609468_o

If you’ve found this interesting then wander on over to my other technical write-ups, and as always – enjoy!


Leave a Comment

  • Good Stuff!

  • How did you format these images so that they didn’t look super compressed?

    • I believe Facebook compresses them when uploaded to their site. Since these pictures are on his webpage and he’s sharing the link you can view the images as they are on his webpage. Also, there are other work arounds for posting images on Facebook. Saving them smaller will keep Facebook from going crazy with compression. At least that’s how I understand it.

  • I love your work and ideas! :)))

  • Awesome thank you!!!

  • #samtheman

  • thank you 😡

  • Greg

    WTF….SERIOUSLY….my chin hit the floor when I saw this😀. Ridiculously simple idea yet ingeniously and creatively executed! I’m off to the hardware store to get me some pipe!!
    Makes me wonder what else could be used.
    Thanks for posting this Sam.

  • That’s damn cool!!!

  • Ah, finally! I’ve been waiting for this. 🙂 Thank you!

  • Elena Stanton

  • You are DA MAN! Thanks for this

  • Josh Witzel

    This is amazing as always. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • I love you, your work and your ideas. But after recently taking childbirth classes “the ring of fire” has a horrifyingly different meaning for me.

  • i luv u sam

    Seriously though, thanks for being so generous with your knowledge of these techniques.

  • Nicole

    :::Starts looking for shiny tubes:::

  • shelbie cano

    Thanks for sharing Sam! Hope to see you in Texas soon!

  • minh insixiangmy

    I love how you inspire and keep it interesting every day.

  • Seriously, man.., I have been puzzling about this for-e-ver! Thanks for giving us all a peek behind the curtain to see how the sausage is made. Peace, brother.

  • Tnks for share <3 Love it!

  • Awesome as usual!

  • Melanie Thoma lass uns das mal probieren

  • No way my bro! Simple and stunnig!

  • Question, will it being a solid aluminum pipe make the light differ vastly in terms of bend from it being a clear plastic tube like in the tutorial video?

  • zomg!

  • Thanks Sam. I had tried everything under the sun to achieve this after also seeing it on Nessa K’s site. The Helios 44-2 had some potential I thought at first, then I tried taking the lens out (your chimping technique) and if the sun hit the metal bracket on the end of the lens you had some ring, but it was 1 in a million shots and so randomn. Had tried magnifying glasses at an angle. Thank you for answering this and putting my mind at ease.

    • well, just for flarification …nessa’s flares are just from her 45mm canon tilt shift lens – it’s af late inherent to the design of that lens at the right angle to sunlight

    • Sam Hurd Photography thanks for that!

  • Haha I think the same thing too, Erika.

  • Thanks For this Sam x

  • Dcg Phos Facil de conseguir el material, solo ahi que practicarlo

  • […] on Facebook and Instagram, or reach out to him through Twitter.  This article was also published here and used with […]

  • Thank you!!

  • So amazing, I was wondering how you did this.

  • You’re a saint. Thank you!

  • Anna

    Thank you for sharing!

  • inspiring. thanks.

  • Rocco Ruggiero

    Thanks for sharing this! Do you mind telling me where you got that desk that you have the pipe on?

  • Real cool effect! Thanks Sam! See you soon!

  • Noam Shoval

  • Should have called it Johnny Cash.

  • Oh so glad finally you share your magic

  • Malin Huusmann

    Thanks for sharing all your great tricks, so generous of you!

  • So your fingers won’t get in the way of the shot while doing this because the subject is far enough away from the lens??

  • Emma

    This is awesome! I’ve been wondering how this was done!
    Also, I love your podcasts. Never stop making them. I feel like I’m listening in on a couple of guys talking over coffee.

  • And so starts the season of flare

  • Girish Joshi

    Awesome!! Great trick Sam!

  • … the light playground … 🙂

  • I’m glad you’ve added this to your arsenal just before our wedding

  • Me encantó el efecto mil gracias!!

  • Maria Riley this is how they do it!!

  • Trent Daft Thomas Stewart

  • Beto Rohe…

  • wow! thanks sam, u’r the best!

  • Ross Alexander Muir

  • Eron dos Reis

    Maravilhosa ideia. Vou tentar fazer num ensaio

  • Miguel Hernández

    Gracias por la información lo probaremos 🙂

  • Just in time for wedding season. Thank you, as always, Sam!

  • que vou tentar fazer por aqui..obrigado pela dica

  • Super cool. thanks for sharing

  • Wow following

  • Akira Le

    OMG! Heaven sent. Thank you so much for imparting your knowledge. Absolutely amazing work. Your work has inspired me to continue to push new ways of using my camera. Thank you thank you thank you

  • Mel Cowell James Bass Sarah Corfield

  • (y)

  • is not good for sigma 35mm art series??

  • In LOVE with your photography. You are the guy!!!

  • Elaine

    Always so willing to share! You rock and your work rocks! Thank you for this.

  • Just waiting for this to become an overlay preset in the next edition of ASE 😉

  • Tibo

    Thank you for the share 🙂

  • Courtney

    How do you hold the pipe, keeping your fingers out of frame?

  • Wayne Myers

  • AHH! thank you so very much for your inspiration!! I used your “Ring of Fire” and I am completely in love with it! Thank you thank you!

  • Fardo

    I have been trying this with a Sigma ART 1.4 50mm. Is that too big with a lens diameter of 77mm? My pictures look like 💩

  • Tiago mello

    Muito lindo show sensacional.

  • […] is my favorite photographer, Ryan is another favorite. Sam has a technique he developed called the Ring of Fire, and this picture is Ryan taking a ring of fire shot OF Sam. Super […]

  • […] in light and technique. One such technique is using a small copper pipe to create the “ring of fire.” The effect is achieved by holding the piping up to the lens while shooting toward the sun […]

  • Alicialynn

    Lol love it but yes the “ring of fire” is a not so pretty term when giving birth… But this… This is sooo much better!

  • Andy Smith-Dane

    Stunning images.

    I’ve been meaning to try this for ages, all the bits of pipe I found laying around the house were too narrow for it to work properly though.

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