Phytochrome photoreceptors in plants and microorganisms switch photochromically between two states, controlling numerous important biological processes. Although this phototransformation is generally considered to involve rotation of ring D of the tetrapyrrole chromophore, Ulijasz etal. (Ulijasz, A. T., Cornilescu, G., Cornilescu, C. C, Zhang, J., Rivera, M., Markley, J. L., and Vierstra, R. D. (2010) Nature 463, 250-254) proposed that the A-ring rotates instead. Here, we apply magic angle spinning NMR to the two parent states following studies of the 23-kDa GAF (cGMP phosphodiesterase/adenylyl cyclase/FhlA) domain fragment of phytochrome from Synechococcus OS-B'. Major changes occur at the A-ring covalent linkage to the protein as well as at the protein residue contact of ring D. Conserved contacts associated with the A-ring nitrogen rule out an A-ring photoflip, whereas loss of contact of the D-ring nitrogen to the protein implies movement of ring D. Although none of the methine bridges showed a chemical shift change comparable with those characteristic of the D-ring photoflip in canonical phytochromes, denaturation experiments showed conclusively that the same occurs in Synechococcus OS-B' phytochrome upon photoconversion. The results are consistent with the D-ring being strongly tilted in both states and the C15=C16 double bond undergoing a Z/E isomerization upon light absorption. More subtle changes are associated with the A-ring linkage to the protein. Our findings thus disprove A-ring rotation and are discussed in relation to the position of the D-ring, photoisomerization, and photochromicity in the phytochrome family.