Everything You Need to Know About Using a Ring Light
Ring lights are an important part of any fashion photographer’s toolkit. Although they can be a little pricey, they’re key to achieving that “glow” on your model’s face in a studio shoot. What’s so cool about ring lights? Because they’re shaped like a circle, you can put your lens through the ring light, eliminating any shadows and glare that would otherwise fall on your subject.
Ring lights were originally designed in 1952 for dentists to get well-lit shots of patients’ teeth. A typical ring light is made with fluorescent tubes, but these days, many ring lights are made up of multiple LEDs instead, which allows them to last longer and use less power. You can use them for either continuous or flash photography, as well as for YouTube videos.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important things to keep in mind when using a ring light for photography, including where to get one to how to put it to use. If you’re feeling creative, you can even make your own DIY ring light out of a plastic hose!
Purchasing a ring light
The type of ring light you purchase will depend on what kind of photos you plan to take.
If you’re taking portraits of models in a studio, you may want to get a larger ring light, such as the 18 inch LED Ring Light With Stand. It comes with a 5400K fluorescent bulb that can dim to 20% power, a diffusion cloth, and a gooseneck stand for easy adjustments.
YouTubers and beauty bloggers may prefer a Selfie LED Ring Light Phone Holder, which has a desktop stand and fully-dimmable LED bulbs. You can even find ring lights designed for selfies that clip right on to your smartphone. These are the cheapest and most portable options.
Setting up your ring light
The most common way to set up a ring light is with your camera inside it, as we’ve seen with the DSLR and smartphone setups described above. With this type of lighting set-up, you’ll be using the ring light as your primary light source, aimed directly at your subject.
If you do it right, you’ll end up with a soft, diffused light that illuminates your subject without any of the harsh shadows caused by other lighting sources. Ring lights are especially useful if you want to draw attention to your model’s eyes, although they are known for creating “catch lights” that can be distracting in some circumstances. You’ll want to avoid a ring light is if your subject is wearing glasses that reflect the ring light or create unwanted glare.
You can also use a ring light in other ways, including as a hair light above the subject’s head, or as a background light to separate them from the backdrop. Because a ring light creates a distinctive circular shape, it isn’t often used as a lone light source, unless you want your model’s face to be surrounded by shadow. Most of the time when using a ring light for photography, you’ll want to use additional studio lights or natural sunlight.
Other uses for a ring light
In addition to portraits, ring lights are also great for product photography, as you’ll be able to highlight the details of an object without casting any shadows. Use the gooseneck to point your ring light directly at your table or workspace. You can also use ring lights to take closeups of tattoos, jewelry, eyes, hands, and other body parts or accessories.
In fact, many makeup artists and hairstylists use ring lights when applying makeup, since they provide the most even lighting. Simply set up a round mirror in the center of the ring light where you would ordinarily put the camera lens. Use it to apply your makeup, then swap it out for the camera to take glamour shots for your Instagram page or website.
Ring lights aren’t just for still photographs either. Many YouTubers use ring lights to illuminate their videos. This creates a soft, flattering look that doesn’t require a lot of setup and can be used even when natural lighting isn’t available. You’ll typically want to have both the light and camera at eye level, but you can experiment with other positions to find the right look.