Using different lights within photography can create an endless array of effects in-camera to make stunning photographs. Soft-boxes and flash guns are well known, but what about ring lights?
A ring light is a type of light mounted in a large circle shape with a hole in the middle for the photographer to shoot through to obtain maximum light exposure. Ring lights come in a couple of forms – just the light itself which is to be mounted onto a tripod, a small right light that can be mounted onto the camera lens or as a free-standing light which can stand on its own.
The ring light was first invented by dentist Lester Dine in the 1950s to use in dental photography instead of using a conventional flash which creates shadows that obscure the image..
A ring light sits in-between the subject and the camera in order for the light to illuminate the object or person and the photographer shoots through the hole in the middle of the ring light. Essentially, you are ‘wrapping’ your subject in light as it casts an even illumination on it when using a ring light or flash.
The pros of using a ring light, especially when shooting portraits, is that it creates a smooth, diffused and even light across the subject meaning there won’t be any harsh shadows produced. This can reduce post-production time and retouching work as there are less aspects to correct in terms of lighting. A ring light will make your subject stand out from the background by creating a ‘halo’ effect as a result of the rounded light source which can look very professional in a studio set-up.
Macro photography commonly use a ring light or ring flash due to the subject being so close to the camera. The distance of the light, subject and camera using a ring light are very close to each other which makes it perfect for macro photography.
Another use for a ring light in a studio setting is to use it as a ‘fill light’ where there are other light sources being used. The soft lighting emitted from the ring light ensures the subject can be directly brightened for a more 3d appearance.
Ring lights are often used within video as well as photography due to their even, constant light source. Using constant light oppose to flash can be useful as you can see what the image will look like in the viewfinder and change your camera settings as required.
Do you need a ring light or ring flash? That comes down to your personal preference and the type of effect you are looking to achieve.