Using a Ring Light in Your Photography

October 16

8 min. to read

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Ring Lights can create some amazing effects when shooting close-in portraits or when working with macro photography. Here's how to get started.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have to take a professional-looking portrait but the light is just too low or the shadows are too harsh? In this situation, you may have found yourself using your camera’s flash or an off-camera flash to fill those shadows. However, there’s a specific kind of flash that photographers use to create soft, even light for portrait and macro shots. This is known as a ring light.Using a Ring Light in Your Photography Image1photo credit: Dani Diamond

What makes a ring light different?

A ring light is different from other flashes in that it’s designed as a circle that either attaches to the camera lens itself, like a lens hood, or is used off-camera like a normal flash. It’s essentially a ring of small LED bulbs that helps to distribute light evenly across the subject’s face.

Ring lights come in multiple sizes. The ones that attach to lenses are obviously smaller in diameter, but there are larger ones available too that can be used as fill, or secondary, flashes. Ring lights also come in two configurations: continuous lights and flash lights. Depending on your style of photography and your needs, you can use either one and end up with diffused lighting to create dreamy portraits or well-lit macros.

Using a Ring Light in Your Photography Image2

Ring lights for portraits

While ring lights are mainly popular for macro photography, they’re now being used more and more for portraits as well. The main reason to use ring lights for portraits is that they give a soft and even light without introducing any harsh shadows into the scene. Close-up shots benefit most from this, as you can choose where you want the light to have the most effect without worrying about any shadows that may ruin your shot.

Using a Ring Light in Your Photography Image3photo credit: Catherine Ritchie Park

For portrait photography, another interesting ring light effect is the captivating light caught in the eyes of your subject. The eyes reflect the whole ring back to the viewer, making it seem as if there’s a tiny circle of light coming from within the eyes.

Using a Ring Light in Your Photography Image4

Ring lights for macro photos

Ring light photography is very popular when it comes to taking macro photos. Macro ring lights usually go onto the camera lens itself, as this allows them to get very close to the subject without letting the shadow created by the camera affect the lighting. Imagine that you were using a standard lighting setup for a macro shot and then had to get very close to your subject. Most of the time, your camera’s lens would start creating shadows on the subject. A ring light, since it’s positioned on the front of the lens, mitigates this issue.

Using a Ring Light in Your Photography Image5photo credit: Tony Jeeves

Camera ring lights are also small and easy to carry with you if you’re on a nature trek and want to be able to take macro photos on your way. They produce light very similar to that from a soft box and therefore can help you create impressive studio-like macros while you’re out and about.

If you want to learn a little more about interesting ring light effects, check out this tutorial on unusual ways of using ring lights.

Using a ring light, however, is just the first step to making a great photo. You also need a capable image editor to develop your image further. For that, Luminar is perfect with its excellent portrait filters and much more.

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Should you buy one or make one?

When getting started with ring light photography, you need to figure out whether you want to purchase a ring light or make one yourself. Keeping in mind the fairly simple idea behind a ring light, it’s no surprise that many people choose to simply create their own DIY solutions using LEDs and cheap materials. Since many people don’t need to use ring lights as flashes but rather as continuous lights, these DIY projects aren’t very complicated either.

If you don’t have a budgetary constraint and would like the best possible ring light for your photography, commercial options cost around $100 on average. A DIY option will cost you around $20. So the choice is yours.

Ring light photography is a great way to create stunning photos that are perfectly lit and pretty easy to take compared to using multiple flashes for the same scene. The only caveat with using ring lights is that since they’re small in size and don’t have powerful bulbs fitted inside them, they aren’t suitable for taking photos of larger scenes. But if you’re primarily a portrait or a macro photographer and find yourself wanting an easier lighting solution for your shots, then a ring light is probably the best solution you can get.

Just remember one thing: before you post a photo online or print it out, it’s best to use a photo editor like Luminar to really make your photo the best it can be. Editing photos is quick and easy with Luminar, especially with its one-click presets for everything from dreamy portraits to detailed macros.

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