Flash light looks so harsh and a complete photo studio lighting is a bit much effort for some scenarios. A kind of middle ground with an aesthetically very special look can be found in the ring light. Ring lights are available in many sizes and strengths, as a light for the tripod or quite classically as a stem for your lens (these are based on the ring flash).
All around illuminated – ring lights for portraits and fashion
Ring lights, as the name suggests, have a circular arrangement of the (nowadays) LEDs, this has on the subject especially an interesting effect: Unlike the flash, ring lights shine around the face of your model, whereby the shadows are in a sense lit away and the face is illuminated all around.
In addition, the light particularly highlights the eyes, from close up this is also good for very dark eyes, as it allows a very clear drawing between the pupil and iris. In addition, the ring-like reflection creates an interesting accent in the model’s eye. Ring lights as camera attachments in front of the lens become a harsh shadow behind the model, creating a very special effect that makes close subjects appear very flat bright and at the same time casts a shadow on a much darker background.
This method of ring light photography has been used for some time in music videos or fashion photography, and photos taken with this technique always have a correspondingly stylized effect.
Larger ring lights with a diameter of up to 50 centimeters can also be great for this very special look. The distance to the model can be increased here, likewise the models should not stick too much to the walls. Otherwise, the drop shadow will turn out very hard, sharp and dark.
Such ring lights on the tripod are also well suited for the photo studio, again, the distance to the model should be kept as small as possible so that you can create the desired ring light look. Likewise, the light should fall as frontally as possible on the model and you should position yourself in the best case in the center hole of the ring.
Larger ring lights for the photo studio can also often be adjusted in diameter so that they can shine in different ring diameters. This helps you to create a little more distance to the model, to lighten the natural shadows and, above all, to adjust the ring reflex in the eyes and on reflective products. Like the ring flash, ring lights can of course also be used to best effect in product photography.
More distance between foreground and background
Ring lights can, whether in the photo studio or on location, give portrait photos a very special glow, because the photo model is detached directly from the background. The light fall-off between the subject and the background is very present here, and the shadow on the back wall additionally detaches the subject. In general, the basic rule applies here: further rings soften the shadow by brightening it. In order to avoid photo noise in the darker areas, the ISO number should be kept as low as possible; shooting in RAW is recommended, of course.
Ring lights work especially well with backgrounds that have a slight texture, wallpaper, plastered concrete walls, darker painted backgrounds, blackboards, etc. Against a white background, on the other hand, the subject usually resolves less well. Due to the proximity to a rather strong light source, you should always give your models enough time to get used to the glow or to look at the camera for the photos and then relax their gaze again. Especially the camera view is able to cast a spell with the light reflex in the eye and the flatly illuminated face.
Little effort, much illumination
In many photo studio situations, you have to build the bright, even illumination from several light sources, while flashing often gives you harsh shadows. The ring light makes this a bit effortless and provides you with a consistently bright portrait light in a lightning-fast setup that immediately creates a look all its own.
At close distances, ring lights also give you the creative freedom of various design options and allow you to work with extremely short exposure times or a wide closed aperture. In addition, your model stands out particularly well from the background and skin tones shine clearly and brightly. Even on the lips, the ring light creates an attractive reflection, which can be further enhanced by glossy lipstick.
Ring lights are one of the more fun tools photographers can use to shape their subjects with just one light source. These are a quick solution for appealing photos and offer a portrait look that falls somewhere between flash and natural light. This may look glossy at times, hip hop video at others, but elicits something special from each subject. Smooth skin looks even more like it’s been snatched from Vogue, while more experienced faces are given a striking structure with a simultaneously luminous look.
Since ring lights are somewhat unfamiliar to most photographers, you should first take some time to try them out, regardless of whether you use a battery-powered light for travel or a larger ring light for the tripod.