Using a ring light as another lighting tool in your technique bag.
Ring lighting in photography has its place I feel. I have used it on occasion over the years and really do like its effect, but it most definitely has its place and should not be overused. and have a flash powered version by Bowens (no longer around) and a couple of LED ring lights which are relatively inexpensive. They offer a new dimension in how you take pictures and how the light plays with your subject both in portraiture and within fashion and people photography.
A ring light is a simple, relatively inexpensive way to get started with studio photography – and with the right approach, it can look excellent. I have a few examples below, which I will share to show you which ones I use. To be honest the flash-based one I have is quite heavy and powered by a studio battery pack and needs a strong hand to get some good shots but with some simple adjustments to how you shoot and how you set up your camera and exposure, the LED versions are very good and can be used in a variety of ways.
There are a few variations of lighting such as on-camera or around the camera and off camera
lighting this way can offer some super lighting effects and give out a uniform style of light which can be so beautiful on the skin if controlled well but can also be quite stark in their output and can have a harsh overall effect but can be used creatively in fashion to achieve an edgy look to the images you are crafting. Ring lighting also offers a unique highlight profile when seen in the eye, you can see the reflection of the ring light which creates an interest to the viewer.
So what does a ring light actually do to your images?
The light on a ring flash tends to be even and can be super on fashion headshots but it also creates its own unique styled shadows around the model, and look like a halo around the subject especially when close to a background when the effect is more pronounced and often creates a better effect r style, however the skin and clothing all fall flat and stark and much resembles a Speedlight effect with strong light and strong shadows. bearing in mind we are only talking about portraiture, fashion and fashion looks here and nothing else.
How Does a Ring Light Work?
A ring light produces soft, direct light on a subject, minimizing shadows. When you take a photo using a ring light, place the camera lens in the centre of the ring; this ensures that your subject is lit evenly from the direction of the camera. Other light sources may produce brilliant lighting on some parts of a subject while leaving others in harsh shadow. By contrast, a ring light that’s properly set up on its light stand provides uniformity to the way surfaces are lit.
Ring lights can also be used as secondary lights or fill lights or even main soft light as my examples below, I have used ring lighting only for the effect it produces and for no other reason because of its light form and shadow identity. The signature of the light really needs to be understood as its form can simply lure you into wanting to use it many times but don’t get fooled by it and treat It with respect to ensure you have additional lighting techniques in your light kit.
LED Ring Light – How to use it.
Using the LED version is quite straightforward as when you switch it on, you get what you see essentially and you can see how the light is falling on your subject and background. The LED lights are mainly available on lone and come in a variety of sizes but my own is the 18 inch and has both dimmer and bio light control. This allows you to light with daylight effect or with warm effect (Tungsten) based on your preference or the subject and location it is in.
Using LED ring lighting needs a little more attention, getting the correct exposure is about the power of course but also the positioning of the light. If you want the halo shadow then you must move the model closer to the background as well as the light. The LED light is continuous lighting and so you will get a good idea of your result whilst setting up your model. The settings on your camera will be different and you might need to slow down the shutter a little to allow better exposure or like I do, push up the ISO and let your dynamic range keep the highlights muted and full of detail.
Flash Ring Lighting – How to use it.
The Flash version I have is heavy and cumbersome and needs to be powered by power or battery but is very powerful and really does work well on location to overcome lighting such as direct sunshine. You can get ring flash convertors for normal flash heads and could set up with other brands to achieve location and. battery power if needed, but I don’t!
Working with the flash ring light is ok really, and can be worked in the same way as a studio flash, as that’s really what it is. It is a heavy beast to hold. Work your f-stops, aperture and ISo o get the overall density of capture and of course, you will need to use a flash meter to control the light and capture, Also be aware that the model has eyes and these can. get very tired from the flashing of the head over time.