Put a Ring on It: A Quick Intro to Ring Flash Photography

Although they have a pretty bad rap amongst purists, ring flashes can be very versatile light sources for photography when used properly.

When it comes to photographic lighting, ring light flashes rank pretty high on the list of contentious topics between photographers. The mere mention of them can be enough to trigger some strobists to the point that they end up breaking into tirades. Years ago, ring lights were en vogue amongst beauty, fashion, and editorial photographers, but fell out of favor as more directional lighting became de rigueur. Thanks to widespread use by beauty bloggers, YouTubers, and reality television confessionals (many are lit using ring lights), ring lights are having a bit of a renaissance at the moment. They’ve become so ubiquitous that even most non-photographers will recognize the telltale halo-like catchlights they produce. Regardless of your opinion on ring lights, it’s important to remember that all light behaves identically because they obey the same laws of physics. As long as you’re utilizing them properly, ring lights can actually be very useful for a variety of different genres of photography. Let’s dive deeper.

Macro Photography

While ring light flashes are most commonly associated with fashion and beauty photography, they are actually super useful when photographing macro work as well. With macro photography, you’re shooting up close to your subjects. Shooting macro work through a ring light will help create soft, even lighting across your entire scene (thanks to the Inverse Square Law). This results in images almost completely devoid of shadows and helps to bring all the tiny details to life.

That Tell-Tale Catchlight

The soft, even lighting ring light flashes produce was also what made them popular amongst beauty, fashion, and editorial photographers. They produce “clean” images that are evenly lit across the entire frame. In addition, they also create a distinctive halo-like catchlight in your subject’s eyes. Nowadays, this unique catchlight pattern is easily recognizable and continues to grab your audience’s attention due to it’s unique and engrossing nature.

Pack a Punch

It’s not just about the catchlights when you’re shooting with ring light flashes. The same quality of light they produce also helps make your subjects stand out. Shooting through a ring flash allows you to shoot at fast shutter speeds and low ISO settings to ensure maximum sharpness in your images. Your subjects will be evenly illuminated, helping to bring out all the colors and details. Once again, thanks to how the Inverse Square Law works, you can create images with dramatic light falloff using ring flashes to separate your subject from their surroundings. Don’t be afraid to experiment with ring lights and create something different.

If this infographic has inspired you to give ring light flashes a try, be sure to check out these reviews:

Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.