What Is Ring Flash Used For? Advice From a Decade of Using Ring Flash

There aren’t many reviews of flashes out there. And there are even fewer reviews and sensible tutorials on how to use ring flash. But ring flash is a favorite technique of mine and I’ve used it for years. Some folks like to just blast their subjects with direct flash, but this is different. Also, ring flash and its use have evolved over the years. So we’re going to talk about how it’s different and how photographers should be using it these days.

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How to Use a Ring Flash: A Tutorial for New Photographers

The ring flash is one of my favorite tools as a photographer, and it can surely become one of yours too.

There used to be a time when I used a ring flash like crazy. I loved it, and to be honest, I still do. It gives the look and feel of the direct flash so many photographers love while adding more pop to the image. It provides a lot more even lighting too. And it’s desirable. I mean, look at how many people love taking selfies with ring lights. Why wouldn’t you like a ring flash? If you think it’s tacky, I’d recommend you give it a shot and embrace it for what it is.

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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.

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3 Cheaper Alternatives to a Ring Flash for Macro Photography


When shooting macro images, the most accepted way to get the best photos involved using a macro ring flash. Today, that still holds true==but there are many alternatives that you can do to get similar or exactly the same effect at a much more affordable price point. Sounds too good to be true, right? Not really, the only trade off that you’re doing is using manual flash output instead of TTL. But otherwise, you’ll be saving money.

If you’re a macro shooter, here are those three setups.

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Review: Godox Witstro AR400 Ring Flash


Years ago when I was still finding my way with shooting portraits, I loved working with ring flashes. They delivered lots of punch, gave off a beautiful catch light in the eyes, and it would later on become part of a look that was highly valued by the fashion world. Fast forward, and ring flashes are still popular–and the Terry Richardson look still hasn’t gone away. That doesn’t mean that ring flashes can only do that type of work, in fact they can do quite a bit more.

Recently, Godox came out with the Witstro AR400 ring flash–a compact solution and alternative to many of the more expensive offerings out there. While it’s very capable, it has a few drawbacks.

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Review: Canon MR-14EX II Macro Ring Flash

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon MR14 II ring flash review product photos (1 of 14)ISO 2001-50 sec at f - 4.0

Earlier this year, Canon introduced their MR-14 EX II ring flash. As the successor to their aging offering, the new flash brought minor upgrades with it including new ergonomics, a new LED lamp to help with focusing, and new controls on the back. But otherwise, it’s a mostly unchanged flash. To begin with, it was very specialized and the world of macro photography has changed quite dramatically as the years have progressed. Many photographers tend to go for diffusion off of large panels instead of direct light from a harsh flash.

And while you should be excited about the ETTL capability improvement that this flash brings, you should also scratch your head a bit about how it fits into Canon’s ecosystem.

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Matthew Jordan Smith Talks About The Specifics of Using Ring Flash

Video thumbnail for youtube video Matthew Jordan Smith Talks About The Specifics of Using Ring Flash - The Phoblographer

Photographer Matthew Jordan Smith is a Sony Artisan and has long been known as a top fashion photographer. A while back, he shared an amazing story with Profoto about how he photographed Tyra Banks using one of the most popular accessories for fashion: the ring flash.

Ring flashes come in two different varieties. The first is an actual flash tube that goes around the lens and that can output loads and loads of power. But photographers searching for something a bit more affordable to mere mortals often reach: and so flash modifiers were designed to work with hot shoe flashes. These modifiers go around the lens and work in a similar fashion, but instead take the existing flash output and bounce it around in a ring shape. Usually, there is one top of light loss associated with it so you always need to compensate by adding in an extra stop or a stop and a half of light output..

In the video, Mr. Smith talks a lot about how the image of Tyra was shot not just by putting her on a black background and shooting to his heart’s content. Instead, he goes into details like using flags to block out other light, specific positioning of Tyra, and giving her breaks because of what a ring flash can do to the eyes.

Profoto’s video on how to use a ring flash is after the jump. Want some recommendations of your own? We really like the Roundflash version II. In fact, we still use it on shoots when we’re testing lenses.

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Canon Has a New Ring Flash For Macro Shooters


It’s rare that something really cool comes out for us strobists, but today Canon has a brand new ring flash that they’re pitching specifically to the macro crowd. They’re calling it the new Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II. In our meeting with the company, they stated that you wouldn’t want to use this one for fashion work and instead it’s specifically dedicated for getting up close and personal to…stuff.

Though we don’t have many details, we were told that it can act as a master flash to the 600-EX RT but we’re not quite sure if there is radio control in there or if its via infrared. The flash surface area is smaller than Canon’s previous ring flash, so we’ve got some curiosities about just how harsh the lighting is. However, Canon assures us that by using it in conjunction with the TTL system, you won’t have an issue.

We don’t have very many details about the flash at the moment, but once we do, we’ll update the piece.

ExpoImaging Announces the Ray Flash 2 Ring Flash Adapter


If you haven’t heard of the Ray Flash before, you’re missing out. It is an adapter that takes existing light from your hot shoe flash and puts it into a ring shape. The look is highly valued by fashion photographers and in photo booths. Today though, ExpoImaging is announcing the Ray Flash 2. Besides a reworked external design, it mostly seems like the same product. A couple of the changes are a new universal flash head mount (the previous one needed to be paired with specific flashes) and the fact that it comes in a long or short version. The short versions are designed for smaller cameras like Canon Rebels; but according to the compatibility list it doesn’t seem to jive too well with some mirrorless options. The long version on the other hand works with lots of higher end DSLRs and the OMD EM5.

The Ray Flash 2: Universal Ring Flash Adapter is now available in the U.S. through photo specialty resellers nationwide, or online at the ExpoImaging Store.  The Ray Flash 2 retails for $139.95.

We’re going to try to call in a review unit, but in the mean time you should check out our review of the original Ray Flash and our introduction to Ring Flash.

The Phoblographer’s Introduction to Ring Flash

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash Ring Flash Review with Grace (5 of 7)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 5.6

If you’ve been looking into lighting at all, then chances are that you’ve looked into ring flashes. The popular flashes are used to give a multitude of looks depending on what you’re going for–but they all have on specific characteristic. Ring flashes are known for giving a subject a ring in their eyes like in the photo above. It’s a beautiful catch light that adds extra emphasis on the eyes: which is what so many portrait photographers try to do anyway.

This post give you a brief overview of the flashes, but for even more we recommend that you check out our Introductory Guide to Lighting Modifiers.

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Review: RoundFlash Ring Flash Attachment for Speedlites

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash product images (6 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 5.6

RingFlashes are used by many photographers and are primarily responsible for getting two different types of looks. One can either try to achieve a look typical of what Terry Richardson is famous for (with harsh shadows) or when matched with the appropriate shutter speed and ISO setting, it can render a totally shadowless look. One thing that these modifiers are also praised for are the ring shape they leave in a subject’s eyes.

We reviewed the first version of the RoundFlash before; and though it gave us some excellent results, it had its caveats. Toward the end of last year, the company refreshed the product with some minor upgrades.

To say the least, this is the ring flash modifier that could replace all the rest.

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RoundFlash Collapsible Ring Flash Diffuser Receives an Update/Fix

We reviewed the RoundFlash Ring Flash Light Attachment a while ago, and found it to be one of the most exciting speedlite (speedlight) modifiers out there right now. Recently, the company announced that they’ve incorporated updates to the product (and even cited our review) and have called it the RoundFlash Magnetic Black.

The major changes are after the jump along with a quick demo of the product setup. We’re calling one in for review as well.

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Review: RoundFlash Ring Flash Light Attachment

As far as Speedlite Ring Flash lighting modifiers go, my favorite for a while has been the ExpoImaging Ray Flash (overtaking the Orbis, DIY, and the GoPro.) However, when the RoundFlash, was announced, I immediately needed to try it out for myself. Promising to turn your hot shoe flash into a larger (and therefore softer) lightsource that is also collapsible, what’s not to like, right?

Marketing is one thing: actual trials and real life use is another.

Editor’s note: Product photos are from the company’s Flickr page.

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Battle of the Ring Flashes: Orbis vs Ray Flash (As Tested at NYC Comic Con in Practical Use)

Comic Con has been over with for a little while now, but if it has solidified anything that I’ve been taught it’s that your lighting is paramount. The lighting on a convention floor won’t always be ideal, and you can even take your on-camera flash’s capabilities a bit further with a light modifier. Last year, I tested the Orbis at the event and this year I took the Ray Flash—a close competitor. Though the Orbis and Ray Flash have received shining stars from us, here’s a test from us in practical use for portraits.

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Getting Your Micro Four Thirds Camera to Use a Ring Flash

Boredom = the creation of the awesomest photography hack ever. Ring flashes are items that I’m extremely smitten with for the particular look they give off. People see them all over in ads, and when I recently invested into a Micro Four Thirds camera, I tried to figure out a way to use a ring flash with it. Here’s a story of trial, error, frustration, boredom, and success.

And in the end, it proved effective in being extremely fun for me.

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Get Great Deals on Tamron E Mount Glass During This Flash Sale!

These Tamron E Mount lenses offer fantastic value for money.

If you’re looking to add some incredibly great glass to your Sony E mount library, and you don’t want to break the bank, read on. Tamron has a new flash sale that will last just two weeks. The sale includes some of their most popular zoom lenses for the Sony platform. You can pick up the excellent Tamron 17-28 f2.8 Di III RXD for just $799. The versatile 28-200mm f2.8-5.6 is only $649! These are just a couple of the stunning deals on Tamron lenses. See the rest after the break.

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Photo Question: Why Would You Use a Flash During the Daytime?

What’s the point of using a flash during the daytime if you can just edit the photo later on?

Though the more experienced photographers may already know the answer, there are lots of folks who don’t understand why you’re supposed to use a flash during the day. I mean, why not just overexpose the image or go into the shadows to shoot the photo? Well, life isn’t always that plain and simple. And if you’re really hellbent on fixing it in post-production, please believe me when I say that using a flash during the day will make it much more manageable. You can probably do this with your on-camera flash, but in most other cases, an off-camera flash will do this the best.

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Forget Overpowering the Sun, The Flashpoint AD1200 Pro Will Replace it

Godox AD1200 Pro

If you need to illuminate half of your neighborhood, the Godox AD1200 Pro might be the go-anywhere flash you need.

Godox has been making quite a name for themselves over the last few years by releasing strobes and monolights that offer incredible features at prices that are far less than other manufacturers out there. Thanks to a recent listing, it looks Godox/Flashpoint might continue the trend of offering quality gear in the shape of a monster called the Godox/Flashpoint AD1200 Pro. This beastly boasts 1200ws of power, and your current R2 transmitters can trigger it. We have more specs and info after the break.

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