Advantages of Using a Ring Flash For Portraits

Advantages of Using a Ring Flash For Portraits

The ring flash has been used widely in the fashion world and in macro photography and can have many key advantages for a certain look in your portrait work. The ring flash was actually created in 1952 originally for use in dental photography. With a ring flash the flash unit is circular and actually fits around the lens. Since the light from the ring flash is coming from the same plane as the lens it you get very few shadows and a very unique look to the light that it produces. There are different ways that you can use a ring flash, just like with any light the ring light can be versatile and used as a main light or a fill light. Also one cool thing now is that there are many more options available from reasonable adapters to turn your current speedlight into a ring flash to powerful studio ring lights. So no matter what your budget there is likely a option for you.

Here are some highlights on ring flash for portrait photography:

1) A ring flash will give you very few shadows but also a unique halo effect around your subject. Although generally speaking when shooting portraits I like to have light on the subject that gives dimension, a ring light does give you a unique look. With the light being almost completely shadowless, the images do look a little unreal and capture the attention of the person viewing the image. A close up portrait with a ring flash can be a very engaging image.

2) Gives you a great catch light in the eyes. If you have someone you are photographing with amazing eyes its always a bummer to have a normal looking flash (or softbox, umbrella, etc…) reflecting in their eyes. The ring flash adds a cool element to the eyes since the catch light is a circle. This can really add a lot of dimension to the eyes.

3) A ring light when used close to a solid backdrop will give you a unique halo around the subject. There isn’t a harsh shadow on the background but there is a cool halo effect that you get with a ring flash. Even thought the light on the subject is flat they still pop from the background because of this.

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4) Another use for a ring flash can be for fill when using multiple lights. If you are using off camera lighting and want to fill in some of the shadows a ring light can be a great addition since the light is even and will not create any new shadows. You can also use a ring light outdoors during the day just to provide a nice even fill to your light.

Jill Greenberg Portraits - Rob

Ring lights can be used for many types of photography other than portraits and are also very popular with macro photography. Here are a few great examples of portraits taken with a ring flash to inspire.

Turtle Face!

Rachel 42

Self Portrait

Also here is a ring flash image from one of our readers! Thanks Keith for sending that in!

Vicky 3

I’ll review some different options of ring flash lights coming up in the future (with a giveaway) so stay tuned. What do you think of using a ring flash for portraits? Let us know in the comments or post a link to one of your right flash images to share with everyone.

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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4 Comments

  1. I have always been intrigued by the ring flash, especially for the catch lights it produces. I never thought of using it outside though.

    A few months ago I read an article on how a photographer used a bunt cake pan to create his own ring flash for under $20 and I thought “I could totally do that”. I look forward to your next article on this.

  2. I love my Orbis ringflash but will look forward to your ring flash reviews, are you going to include any of the many DIY jobs out there ?

  3. Yes, are going to cover a few other solutions out there and also some DIY. Stay tuned :)

  4. Thanks for the write-up… I was particularly interested in the usage with off-camera flash/light.

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