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Understanding Ring Lights / Ring Flashes: A Lighting Tutorial!

A great lighting tool is the Ring Light or Ring Flash. The Ring Light was invented in the 1950's as a light source to capture medical images. Fashion photographers and DP's soon found this great light source and used it to shoot people. It's perfect because it creates a wonderful highlight on the skin and allows the shadows to fall away from the camera. This video is a look at how to use a Ring Light or Ring Flash. In this image we used a Ring Flash as a key light. Let's look at the different uses of the Ring Light and break down the lighting for this image. 

Keep those cameras rolling and keep on click’n! 
 
 
 
#2
Most people think of a ring light as a fashion light source. This is a great way to use it and probably the most common but not the only way to use a ring light.
#3
They can be a very useful tool for stills and video. I have used it with a group looking directly at the camera to simulate as if they are looking at a TV.
 
 
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I use it as a fill light often. It becomes a non-directional fill. 

 
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A ring flash or light, is a circular photographic flash or continuos light that fits
around the lens making it very close to the optical axis of the Lens.

 
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#6
I really like the Dynalite SP 3200 Ring Flash with a silver or white reflector. 

 
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#7
Let's look at the area of coverage and quality of light created by a ring light. The area of coverage is quite broad. At 6 feet from the wall we get a 14 foot area of coverage with a 1.5 stop fall off.

 
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#8
The real story is the quality of light on a person's face. It creates a shadowless light on the subject because of the source surrounding the lens. We do see a shadow ring around the person on the background.

 
 
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#9
When you add a reflector it softens and disperses the light output.

 
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#10
Using the Dynalite ring flash and adding a silver reflector we can see the area of coverage is reduced.

 
 
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#11
It's a harder beautiful light. It gives nice highlights on her face and skin and drops shadows on the sides of legs and arms. The most common way to use a ring light or flash is as a key light. We will use the ring light as a key when we shoot our talented Vera and the Zombies for Zombie Juice Soda.

 
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#12
This detail of our final image shows that a ring light gives you a nice  highlight on the skin but creates a nice defining shadow on the sides of the legs and arms. This gives great dimension to the figure.

 
 
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We had some time while we waited for the Zombies to get through make-up. I took advantage and shot some images with just the ring light with a reflector as a key light of Ben our first Zombie.

 
 
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Let's look at our lighting breakdown for the shoot. This is the first image with just the ambient light from the ikan LED.

 
 
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I use the LED light as a focusing light and fill. This gives us light to work with on set and a nice fill light.

 
 
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We added a small Photoflex soft Box from camera left as a rim light.

 
 
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This gave us some life to the figures and lightened the ground a bit.

 
 
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Here is our image with the Dynalite ring flash. This brings the image alive. With a group of this size I don't need to worry about shadows created on the faces of the talent. It's a directional light that covers everyone.

 
 
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#19
Having the light attached to the camera creates its own problems. As I get closer to the subject the image gets brighter. I need to keep a constant distance to the subject or make constant changes. It's one of the downsides to a ring flash.

 
 
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#20
With a ring flash I find that I don't need much in the way of power to make it effective so a battery power source for the Dynalite strobes works well.

 
 
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Here is one of the images before retouching.

 
 
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#22
Another way I use the ring light is as a fill light. In this image of Darren McMullen the ring light was not the main source of light.

 
 
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#23
Here is the shot with just the ring light. It's an overall subtle fill light. This is a great use of a ring light because it's a non-directional light source that creates minimal shadows when kept low. It's a great fill light for video or stills.

 
 
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Now let's take a look at the post process on our Zombie image. This is the final image that I will work on in Nik Software.

 
 
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I took the image into Nik Color Efex pro 3 and used the bleach bypass filter to remove saturation and create some tonal contrast.

 
 
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Here is our final image. Iʼm very pleased with the outcome but it needs a better bottle.

 
 
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#27
I shot the bottle the same way as demonstrated in a TSL lesson called "Shooting a bottle". I used a simple Photoflex soft box as a background light and a box up front to give a highlight on the bottle. To get the whole rundown go to the lesson called "Shooting a bottle".

 
 
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#28
Julene composed the new bottle into the shot. Here is the final image.
 

Also Read: 23 THINGS YOU MUST KNOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN PHOTOGRAPHY

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