3 Creative Ways to Use a Ring Flash for Portrait Photography

Ring flashes give photographs a distinctive look and are a favorite of fashion photographers. Typically used by shooting through the opening in the center, the ring flash creates a flat, uniform light and a “halo” of shadow behind the subject, both ideal for fashion and beauty shoots. However, the ring flash is actually a very versatile tool that can create a wide variety of effects. In this video, Gavin Hoey demonstrates three techniques for creating compelling portraits with a ring flash:

Shooting UK grime artist Iffy, Hoey’s aim was to create gritty, dramatic portraits. He used the Orbis ring flash, a particularly flexible model which can be handheld, on-camera, or mounted on a tripod, to show us three different approaches:

1. Use the ring flash as a small softbox.


The flash can be triggered with your camera’s built-in flash, mounted on a tripod, and positioned however you choose. For this shot, Hoey creates a “menacing” effect by pointing the flash down at his subject’s shrouded face, leaving most of it in shadow.

2. Combine it with other flashes.


To imitate dramatic stage lighting, Hoey faces two speedlights toward the camera and keeps the ring flash pointed down at the subject. This time, Iffy faces the light to recreate the excitement of a live performance.

3. Create interesting highlights.


A trademark feature of the ring flash is the circular reflections it creates in a subject’s eyes. Using this to his advantage, Hoey has Iffy don a pair of sunglasses and makes a simple paper stencil for the flash (for this shot, the ring flash is handheld). The result has Iffy seeing stars!

The mood of Hoey’s portraits was meant to be dark and brooding, but ring flashes can be used to create any atmosphere you choose. Experiment with different positioning and stencils to find your own unique use for them!

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