Ring Light Portrait Tutorial

Ring lights are popular with beauty bloggers. They provide a unique look and create beautiful catch light. But from a photographer’s perspective, ring lights are quite flat for beauty photography. The results lack contrast and detail. However, they do work great for fill light. In this video, photographer Daniel Norton from Adorama demonstrates how to mix a ring light with a softbox for beautiful ring light portraits:

Norton starts off with a single flash setup using a Profoto a1 with a Chimera softbox. To prevent any surrounding light from interfering with the result, he sets his shutter speed at 1/125 second, which effectively cuts off the ambient light. With the flash turned on, and the camera set at 1/125 second, f/5.6, and ISO 200 the result is more of a horror shot than beauty due to heavy shadows:

portrait using flash only

Using a reflector to fill in the shadows is a good option in this case. However, reflectors lack control. So, for the sake of having more control, Norton brings in a Savage Rainbow ring light. He places the ring light right in front of the model and shoots through the gap in the light.

When only using the ring light at full power without flash, the image is flat:

portrait using ring light only

With the flash turned on, the image has just the right amount of light and shadows to add structure to the image.

portrait using flash and ring light as fill

“What’s nice about using a ring as my fill is that the subject is free to move wherever they want. It’s because the ring light will always be even on the face.”

If you have a ring light around in your studio, try using it as a fill light and see what a difference it makes. If you’re looking to add depth and structure to your portraits, you’ll definitely love the results.

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