Even if you own a high-end smartphone, taking beautiful and properly lit selfies indoors can be a bit of a challenge. This is due to the inherently narrow aperture of smartphone cameras, which limits the amount of light they can gather. Turning on the lights in a room increases the light intensity, but also creates unwanted shadows, caused by the light coming from a single direction. Fortunately, there is a simple piece of photographic equipment that solves all of those problems and lets you take beautiful, evenly lit portraits and selfies anywhere – the ring light.
What is a Ring Light?
Just as the name suggests, the ring light is a light source with a circular shape. When the camera lens is positioned behind the ring light, the subject in front is illuminated evenly from all angles. This almost eliminates all the unwanted shadows, which are responsible for revealing skin imperfections and for making photos look unnatural. This explains why the ring light is so commonly used for selfies and portrait photography.
In the past, ring lights were used only in studio photography, but today, with smartphone photography overtaking the industry, small, personal LED ring lights, designed specifically for selfies are becoming very popular. There are many options to choose from – from small and portable lights that attach directly to the body of your smartphone, to more sophisticated ones that come with a separate tripod, a built-in battery, and a charger.
Most ring lights for smartphones are LED-based. LED ring lights produce a soft, natural light. Fluorescent lights on the other hand are usually more ‘harsh’ and produce brighter white light. This is a property inherent to most fluorescent lights, regardless of their shape.
LED ring lights can have a variety of additional controllable settings – for example, they may be dimmable and their color temperature may be adjustable. This is done either through a special app installed on your smartphone or directly via controls in the body of the light. This is more of a professional feature and makes the ring light more expensive.
How Does a Ring Light Improve Your Photos Compared to Other Light Sources?
As we already briefly mentioned, a ring light creates a light coming from all directions, which leads to pleasing, evenly-lit photos that don’t overly emphasize imperfections like wrinkles.
For comparison, a light source such as a typical indoor light creates light coming from a single direction. This leads to one side of the face being strongly illuminated, and another that is in a dark shadow. In addition to that, all skin imperfections cast their own shadow and get over-emphasized in the photo. In professional studio photography, those problems are usually solved by a three-point lighting setup, with light coming from three different directions, each with varying intensity. A ring light takes that a step further and creates light coming from an infinite number of directions surrounding the face. The closer the subject is to the light, the more even and soft the illumination.
Other Applications for a Ring Light
Although ring lights are known for their use in portrait and selfie photography, they can be used in many other situations as well. Here are three common scenarios, perfect for using a ring light:
The closer the subject is to the center of the ring light, the more even the illumination. This makes ring lights perfect for macro-photography and close-ups of small objects. The ring light will illuminate the object completely evenly and symmetrically, making the photo free of distracting shadow details and artifacts.
Makeup artists who want to take detailed close-up photos of their work can greatly benefit from a small ring light that attaches to their phone. Illuminating tiny details like eyelashes, eyebrows, and skin tone is a job perfectly suited for a LED ring light. When it comes to makeup, ring lights are commonly used not only for photography but also for general illumination during the application of the makeup.
Ring lights are commonly used by videographers for supplemental close-up lighting, especially for video portraits and scenes with a lot of head movement. With smartphone videography becoming more and more popular, and the appearance of more and more music videos from popular artists filmed entirely using a smartphone, a ring light being used as a sole lighting source in video production is becoming more and more common.
Check out Lumeering for their collection of beautiful ring lights.