Last month my husband and I rented a ring flash for a wedding we were shooting. It was the first time I had used one (hubby had used one many times before) and after that one session, I instantly understood the allure of the ring flash. Simply put, it just gives the photo a certain something that makes it look fantastic, which is probably why it’s so popular in fashion and/or commercial photography. Ever notice those perfectly circular shapes of light in the pupils of models’ eyes? That’s one of the effects of a ring flash. After seeing the results of the portrait session we shot, I could see why it’s such a go-to piece of equipment! The images of the happy, just-married couple we were photographing illustrate perfectly what the results can look like. We had the ring flash up high (held up by an assistant) and just off to the side.
A ring flash is exactly what the name says: a flash in the shape of a ring. Making a photo look good and a subject pop is all about the shape and direction of the light. The shape of a ring flash is what separates it from a regular on-camera hot-shoe type of flash. The Round Flash, or a beauty dish — which also gives off a circular burst of hard light — yields a similar lighting effect.
Why Use a Ring Flash
The purpose of a ring flash is to give an even fill of light on the entire subject, brighten skin tones, lighten up shadows, and eliminate any harsh/dark shadows — especially those under eyes, under chins, against necks, and the like. What’s more, with the use of a Profoto 7B battery pack it’s also portable, making it a great alternative to using an on camera flash. In addition to portraits and fashion, it’s an ideal light to use for tabletop photography or smaller interiors. Using a ring flash typically involves mounting it on the camera by using the bracket attached to the flash so that the lens shoots through the center of the ring; basically shooting through the flash. However, like I mentioned above, we shot these wedding portraits with the ring flash held up high and off to the side. We did this for two reasons: One, to give it more directionality; and two, it was a bright and sunny day and we were shooting around 3:00pm. Here in sunny Florida, the sun is still going strong at that time of the day. While it was providing great lighting, the sun was also causing dark shadows under the couples eyes. Also, they were being back-lit by the sun, which caused for a nice rim light effect on the bride’s arms, and the couple’s hair, but caused those shadows to be more prominent. So, we positioned the ring flash opposite the sun (i.e. higher up and off to the right side) to fill all those shadows. The 2 portraits of the happy couple above are examples of this result.
At 1200 watts, the Profoto ring flash is a powerful light source. This amount of power along with it being portable, makes it a really versatile light. The battery pack and ring flash cost nearly $6000 so you’ll want to make a well considered investment if you do decide to pick one up. Renting may be a good option to help you make your final decision.
Special thanks to our favorite rental house, Miami-based One Source Studios!