by ʇolɐǝz ǝɥʇ qoq

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I've seen lots of people talk about and work with ring-flashes, or using ring-flash adapters for their speedlites. Some use them in single flash setups, both on-camera and off-camera, other use them in multi-light setups.

I understand the advantage of a ring flash in macro photography, but I've seen some portrait photographs with a ring-flash actually made (IMHO) subjects look worse than if I used bounced flash for example.

  • What would be the advantages that I could gain if I used a ring-flash in portrait or wedding photography?
  • Are there and what are possible disadvantages?
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Ring flashes make for excellent fill-flash, especially when you're using a high, hard key. Usually that'd lead to severe raccoon-eyes, but with a ringflash you can lighten the shadows in the eye sockets without introducing a new, directional, lightsource. This guide goes over a couple of different scenarios using a ringflash as fill

It's also used as an on-axis key with the subject close to a wall, creating an even and somewhat flattering light along with a very distinct feathered shadow behind the subject. The look is very "in your face", so you'll often find it in alternative, editorial and glamour photography. Some examples can be found in this Strobist article

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In a studio setting, the ring flash makes the subjects eyes look appealing/natural. A ring of light reflecting off the eyeball looks better than a square or some other shape IMHO.

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At the same time it is also done by every photographer in fashion, making every photograph look the same, and so needs to be used appropriately. – user9817 Jun 26 '12 at 8:05

In macro the ring flash avoids getting the shadow of the lens in the frame, but that's not pertinent when shooting at distance. What is relevant is its large area and shape - light sources with large areas produce softer shadows and more even lighting when compared to direct flash, and the circular shape produces circular specular reflections. I think a large enough, circular diffuser (like the Lightsphere, when pointed at the subject) produces a similar effect for a lot less cash. Both are particularly useful in environments where bounce is infeasible, e.g. outdoors, rooms with high ceilings, or rooms with coloured ceilings.

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