I have a Ray Flash ring flash that I got for macro work. Whenever I mention it to a photographer, they often say that they really like it for portrait work.

What are the advantages of using a ring flash for portrait photography?


2 Answers 2


The advantages when used as a main/only light include:

  • your work resembles big budget fashion photography from the 80s (when ringlights were used extensively)

  • you get a crisp detailed look without the big shadows you'd get from a point source. By surrounding the lens you light from all angles simultaneously you eliminate strong shadows, leaving only a faint shadow which encircles your subject. Here's a comparison I shot between a ringlight and regular on camera flash:

  • you get cool circular catchlights

  • setup is easy with few settings to adjust.

There are disadvantages too, unlike a softbox the light is unforgiving of blemishes etc.

The ringlight can also be used more subtly in a multi light setup to improve definition by throwing light into shadow areas.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Also worth noting that it often tends to produce rather washed out looking colors (an effect your example also shows quite nicely). \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 11, 2011 at 17:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jerry Coffin: you're right. Is that because of the lack of shadows? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 11, 2011 at 17:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Craig: no -- at least not mostly. Most of it is that with the light so close to the lens, you get a lot of specular highlights reflecting white light directly back toward the lens. Moving the light farther off-axis lets you see the diffuse light more. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 11, 2011 at 17:23
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Do you just like grab a model and you're like "Hey, I need to take your picture two different ways for a website?" \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 19:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @rfusca Yeah, pretty much. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 20:57

Ring flash gives a very distinctive look. It virtually eliminates shadows on the face of the subject (ring flash shots are usually taken head-on) while leaving a soft, even shadow around the subject.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.