“… It actually has gotten a bit of a bad rap, probably from overuse in those downtown magazines with catchy names that usually last for about two issues and run page after page of disaffected, outlandishly dressed young people, apparently high on some form of illegal substance, staring vacantly at the camera with a circular highlight in their overlarge pupils. …”
The ring flash is ubiquitious, too much if you ask me. If not used creatively the picture ends up looking, well… just like every other ring light picture…
I took a long time before I decided to pick one up and try it. After using it at various productions with positive results, I realised that when mixed with other light sources it contributes a lot to a good photograph.
I want to share with you the different setups I discovered with time and what the resulting pictures were.
The Ring Flash on its own
The ring flash on its own produces images which are well known and easy to recognize. Strong hallo effect around the model and a nice 3D like appearance. When used alone its easy to get that standard ring flash look so make sure you are creative.
Here is an example of the standard ring flash portrait. Not the way I like using the ring flash but an example nonetheless.
In the following example, I also only used one ring flash but with more power and to lighten the whole body. It looks much better and loses that standard ring flash look. The model gets that tasty look typical of a ring flash.
The Ring Flash and Sunlight
Shooting outdoors mixing natural sunlight with a ring flash also gives you good pictures. By playing around with aperture values you can combine both lights and decide how strong the ring flash effect should be. I tried this out only once but it is worth repeating.
The Ring Flash, Fill Light and a Hair Light
Back in the studio there are many ways you can combine your ring flash with your existing strobes. One of my favorite combinations is using the ring flash together with a hair light behind the model.
On top of that I lighten up the whole scene with a big softbox. That minimizes the hallo shadows typical of the ring flash. I don’t like that hallo too much, so adding a softbox is an important factor for my photography.
Add Some Strip Lights from Behind
You can push the whole thing further by adding even more light! To the previous setup you can also add two strip lights behind the model. One on the left and one on the right. That creates a very plastic but impressive look.
This sums up the different ways I have worked with my ring flash (a Profoto by the way). There are certainly other ways to combine your ring flash with other light sources. If you want to share, I would be very interested in your experiences and feedback.