If you really liked it, you’d put a ring [light] on it!
Ring lights are a vital part of many YouTubers video set ups, as well as being very useful for many other still and video photographers.
Have you ever wondered how some photographers and videographers get an almost shadowless lighting effect without making everything look dull and lifeless? They are using a ring light. A ring light is like a hula hoop of light, with your lens or smartphone poking through the open middle.
We will take a look at several ring lights that can be used for both still photography and videos. Or even for non-photographic use, such as make-up artists. These five best ring lights we will discuss produce a continuous output of light and most are AC powered.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Why use a ring light?
- 2 So, is a ring light a magic, do-it-all light source?
- 3 Top 5 Best Ring Lights For YouTubers, Makeup Artists And Photographers Of 2017
- 4 Conclusion
Why use a ring light?
A primary advantage to ring light use is the shadowless lighting we mentioned earlier. Though shadowless, it isn’t flat. The lens (or phone or your eyes) sit in the middle of the light source. This means that the light source surrounds the optical line of sight.
Thus, the light is falling on the subject from every direction. Eliminating the shadows means you can clearly see the details that may have been obscured otherwise.
Even in a non-photographic situation, like applying make up to someone, this non-directional light source is a useful tool. Position the light near the model, look through the inside opening, and apply the make up with full knowledge of how it really looks.
Most of these advantages are applicable to medium distance views as well as the close ups. Using a ring light for a head and shoulder view portrait or video causes a wonderful shadow and light effect that looks like a halo of shadow falling away from the subject. Close up, no shadow. Medium distance, interesting shadow.
So, is a ring light a magic, do-it-all light source?
Well, there are limitations. One is that they are not usually very practical for distances beyond a medium view portrait. Arrange a group pose, and you should look for a different light bank.
Additionally, if our subject would benefit from directional shadows and contrast, even the best ring lights wouldn’t be our first selection. Sometimes we need to see the dimensional relief that results from the interplay of light and shadow that directional lights provide. You could cover up parts of the ring lights for that, but that adds in the complication of possible heat buildup.
So, while you wouldn’t use a ring light to set up Rembrandt portrait style lighting, adding one for a catch light in the eye is a cool look.
Now, let’s see five of the best ring lights that YouTubers, videographers, make-up artists, and photographers alike will find useful and a great value from.
Top 5 Best Ring Lights For YouTubers, Makeup Artists And Photographers Of 2017
|Product||Ring Light Diameter||Light Output||Light Type||Price||Rating||More Features|
|Neewer Dimmable Ring Light Kit (Editors Pick)||18 Inch||75W||Fluorescent Light||$$||4.8||Find Out More|
|EACHSHOT ES240 Kit||18 Inch||55W||LED||$$||4.6||Find Out More|
|Neewer Dimmable LED Ring Light||18 Inch||55W||LED||$$$||4.6||Find Out More|
|QAYA Ring Light iPhone||14 Inch||5500K||LED||$||4.2||Find Out More|
|Neewer Camera Ring Light Kit||14 Inch||50W||Fluorescent Light||$||4.3||Find Out More|
Neewer Dimmable 18 Inch Diameter 75W Fluorescent Light Kit (Editors Pick)
First off, let’s look at the Neewer Dimmable 18 Inch Diameter 75W Fluorescent Light Kit. This is a great value and a very useful kit. Neewer is a manufacturer and distributer of professional DSLR and photography equipment, including flashes, battery grips, remote shutter controls, camera and phone lenses, and other photo video and camera phone related products.
I first became aware of them around 10 years ago by word of mouth among other professional photographers. I’ve been using several different Neewer lighting set ups in my own business and have been completely satisfied with them.
This kit is centered around the 18” fluorescent ring light. Its inner diameter is a very generous 14” which is easier to view through if using as a make-up artist than smaller ring lights.
The 18” fluorescent delivers a continuous output of Daylight balanced 75 watt light (5500K for you techy people), and two sets of filters that fit directly on the ring light, soft white and orange. It’s a well thought out kit, including a camera mount, a very sturdy light stand, and a bag to carry it all in.
The goose neck allows for variation in the angle you point it, but it’s a little stiff. Needs to be stiff for some of the heavier uses it’ll get, but it would be a good habit to set it and shoot, rather than try to vary the angle while you’re shooting video. One other note, the bulb does get warm, but not too much. One great plus to using this model is that you can easily replace the bulb when needed. This unit is easily my favorite of all tested.
EACHSHOT ES240 Kit
Next, we look at the EACHSHOT ES240 Kit. This is also a full kit, with filters, mounts, and a light stand. Rated at 55 watts it’s a little lower wattage, but the LED light is balanced for 5500K Daylight and comes with orange and white filters.
What’s the deal with LED lights vs a fluorescent bulb? LEDs are not one big tube or globe of a bulb, but a whole lot of little bulbs put together. In this ring light, there are 240 LEDs, hence the model name ES240.
A huge advantage to LEDs is that they give off very little heat compared to similar wattage conventional bulbs. A disadvantage is their price. Also, with this particular lighting tool, if the LEDs go out, you can’t replace them. However, the long life expectancy still makes this an attractive choice.
Another enjoyable feature is the variable output. Sometimes, if you have a lot of ambient light, or if you are really close to the subject, the basic light output is too much. Adjusting it allows for using a wider lens aperture for selective focus. Also by combining a ring light of this caliber with a backdrop system you will get great results.
This light set up is another great tool for videographers, YouTubers, photographers, and make-up artists. The fit and finish of certain parts of the stand and mounts seem a little underwhelming, but nothing to diminish its intended purpose. Plus, I wish it had just a bit more power. All in all, a very nice unit. Because of the above mention features, it deserved a spot on our best ring lights list.
Neewer Dimmable 18 Inch 55w Kit
Third, we have the Neewer Dimmable 18 Inch 55w kit. Almost everything I said about the other Neewer ring light applies to this one. Neewer products look, feel, and act like quite high quality tools. This 18” ring light is no exception.
At 55 watts, the light output is slightly lower than the fluorescent bulb. In certain situations, that slight variation of maximum output might make you decide to opt for more power. Especially if shooting small products close up, where more depth of field becomes critical.
That being said, this unit was a joy to work with. My expectations were high for this light, and I wasn’t disappointed. Easy to set up, easy to use, and a very understandable set of instructions.
Getting used to LEDs is interesting. You forget that they’re on! LED bulbs are cooler operating lights, so you don’t notice the warm feel on your face when setting up the rig for close ups.
The value factor of this set up was, for me, a little lower. You don’t get a stand or adapters with this kit. And there’s 20 watts difference in power. Overall, though, a very good ring light, with all the advantages of the LED crowd of lighting products.
Ring Light for Camera iPhone Photography
Fourth, QAYA markets a Ring Light for Camera iPhone Photography. This a 14 inch ring light. The inner diameter is around 9 inches or so. This unit is also LED, using 180 for its output. This does not come with a stand, because it is designed to be extremely portable.
One great feature this light has is it’s rechargeable. So, you don’t have to be tied down by a cord. The lithium battery has a decent enough charge life, but once you notice it start to dim, it will be mostly out of power in a few short minutes. A three position switch allows for reducing the light output, which will also increase battery charge life.
Charging is easy through the supplied USB cable. I noticed that the cable end that fits the light is not standard. So, if you lose it or damage it, or it just wears out, you’ll have to contact either the company or someone who stocks accessories for QAYA to replace it.
Also, the connections didn’t feel quite secure. After several times of plugging and unplugging, I had to wiggle the cord to make sure the charging signal came on.
Neewer Camera Photo Video 14″ Ring Light
Lastly, we will go over the Neewer Camera Photo Video 14″ Ring Light. There isn’t a kit option for this light that I could find, but you can piece one together quite readily. The inner diameter is 10 inches, which now seems quite small after working with the larger ring lights.
However, what we lose in size get made up for in being lighter weight. For working in closer, tighter quarters, its smaller size also becomes advantageous.
The 14 inch Neewer uses a Daylight balanced fluorescent bulb with a 50 watt output. It does not have any dimming capability. This equates to lower power and perhaps less usefulness compared to our earlier tested ring lights. If those others weren’t around, though, we would be very contented with this light. If you want to learn more about the best lighting for makeup application, you can view our guide here.
This ring light is AC powered, and the power supply stayed at an expected temperature. Warm to the touch, but not hot enough to be worrisome. Light output was beautiful, as expected, and stayed consistent through over an hour of use. If your budget isn’t very large, and you don’t need the extra size or features, this remains one of the best ring lights for your money.
Which ring light is best? You’ll need to weigh all your needs and wants, comparing them to the options available. Any one of these will do the job a ring light is designed for. All of them are high quality and each of them deserves a spot in this list of five best ring lights. You can check out this cool tutorial and hack on how best to use a ring light.
Think about what you want to do with a ring light. A make-up artist might be thinking on different lines than a YouTuber. Also, still photographers and videographers have similar needs, but there is enough of a difference in those uses to require a slightly different set up to satisfy their needs.
One thing we know for sure. You will open up a whole new world to your photography or video taking skills by using a ring light. You can learn more about the best cameras for YouTube makeup artists here and the best YouTube equipment.