A photographic ring flash, or ring light is a special piece of on camera lighting equipment. Essentially, it is a circular flash that encircles the end of the lens. Originally developed for dental photography in the early 1950s, today it is a popular choice for macro photography because it provides soft, even lighting without few if any shadows. It mimics the effect of a large soft box when such is used from a greater distance. Today LED ring lights are popular in both portrait and fashion photography.
One well liked ring flash in particular is the R300 ring light. It’s a softer way to light a subject than any on camera flash or hot shoe mounted flash. It will take all of the harsh shadows right out of any up close subject. The light can be brightened or dimmed according to need, and is guaranteed to provide direct and even fill light from the camera’s position. Should the photographer desire to do so, the R300 can also be placed off camera on a tripod and used as a source of directional lighting. Because it mounts with an L bracket from beneath the camera, the camera’s hot shoe is left open. In a circumstance where you wished the benefits the ring light has to offer yet still wanted a bit of butterfly effect beneath the nose, all you’d have to do to for subtle and professional looking lighting would be to add a flash to the camera’s hot shoe.
Another use of a ring light is to gain light in dark scenarios. A ring light often provides the opportunity for the lens to focus and some even come with a focusing lamp for low light situations. Sometimes it can be used simply to provide enough light to see. Any camera sensor experiences noise degradation after the camera’s native ISO is doubled. By using an on camera ring light you can see without having to bump the camera’s ISO and thus you’ll be able to capture your subject clearly, but without the excess noise that would otherwise evidence as an artifact as the result of the high ISO and low light combination.
Ring lighting has been rediscovered in recent years as a great source of fill lighting in situations where a strong main light is present from another source. It can also be useful outside in the sunlight as a means by which to balance strong ambient light with fill light in order to gain a softer and more natural looking portrait. It is expected that the popularity of ring lights will continue to increase as their use spreads from professional to skilled amateur circles.