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Understanding the Differences: Ring Flashes vs. Ring Lights

Last Updated 19th July 2023

a collage photo of two images. the photo on the right is of a male photographer taking a photo of a woman sitting on a red chair with his camera and ring flash. the left photo is of a female photographer taking a photo of a woman sitting down in front of a ring light.


Some photographers get excited by the type of camera gear used for a shot, but all of them recognise that the direction and intensity of the light is the most crucial element of any photograph. Light sets the mood and atmosphere, creating emotional impact. It also defines the subject’s shape, texture, and form, adding depth and dimension.

Ring flashes and ring lights offer creative lighting techniques for photographers and videographers. A ring flash is a circular-shaped lighting unit that fits directly around the camera lens, providing shadow-free illumination. On-camera lighting options are particularly popular for macro and portraits because they produce a distinct halo-shaped catchlight in the subject’s eyes. On the other hand, ring lights are larger circular light sources that can be attached to a camera or used separately to produce continuous, soft lighting. 



an image of a male photographer taking a photo of a woman sitting on a red chair using his camera and ring flash.

Ring Flashes

A ring flash is a specialised camera flash with a circular shape. This round flash tube surrounds the camera’s lens and emits light in a 360-degree pattern. Ring flashes help capture detailed images with accurate colour rendition and minimal shadows, so they are often used in medical and dental photography. The portability of a ring flash also makes it ideal for those who want to shoot macro photography, portraits, and product shots. And it’s perfect for fashion photography lighting because it wraps around the subject from all angles with a gentle light gradient that enhances the image’s three-dimensional appearance. This effect makes the model’s features and clothing stand out more prominently.

The unique design of a ring flash reduces shadows, which is especially beneficial in close-up photography. The even lighting provides a flattering light on subjects. Ring flash photography produces an even glow across the subject, but the light falls away behind, separating the subject from the background to enhance depth perception. Macro photographers love ring flashes because when they capture small objects such as insects, flowers, or jewellery at close range, this flash gives diffused lighting from all directions. This form of macro photography lighting highlights intricate details.

Ring flashes are available in many forms. Hypop offers universal systems as well as ones dedicated to Canon cameras. They have powerful flashes as well as budget options. Ring flash heads are also available. These units require a connection to an existing flash. They include 200-watt versions as well as 1200-watt and 2400-watt units.   



an image of a woman in her living room doing a flat lay photoshoot using her ring light.

Ring Lights

A ring light has a circular arrangement of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). It is designed in the shape of a donut, with an open centre where a small camera or smartphone can be placed. Ring lights are commonly used in photography, videography, and other applications that require even lighting. It emits light in a 360-degree pattern, resulting in soft lighting with less contrast.

Ring lights are particularly useful in scenarios involving close-up shots, macro photography, or videos. They provide a favourable result, making these lights popular for beauty and fashion tutorials, vlogging, portrait photography, and product capture. Ring lights typically offer adjustable brightness levels to accommodate different lighting requirements. Ring lights such as the 22" Platinum Pro II have colour temperature controls, allowing users to adjust the light’s warmth or coolness to match any desired aesthetic. This makes them a versatile tool for many lighting requirements.

In addition to their use in professional photography and videography, ring lights have gained popularity among social media influencers, content creators, and video conference participants. They provide a convenient and portable lighting solution for achieving well-lit visuals, even in low-light conditions or when working in dim environments. One of the most popular ring lights is the Godox RING72 which has high-output LEDs for bright and constant illumination in photos and videos. 

Ring lights are available in various sizes, from small, portable ones designed for smartphones and compact cameras to larger versions suitable for DSLR cameras and professional video setups. They can be mounted directly onto a camera or used separately with a stand or bracket for off-camera lighting options. Ring light photography has the bonus of creating captivating, circular catchlights. And the subject’s pupils will be constricted, allowing for more colour in the eyes.



a close up shot of a female model taken using a ring flash

Differences Between Ring Flashes and Ring Lights

While both ring flashes and ring lights have a circular design and provide even illumination, a ring flash is used for specific photographic situations that require a burst of light, while ring lights have continuous lighting that can be used in photography, videography, and content creation.

Ring flashes are primarily used in portrait, product, and macro photography. They are designed to provide even lighting and reduce shadows in close-up scenarios, emphasising details and minimising harsh contrast. 

With its continuous light source, a ring light is favoured for beauty and makeup photography and videos. The circular catchlight in the eyes adds a desirable effect, making ring lights popular among beauty influencers and makeup artists. Ring lights are widely used in video production, vlogging, YouTube videos, and live streaming. The continuous, even lighting helps ensure video recordings have well-lit subjects. Ring lights are often mounted around the camera lens or used as a standalone source to provide consistent brightness during filming. 



a close up shot of a female model taken using a ring light


Choosing the Right Lighting Tool

Choosing between a ring flash and a ring light depends on your photographic needs. A ring flash uses a burst of light for freezing motion, creating a distinctive look without hot spots or shadows. They are helpful portrait lighting options for a unique and flattering image. On the other hand, a ring light provides continuous, even lighting, which can be used for photography, but as it is less powerful, its main function is videography and conference calls.

When photographing portraits or macro subjects, a ring flash captures fine details with even lighting and fewer shadows. If versatile lighting for various situations is required, a ring light will produce continuous illumination for multiple applications.

Ring flashes are specialised and dedicated, so they are often more expensive than ring lights. Those who want to experiment with a new lighting style through innovative photography lighting equipment may prefer ring lights because they are budget-friendly. They are also typically lighter, more portable, and easier to set up than ring flashes.



an image of a spectrum ring light and godox ring flash


Final Thoughts

Ring flashes and ring lights are essential accessories for beauty, fashion, and vlogging. They provide a glamorous lighting effect, resulting in well-lit subjects. They are versatile studio lighting options that elevate your photography or videography by giving a professional touch to your visuals.

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