Perfect Illumination with a Ring Light

Perfect Illumination with a ring light

Getting the right lighting for photos and videos can be a challenge. 

I’ve used large soft box and pricey LED panel lights that I meticulously position to provide the best lighting. That means a lot of adjusting and having to live with some shadows.

Lately I’ve been producing weekly videos for my Classy Graphics with Google Drawings online course. I believe that my students make stronger connections with the content when they see their teacher’s face onscreen, so I include selfie videos as part of my instructional videos. That means that I spend quite a bit of time looking at my face on video—and so do my students.

I investigated lighting solutions because I was not happy with the look of my selfie videos. I’ve seen many YouTube videos where the host’s face is perfectly lit. Would I be able to afford their lighting setups? It turns out that many YouTubers use a ring light

Ring lights, also known as diva lights or selfie lights, vary in price. After researching my options, I spent a total of $107 on a ring light and hot shoe adapter. More about what I bought later. First, I want to tell you why I absolutely love filming with a ring light.

Tony Vincent with a ring light

My ring light has an 18 inch diameter with 240 LED lights spread around the circumference. The LEDs are covered with diffusion plates. The ring light sits atop a light stand. A hot shoe adapter attaches to the ring so that my phone or camera sits inside the ring. This setup emits uniforms light from the camera's point of view.

The perfectly even lighting can instantly turn a dark and dreary shot into a bright and cheerful one. The direct light eliminates shadows and minimizes wrinkles. The lighting is so flattering that I feel like a super model each time I turn on my ring light.

Photo taken with only overhead lighting

Photo taken with ring light at medium brightness

You can tell when someone is using a ring light because, if you look closely, you’ll see the ring reflected in the eyes. You'll also notice that since the foreground is so bright, the camera ends up making the background darker.

I love how fast I can set up the ring light. I clamp in my phone, adjust the brightness knob, and I’m ready to film. 

The easy set up makes a ring light great for classrooms and schools.  Teachers can look dazzling in their instructional videos. A ring light can come in handy for when students record video podcasts, public service announcements, Flipgrid or Recap responses, video newsletters, and other movie projects.

I can image a ring light set up in a diary booth as a way to collect video reflections. I set up a reflection area at a camp for teachers in Tucson in the summer. We didn’t have a ring light, but we did have large windows that provided great lighting. Without those windows, a ring light would have been useful. And, a ring light in a diary booth will encourage more participation. After all, who doesn’t want to look like a super model?!

No RIng Light Needed in this diary booth because plenty of light comes in through the windows

Search Amazon for ring light and you’ll get lots of results. I bought the Neewer 18 inch LED Dimmable Ring Light. Here’s why:

  • This light has favorable reviews.
  • 18 inches is large and outputs a lot of light.
  • LED lights are not as fragile and have a longer lifespan than florescent tube lights.
  • The light’s brightness can be adjusted.
  • A phone, tablet, or camera (up to 2 pounds) can be mounted inside the ring.
  • It’s reasonably priced compared to similar ring lights.

Since I already had a light stand, I ordered the Neewer ring light for $90. I also ordered a Neewer Mini Ball Head with Lock and Hot Shoe Adapter for $11. This adapter slides into the ring light’s accessory shoe and provides a standard 1/4 inch tripod thread post. I screw onto that post a Square Jellyfish Metal Spring Tripod Mount. It’s $11 and securely holds my large smartphone.

If you don’t have a light stand, you may want to order the Neewer 18 inch LED Dimmable Ring light in a kit. The $137 kit includes the ring light, light stand, hot shoe ball head, phone clip, and a Bluetooth remote.

It is possible to mount an iPad or tablet in the Neewer Ring Light but you’ll need a way to attach it. I use the Neewer Mini Ball Head with Lock and Hot Shoe Adapter with a Grifiti Nootle Universal Adjustable iPad and Tablet Tripod Mount and a mounting bracket.

Ring Light with 9.7 inch iPad

No ring light? You might try using a television or monitor as the light source. Cnet has an image you can download and display. Though, I have my doubts about how well this works.

 
 

Not enough money for a ring light? Perhaps you can make your own. The Social Media Rocketeer page has instructions and a video for making your own light from about $66 worth of materials. Alternatively, in her YouTube video, Tanieya demonstrates how to make a light for under $25. Do a Google search and you’ll find many other tutorials for constructing your own ring light.

Yes, there are small clip-on ring lights that you can buy for about $10. While they are better than no light, 14 inch and larger lights provide much better lighting.

By the way, sound is usually more important than light in a video. It doesn't matter how ravishing you look if your audience struggles to hear you. I use an iRig Mic HD on a boom stand. This mic connects to the Lightning port on my iPhone or iPad, and it records terrific sound while reducing background noise.

 
 

And what's more important than the sound? The content. Before teachers or students step in front of the camera, they should have an idea of what they are going to say and how they are going to say it. Otherwise, the best sound and lighting won’t matter.


Note that links to products on Amazon are affiliate links. I may be paid a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking a link. You can help support Learning in Hand and my gadget habit by making purchases through these links. 

Click the video screenshot above to read about my online class, Classy Graphics with Google Drawings.

Click the video screenshot above to read about my online class, Classy Graphics with Google Drawings.