Ring lights have long been a favourite among macro photographers. However, circular lights have exploded in popularity for categories such as vlogging, make-up, selfies, and more. Ring lights offer beautiful even lighting and gorgeous catchlights whatever your subject may be.
But what’s the best ring light for you? Thanks to the ring light’s newfound popularity, there’s an overwhelming number to choose from. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the top-ranked best ring lights, for both on-camera and off-camera.
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What’s a Ring Light and Why Do You Need One?
The definition of the ring light is right in the name — a ring of light with a hole in the middle that the camera can shoot through. But, ring lights aren’t quite that simple. There are two main types of ring lights: on-camera and off-camera ring lights. Both have very different uses, from vlogging to macro photography.
But no matter what kind of lighting you choose, ring lights have a few things in common. A ring light is designed to wrap around the lens, providing even lighting on all sides. This allows photographers to use flash in the case of subjects where using a regular flash would create weird, unnatural shadows.
While macro on-camera ring flashes are the original ring light, this type of light also became popular for vlogging and portraits. A ring light allows the light to wrap around the subject evenly because the light is on both sides of the lens. This eliminates odd shadows and creates lots of detail while still creating a flattering look. This is one of the reasons why it’s so popular to use a ring light for make-up tutorials and vlogging.
One of the biggest perks of using a ring light for portraits and vlogging? Circular catch light in the eye, which adds interest to the shot. Furthermore, it works well with the way the light wraps around the subject.
An on-camera ring light is ideal for macro work and on-location portraits because it’s portable. This style has a unit that plugs into a DSLR or mirrorless camera‘s hot shoe slot, with a wired connection to a set of lights that circles the lens. This option won’t work for video unless the light also has a continuous mode.
An off-camera ring light is mounted on a tripod and usually has a special mount to hold the camera in place. This way, the lens is shooting straight through the centre. Most of these types of ring lights are continuous. This makes them ideal for video as well as photographs.
First, you need to decide whether you want an on-camera or off-camera ring light and whether you need flash or continuous. Once you’ve chosen, be sure to pick a light that fits your camera. The ring needs to be large enough to fit the camera lens through. Otherwise, you’ll get vignetting around the edges of the photo or won’t be able to use the light with your camera at all. Ring lights come in different sizes, measured by the diameter and with different types of mounts.
Best Ring Lights for Photography
Designed as a traditional on-camera ring light, the Godox Wistro Ring Flash AR400 also doubles as a continuous video light, thanks to built-in LED lights. The light is designed for on-site photo work such as outdoor portraits or fashion photography, but the light can work for macro work too. This LED ring light retails for about $500.
- With a guide number of 118 and a .05 to 2.8 second recycle time, this ring light is pretty powerful, allowing the light to work well outdoors too. The fast recycle time means less time between shots.
- The adjustable power from 1/1 to 1/128 offers excellent versatility and the option of blending the ring light with the ambient lighting.
- A lithium-ion battery is generally a plus since you won’t be wasting money or filling up a landfill on disposables. The battery life is an excellent 450 flashes on full power.
- A continuous light is included, but the LEDs are at a 5600K fixed color temperature and are not adjustable without modifiers. A diffusion cover is included.
- At 1.4 kg (over three pounds), this light will give your arms a bit of a workout. Mounting the camera into the large ring light also makes the camera a bit less ergonomic.
Looking for the best ring light for vlogging, selfies, or make-up? The FotodioX Selfie Starlite Vlog 18″ Bi-Color Ringlight Kit has (almost) everything you need in an affordable kit. The 18-inch size is also ideal for use with a smartphone camera without being too bulky. The kit sells for about $100.
- A phone holder is included in the kit, or you can swap out the phone for a mirror when snapping selfies or working with make-up. The set also includes a case for easier transporting and a 100-240 VAC power supply, as well as a two-year limited warranty.
- The bi-color ring light allows for adjustable temperature between 3200K to 5600K. This will enable you to balance the light with the rest of the lights in the scene. The power of the light is adjustable from 10% to 100% for additional control.
- This ring light is not battery powered, so it’s not made for on-site work.
- While the kit is excellent, it’s missing a stand, so you’ll have to use one you already have or adjust the total price accordingly.
Wescott is a well-known lighting company, and its ring light kit is a versatile option designed for DSLRs or smartphones, as well as on-site or in-studio work. Unlike some kits, this option includes a 6.5 foot light stand and both mounting options for smartphones and dedicated cameras. The kit retails for about $200.
- With adjustable power and temperature from 3200K to 5600K, the light is versatile and easy to blend with the existing light in the scene. Wescott says the light also offers a high degree of color accuracy.
- This LED ring light includes two batteries and a charger, as well as a wall outlet, which means you can use this in a studio or outdoors.
- The Wescott ring light includes a swivel and mobile mount, allowing you to use one light stand for most devices. A carrying case keeps all the extra accessories on hand and easy to transport.
- As a more well-known brand than a budget brand, the Wescott isn’t the cheapest off-camera ring light. However, the versatility of both battery and AC power and the included light stand helps make up for the price difference.
The Ledgo ring light is one of the more versatile ring lights, thanks to handles that also allow the light to be used handheld. Another unique feature is the light’s flexibility that allows you to angle the light on the stand. The light sells for around $250.
- Adjustable in intensity and color (3200K-5600K), the light offers a good range of different settings. A built-in diffuser helps create a softer light.
- Besides being used on a tripod, this ring light has two handles and a mounting plate for rail systems, opening up additional mounting options. The light also works with a wall outlet or optional battery power (sold separately).
- The light is compatible with a number of different devices, as long as they fit inside the 12-inch interior diameter. Smartphones can even be charged straight from the light using the USB port.
- While incredibly versatile, this light is a bit pricier than other best ring lights on the list. And even more so, considering you need to buy a stand and batteries.
On a tight budget, but still want the best light possible? This Polaroid ring light only costs $50. Of course, at that price, the light isn’t as powerful or versatile as some of the other best ring lights on our list. But if you just want to get your feet wet, the Polaroid is a decent introduction.
- While a traditional on-camera ring light, the LED light design allows for both still and continuous lights.
- This light has seven brightness settings. You’ll need a diffuser accessory to adjust the color temperature though, rather than just pushing a button.
- The universal design allows this flash to work with any camera with a hot-shoe. Included mounting rings adapt the ring light to lenses between 49mm and 77mm. But check the complete list to make sure it will accommodate your lens.
- As a budget option, there are more than a few downfalls. Battery life isn’t as good, so add a few sets of rechargeable AA batteries to your cart too. Build quality isn’t the best either.
This is a great alternative to the pricey options from major camera manufacturers. The Yongnuo YN-14EX-C macro ring light has a twin-tube design, allowing you to adjust one side higher or lower than the other for more effects. The light costs around $105.
- With twin tubes, photographers can set one side higher than the other. This allows you to create more depth than the even lighting wrapping around the subject.
- As a budget lens, there are few fewer options than with a high-end flash. The light has fewer power settings (1/1 to 1/64), and the recycle time is higher than some other options at 3-5 seconds.
- A modelling light is included to preview the effect, which is great. The light also works with TTL and other features such as flash exposure bracketing and first and second curtain sync.
Neewer is a budget lighting company that offers some affordable options, including this ring light. This kit contains pretty much everything but the camera for around $100.
- The Neewer LED ring light kit contains mounting options for both dedicated cameras and smartphones. And for the latter, the mount will allow for both vertical and horizontal mounts.
- Unlike many ring lights, a stand is included with this Neewer budget option, as well as a carrying case.
- Unlike older Neewer ring light kits, this option is color adjustable from 3200k to 5600k. This, mixed with the option to dim the light, makes it ideal for balancing out with other light sources.
- This light is powered by a wall outlet, however, with no battery option.
With a built-in diffuser, this Ikan ring light offers a nice large 120-degree coverage area. And the light itself only weighs two pounds. As a higher-end best ring lights option, the kit sells for around $350, or $20 more if you opt for the kit with a make-up mirror included.
- This light is versatile with 3200K to 5600K temperature options and 10-100% power settings, as well as a battery or AC power.
- The kit includes a stand, two batters with a charger, a power cord, a smartphone mount, a DSLR/mirrorless mount, a stand, and a carrying case.
- A built-in diffuser creates a nice, soft light with good color.
- While excellent, this kit comes at a higher price point.
Ok, so the RoundFlash isn’t actually a ring light. It’s an accessory that turns your existing hot shoe flash into a ring light. But the result is an even softer light with those same ring-shaped catchlights. The RoundFlash sells for around $50-$100.
- A collapsible design makes the RoundFlash easy to tuck into a bag without taking up as much space as an actual ring light.
- As it works with your existing flash, there’s a smaller learning curve to working with a modifier over a brand new lighting system. It’s also cheaper than some ring light setups. And the modifier is beginner-friendly.
- As a modifier that diffuses an existing light source, it’s not as powerful as a dedicated ring light. And while lightweight, the design is a bit bulky when in use and looks rather odd to shoot with.
Common Ring Light Photography Questions
Are Ring Lights Good for Photography?
Ring lights are great photography tools. But you need to know what they do in order to determine if they are best for your photography. Ring lights create even, almost shadowless light. This makes them great for product photography and macro photography. The shape leaves a cool circular catchlight in the eyes, which also makes ring lights ideal for make-up shots and vlogging. The lack of shadows, however, leaves images with less depth than other types of off-camera studio lighting.
What Kind of Ring Light Do YouTubers Use?
YouTubers use a continuous ring light, which is a bit different than on-camera ring lights designed for macro photography. These are typically LED lights with a stand that allows the camera – a smartphone or a dedicated camera – to sit in the middle of the ring of light.
How Much Does a Ring Light Cost?
Ring lights can cost as low as $50, but be prepared to spend at least $100 for a good one and $300+ or even $500+ for a professional level ring light. Off-camera LED ring lights tend to cost less than macro ring lights.
Since ring lights create soft, even lighting, they are ideal for beginners and inexperienced photographers. But even for experienced photographers, those circular catchlights and flattering lights are plenty enough reasons to pick up one. The best ring lights offer versatile settings and soft light at a reasonable price, and are easy to use. Go ahead and buy one – I promise you won’t regret it.
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