Filmmaking 101: Why you shouldn't use a ring light...

By PierreL | Content For Creators | 13 Feb 2021


... if you want a professional looking video.

 

Ring lights are popular, and I get it. They're cheap (you can get one for less than 20 dollars on Amazon), bright, convenient cause you can put your camera/phone in it, thus having a light setup (pun intended) and seemingly enough because one light lights your whole face evenly.

But let me tell you why these are not good reasons, and you shouldn't be using them to film yourselves. If you want a more professional look, that is.

 

Reason #1 - Ring eyes

I figured I would start with the least technical and most relatable reason: aesthetics. It is immediately noticeable when someone is using a ring light in a video/photo simply because you can see it in their eyes. I mean, if you're going for an alien-ish look I guess it's fine, but I doubt it's the case for the majority of ring light users.

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Example of ring eyes - Photo by Eduardo Gorghetto on Unsplash

This is just weird, it looks unnatural, it even tends to keep the viewers' focus away from what you're saying and gives your clip a look that is far from professional. And don't even try it if you wear glasses.

 

Reason #2 - Subject dimension

Remember when I said that ring lights were popular because they light your whole face evenly? Yeah, that's actually a good reason not to use them. To give a professional and more "real" look to your shots, you want to give depth and dimension to your subject. Looking at the photo above, you can see that one side of the man's face is lit and the other one is a bit darker, and this is what you want to achieve in most cases. Of course, it depends on what your video is about, but if you're doing an interview, a product review, a tutorial, or just straight up talking about crypto or whatever, giving dimension to your subject (aka your face in most cases) will give a better look to your video. It makes it seem more real, more relatable, more 3D, more human, thus bringing the overall quality of the video that much higher.

 

Reason #3 - Background depth

This is closely related to my second point. Using a single ring light in front of you will also bring up problems with your background. To get a realistic, pro look, and make sure whoever is watching knows that the focus is your subject, you want to detach it from your background. Using a single light source in front of your subject will light everything evenly and will remove any impression of dimension and depth between your subject and the background, making everything look flat and uninteresting.

 

Reason #4 - Customization

Okay, this is not necessarily a must for entry-level filmmakers, but it's nice to have the option. Being able to change the intensity of a light, or to use a dome, a color screen (gel), a softbox, of any other equipment that can help you spread/color/control the light is very convenient and would help you give the perfect look to your videos.

 

 

Of course, if you have one, I'm not telling you throw your ring light away as soon as you're done reading this. These thoughts are my own and ring lights can be great for some specific uses, like make-up tutorials for instance. And you can also use it as a key light in a bigger light setup! If you want to learn more about light setups and find good solutions and tips to replace a ring light and get a professional look, I encourage you to check out my Understanding how to light a scene article. And if price is a big factor for you, know that you can easily find basic kits with 2 lights + softboxes for around $50-$70, and these are a great starting point for a simple but effective setup.

Until next time, stay creative! See you!

 

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Thumbnail credits: Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

 

 

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PierreL
PierreL

French video editor, wildlife photographer, amateur space junkie, sports and history buff and crypto enthusiast.


Content For Creators
Content For Creators

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