The ring light aka ring flash is generally considered to have been invented by Lester A. Dine in 1952 originally for use in dental photography and many people today use small ring light for all kinds of photography. I use a Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX to photograph butterflies. Like it sounds, a ring light is a circular photographic flash that fits around the lens and its most important characteristic is providing even illumination with few shadows visible in the photograph, which is especially important but can be used to photograph people as well although to paraphrase Jaws Chief Brody, “You’re gonna need a bigger light.”
With ring lights, the flashtube surrounds the optical axis of the lens. For objects close to the camera, the size of the ring flash is significant and so that light hits the subject from many angles in the same way that it does with a lightbank, softening shadows. In addition to softening shadows when photographing people, the unique way that a ring flash renders light produces a shadowy halo that fashion photographers like to employ.
For larger ring flash units like those used for fashion photography, power is delivered by a power pack that can be battery or AC powered but some, such as Alien Bees 320 Watt-Second ABR800 ringflash, are constructed like monolights. Within the circular flash unit, there can be one or more flash tubes, each of which can be turned on or off individually. Some ring flashes have focusing aka modeling lamps for helping low-light focusing.
If you can’t afford a “real” ring light you can use an attachment such as ExpoImaging’s Ray Flash that was used for this butterfly photograph. When photographing small objects, such as insects, longer focal length—than 50 or 55mm—is a good idea allowing you to fill the frame without getting too close. Here a Canon 50mm EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro lens with Pro-Optic teleconverter attached was used. Exposure was 1/30 sec at f/13 and ISO 400.
Starting on Monday, August 13th: “Micro Four-Thirds Monday” kicks off a new series of blog posts taking a look at the many different photography projects you can do with this versatile system of cameras and lenses. It’s all about having fun with your photography.