Ring Flash In Fashion Photography

Ring light flash photography techniques came into use in the fashion industry in the 1980s and have become common ever since then, though the techniques have fallen in and out of the fashion stylist’s toolbox over the years. The appeal for fashion photographers is not only the softening of harsh shadows throughout the frame of a shot, but also the way in which ring flash photography creates a mysterious shadowy halo around a model’s head and figure.

Speaking in technical photographic terms, the ring flash in fashion photography is used as an on-axis fill light to illuminate the shadows created by other off-axis light sources. An additional benefit of a ring flash is that it is a light source that does not create its own set of shadows. The resulting photograph has few shadows, if any, and possesses an even illumination throughout. The reason for this result, of course, is the on-axis characteristic of the light, the alignment of the light source with the optical axis of the camera lenses. Light hits the fashion model equally from all sides, removing shadows.

Fashion photography has come to disdain the smaller macro units and prefers the large heavy models that must be mounted on a camera with a tripod or used by a photographer with some upper body strength. Use of ring flashes with a white reflective ring behind the bulb is a photographer’s choice among the many fashion photography techniques available, and is neither condemned nor praised.

A disadvantage of ring flash photography is one that is common to many lighting setups: the danger of “red-eye” in the model’s eyes. Placing a small light source to the left or right of the camera will alleviate this problem.