What is Ring Flash Photography?

Ring light flash photography has provided its distinctive look to image-makers for over fifty years. Originally designed for use in dentistry in the 1950s, the ring flash found its way into macro photography and later fashion photography. Commercial photographers found uses for ring flash during the 1970s, but they later turned to the soft box for a light that produced little shadow over a wide area. Ring flash photography was rediscovered in the 1990s and appropriated by many superstars in fashion photography because of its unique properties.

Designed to place the light source on the optical axis of the lens, the ring flash produces light virtually free of shadow. To accomplish this, the flash tube is circular and allows the camera lens to be inserted into its center. The flash then provides an even light from all angles solving problems of shadow and light variance. The subject shows little shadow allowing its surface to be seen in detail.

Macro photographers found the ring flash provided light difficult to achieve otherwise. With a lens very close to a subject, shadow from off-axis light becomes a major challenge, and the extended distance between the lens and the film also requires greater light intensities. The ring flash solved both of these problems and provided vivid, detailed records of tiny subjects. Macro photographers now use ring lights as a sole light source or as an auxiliary light to open up shadows cast by natural light.

The qualities of ring light photography that attracted macro photographers also appealed to fashion and portrait photographers. Ring light flash photography creates a color-saturated but virtually shadowless image with an immediacy that demands attention. However, most photographers use the ring flash to fill in shadows created by off-axis lights. The result is smooth, sensuous-looking skin that radiates the beauty of young skin.

In this youth obsessed era, the ring flash is loved because it smooths away wrinkles, making skin look younger, no Photoshop needed.