A popular tool for the glamour and fashion photographer is the ringflash. I’m not talking about the ring flashes used for macro photography, I’m talking about a high-powered studio strobe that can be mounted on the camera. Similar to the macro ring flash, a ringflash used for portrait work allows the camera to shoot “through” the ring in order to achieve the desired effect.
An example of a ring flash is the Alien Bees ABR-800.
The effect I mentioned is a very nice even, wrap-around light. In shooting through the light source, you essentially eliminate shadows that might be thrown by your subject. I say essentially as there is a very characteristic shadow pattern that emerges when using a ring flash that I will illustrate.
Example 1 illustrates a fantastic fashion look achieved with the ring flash. Notice the extremely even light across Lindsey from head to toe. There are no shadows visible because the light source is literally on the exact plane as the camera.
Typically if I had an off camera light source positioned slightly above the camera, I would see a visible shadow on the floor behind Lindsey. I also did not want shadows from the “barn doors” to effect the ground behind Lindsey so I went with the ring flash.
I really love the clean, uniform light that the flash creates.
Example 2 demonstrates a little of the characteristic shadow that you do get with a ringflash.
Look at Jennifer’s left arm and you can see a visible shadow outlining her arm. It is subtle, but clearly there. You can also visualize the slight shadow behind her right arm in the frosted pink glass. I actually had a mono light in that room with a pink gel. The shadow that does get thrown by the ringflash will outline your subject.
This is blatantly obvious in Example 3. Like in Example 2 with Jennifer, Example 3 with Michelle had a gel illuminating the back ground to a nice pink. In doing so the shadow thrown by the ring flash is intensified due to the color. In this example it is very obvious.
You can see the shadow outlining Michelle’s entire silhouette with it becoming more intense as the color gradient becomes darker pink. You can also see the characteristic shadow behind the railing on the right side of the frame. This demonstrates the classic shadow effect that a ring flash will throw.
Another great effect that might be visible is a perfectly round catch light in your subject’s eyes. In order to achieve this effect you would have to be very close to the subject however. None of my portraits have that effect as I’m never that close to my subjects. The catch lights I do achieve are perfectly centered however which is, in itself, pretty cool!
So that’s a ring flash for fashion and glamour. I use it both indoors and outdoors with fantastic results. Now keep in mind I don’t always use it as often times I’m going for a particular lighting effect that requires shadow and light coming from a specific angle. That said, the ring flash always gives me a “money shot” with nice even wrap-around light.
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I'm a Boise, Idaho based Professional Photographer specializing in portrait and commercial photography. I have been working in the Boise Valley for almost 10 years developing my unique style combining creativity with technical expertise. Shooting in the studio or on location, I always achieve the finest art for my clients. Ronin Photography & Design. Don Taniguchi - Ronin Photo and Design
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