Headshot Photography Photography Lighting Equipment

How to Use a Ring Light for Headshots: 3 Simple Tips

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Written By Nate Torres

In this guide, we’ll be discussing how to successfully take headshots with ring lights.

Ring lights have taken over. They’re used by top influencers on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, etc.

The reason they’re so popular is that they provide a flattering light. With this being said, if you’re a photographer, using a ring light can provide a quick and effective light source for your next session or selfie.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

Can You Use a Ring Light for Headshots?

Yes, ring lights can be used to take headshots.

Are Ring Lights Good for Headshots?

Yes, ring lights create a very flattering light and display the subject’s complexion well. They also provide plenty of depth and dimension to photos.

ring light headshot
a headshot using a ring light

What You’ll Need for Ring Light Headshots

You need:

  • ring light (of course)
  • tripod for ring light
  • reflector (optional)
what you need for ring light headshots
ring light, tripod, reflector

Why Use a Ring Light for Headshots?

Here are 5 reasons why using a ring light for headshots is a good idea.

1. Economical

Ring-light headshots are cheaper to take than regular headshots. This is because the ring light is a single light.

2. Space

Ring light headshots take up less space than regular studio strobe lights do.

3. Easy to Use

Ring light headshots mean you are usually focused on just one main light source — the ring light.

This means it’s easy to keep track of what light source to focus on and adjust if the lighting is not looking good.

4. Catchlight

Headshot with a ring light produces a nice catchlight.

5. Fill Light

A ring light can also provide a nice fill light if you opt to have another main source of light.

How are Ring Lights Different than Traditional Lights?

Ring lights are distinct because they allow for light to come out of the ring evenly creating a ring-light shape.

How to Set Up a Ring Light for Headshots

1. Arrange Ring Light

Arrange your ring light closer to the subject than your backdrop.

You want it about 18 inches away from the subject’s face.

2. Use a Tripod

Set up a tripod before starting to take ring-light headshots.

This will keep your camera steady throughout the shoot so you can take well-lit headshots.

ring light tripod
tripod with ring light

3. Make Sure It’s Stable

Once you have a ring light, a tripod, and a subject ready, it’s time to set up your ring light for ring light headshots.

Position the ring light on the ring stand. Then, attach the ring stand to a stable base that is very heavy, such as a table or a post for support.

You don’t want the ring light falling over!

4. Connect to Camera

Set up your camera on your tripod, and then connect it to your ring light.

Most ring lights have a screw or connector where you can mount your camera to it. To see an example, check out this video:

How to put camera on Ring light

If your ring light doesn’t have this, then you could put the tripod and camera right behind the ring light.

5. Start Taking Photos

Once your subject is in focus, switch on the ring light and get ready to take ring light headshots.

Raise your ring light until it just about touches the top of your head, or wherever you can see that both eyes are lit.

ring light lighting eyes
eye catchlight

Adjust this height if your ring light casts shadows on parts of the subject’s face.

To see how it’s looking, use your camera’s viewfinder to look through the ring light’s ring-shaped reflection.

This will show you how ring light headshots are lighting your subject’s face. If you need more or less ring light on any part of their face, adjust the ring stand accordingly.

You can also vary ring light headshots by angling the ring light a little, but keep it in front of your camera so you can see how it’s lighting up your subject’s face.

Once it’s looking good, begin taking your ring light headshots!

Make sure the headshots are in focus before you start taking headshots one after another, or else your ring light will be overheated and it won’t work as well (for some models).

If there are shadows on any part of the face, then add or remove ring light from that area. You can also use a small reflector to bring in light that is spilling out from the ring light.

How to Use a Ring Light for Headshots?

1. Turn Off Other Lights

Turn off any other lights in the room and turn on your ring light. When it’s turned on, adjust it to shine right onto your subject’s face.

Without moving the ring light, adjust your camera settings until you get good exposure on your ring light. You might need to lower the shutter speed or change the aperture to compensate for the ring light’s brightness.

2. Experiment With Angles and Lenses

Try taking ring light headshots in different environments such as outside or inside.

Experiment with different ring light angles and lenses, too, to see how ring lights vary in different locations.

experiment with ring light

3. Experiment With Light

Once you finished your ring light headshots, take some headshot photos with ambient lighting or without ring light.

Introduce the lights one by one, and not all at once.

This will give you an opportunity to compare ring lights with other types of lighting equipment.

To further explore the subject of using ring lights for headshots, we also recommend this video by Rafal Wegiel:

Headshot Session with Ring Light.

Do I Need Any Other Lights for Ring Light Headshots?

You might need to use a reflector or another light source if you’re dealing with low lighting. Other light sources include ambient lighting, an off-camera flash, or the ring light itself.

If you are wondering what other light you could include, remember the three-point lighting system:

three point lighting
three-point lighting setup

We also explain this further in-depth in our key light and fill light guides.

Do I Need Any Other Equipment for Ring Light Headshots?

You might need a tripod to keep your ring light still, possibly other lights such as a fill light or backlight, and also a reflector

Final Remarks

In conclusion, ring lights are a great tool to add to your toolbox as a photographer, whether you are shooting portraits or headshots, we recommend experimenting with a ring light at least once.

This guide is a part of our Headshot Photography Resource Hub, so be sure to also check that out for more headshot tips and insights.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you take professional photos with ring light?

Yes, a ring light can be a useful tool for taking professional photos, particularly for portraits or headshots. When used properly, a ring light can provide even and flattering lighting, highlight the subject’s features, and create a polished, professional look.

Which is better ring light or softbox?

The choice between a ring light and a softbox ultimately depends on the specific needs of the photographer and the type of photography being done. Ring lights are generally better for creating a striking, high-contrast look with well-defined shadows, while softboxes are better for creating a softer, more diffuse light with a more natural-looking falloff.