This $20 DIY ring light isn’t the kind of ring light you think it is – it’s for light painting

Aug 1, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This $20 DIY ring light isn’t the kind of ring light you think it is – it’s for light painting

Aug 1, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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When we hear the term “ring light” in photography, one thing immediately springs to mind and it offers a very distinctive look. But there is also another type, which isn’t meant to wrap around your lens to create that “shadowless” (which isn’t really) beam of fill light coming directly from your camera, and that’s what Pye Jirsa shows us how to make in this video.

It’s an interesting idea, basically wrapping a string of lights around a ring to create a unique look. And sure, while you could potentially try to use it like a traditional ring light, it won’t do much good, as those little LEDs aren’t going to light a subject very well from any kind of distance. But for light painting? Well, that’s where it really shines.

It’s a very simple setup and is literally just a string of battery-powered LED string lights wrapped around a 12″ circular metal ring and held on with masking tape. Being quite a dim light, you’re not going to be using this in the studio competing with flashes or even bright ambient lighting. You’re going to want to darken down the room so that the LEDs have some chance of illuminating your subject.

Pye shows a number of uses of the ring of LEDs in the video and how very subtle position changes can make a huge impact on the final result of the shot itself. Being so dim, though, if you want to use it to light a portrait, you’re going to be dipping into long exposure territory, with Pye settling on around 1/4 of a second for headshots. When you go into really long shutter speeds, though, you can actually start moving it around and light painting in the exposure to great effect!

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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