Choosing The Best Ring Light For YouTube Videos


Young woman using ring light to take selfie

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Shooting great video content requires more than an awesome script and a video camera.

Lighting sets the mood and tone of your video and literally helps to make you look good. More importantly, good lighting makes you stand out as a professional video creator and an expert in your niche. Good lighting will help you attract larger audiences and more buyers for your products and services.

Why many creators choose a ring light for YouTube

Although Vloggers and YouTubers can choose from Softboxes, Umbrella lights and LED panel lights, why do so many regard ring lights as their perfect video light? Here are six simple reasons they will choose a ring light for YouTube videos.

  1. They are easy to use by any beginner, straight out of the box.
  2. Ring lights enable YouTubers to produce beautiful professional-looking shots.
  3. They take up much less space than almost any other video lighting kit.
  4. The lights produce a wash of even and shadowless light that wraps around the subject and helps hide any skin imperfections.
  5. You can get close the camera close to you and still have great lighting.
  6. Ring lights produce distinctive catchlights in the eyes, that many people think are both attractive and desirable.

What is a ring light

As the name suggests, a ring light is a light in the shape of a ring. The light source is usually either a circular fluorescent tube or hundreds of surface-mounted LEDs.

The light source, either fluorescent tube or LEDs, sits in a circular housing. At one side of this circle, or ring, there is a control box/panel and mounting point. You can put the light on top of a stand using the mounting point. The panel will house the on/off switch and other pieces of electronics, such as dimmer controls.

Circular lights with fluorescent tubes use electrical power directly from an electrical outlet, so work at mains voltage (a ballast in the control panel regulates the power to the lamp). DC electricity is used for LED light rings, so they can be powered either by rechargeable batteries or by a DC power adapter.

What is a ring light used for

Ring lights have become popular with many digital content creators, especially beauty and hair vloggers. Many will use a ring light for makeup tutorials because of the shadowless soft light they produce. Because the ring light and camera can both get close to the subject, this allows the viewer to see every detail of the makeup tutorial.

Shooting with a circle light or ring light for makeup videos

They are also extensively used in fashion photography, music videos, and entertainment videos. The nature of the light and those distinctive catchlights help to add a bit of glamour to the look of the video.

Ring lights can be useful when demonstrating a product or project on a tabletop. The light is rotated through 90-degrees and the camera pointed through the ring.

How do you use a ring light for video

The light is mounted on a stand and usually placed directly in front of the subject. The camera is then placed either in the empty space within the ring, or slightly further back from the ring. In this arrangement, the light seems to come from all directions around the camera’s lens. This produces a pleasing shadowless soft light.

Most often a ring light will be used for a close or medium shot of the subject.

If the ring light is used on its own, and the subject is close to a backdrop or wall, they may appear to be outlined by a halo shadow around their edge.

To create an even more interesting effect place a pair of bright lights behind the subject but off to each side, so they are out of shot. This will produce a nice hair light effect, that can be improved further by using a colored gel is used.

If you have a particularly powerful ring light and your walls are painted white, why not turn the ring light around and bounce the light off the wall and ceiling. This will produce an even softer light, although you may also need some other light source in the room.

If you are using your webcam to record your video, take the ring light off the light stand and place it on your desk. You will need to prop it up so it is secure.

Do not wear glasses when using a ring light, assuming you are the subject. Ring lights are famous for the catchlights they produce in the eyes of the subject. When you wear glasses the bright ring of light will be prominently reflected by the lenses.  

Producing catchlights with a ring light

If you like catchlights, the specular highlight reflected from the subject’s eyes, you will probably love ring lights.

Using a ring light for youtube. Here we see the circular catch lights in the eyes and even the tip of the nose
Notice the distinctive circular catchlights in the subject’s eyes caused by a ring light. You can also see the ring light reflected from the tip of the nose.

If the ring light is large, or you can get the ring light close to your subject, you will find it easy to record videos with bright doughnut-shaped catchlights. They are usually reflected from the subject’s eyes, but you can see in the image below there is a reflection of the circular light on the tip of the subject’s nose.

If you are using a fluorescent ring light, or a ring light with a diffuser, the catchlights will appear as bright circles. But if you are using uncovered LED lights, the catchlights will be a circle of bright points of lights, which are reflections of each LED.

These circular catchlights have become very popular, probably because they help to add a little glamour to any video.

What to look for when choosing a ring light for youtube videos

Size Matters

Broader lights produce a softer light. So, if all things are equal, a larger ring light is better for your video production. Common sizes on Amazon are 12, 14, and 18-inches, and they all perform well. The 12-inch is best when you only want a headshot. If you have the budget get an 18-inch ring light since this will give you more flexibility in its use, and more light.

The size numbers normally refer to the outside diameter. If two numbers are quoted for a light, say 18 and 14-inch, the small number will be the inside diameter of the ring. In this case, the ring containing the tube or LEDs is 4-inches wide.

Dimmable

If your light is dimmable you will have more control over how much light you will cast on your subject. If there is no dimmer you can only adjust the level of illumination by moving the light further fro your subject. LED lights should provide a greater dimming range.

Adjustable Color Temperature

Do you need a light where you can adjust the color temperature? If so, look for an LED light with this feature. From personal experience, I have never used the variable color temperature feature on my lights and always run them as daylight color temperatures (5,500K). I could, therefore, have saved myself some money.       

High Color Rendering Index

The higher the CRI value of your light the more natural and vivid the colors will appear. Look for 90+ or even 95+ CRI values. If the listing does not mention the CRI value it may be because of the lights use lower quality lamps or LEDs.

Power Options

Having power options may be a good thing for you. If you can plug rechargeable batteries into your light that’s one less cable to trip over or your light can be safely taken out of doors.  

Extra Diffusion

Choose fluorescent tube ring lights and the extra surface area produces more diffused light. But place a diffuser over the front of the ring and you will have even softer light.

Flexible Neck or Rotatable Ring Head

The ability to rotate the ring head can be very useful, if not necessary. A rotatable ring head will allow you to position the light a little above your subject and angle it down slightly. If the ring head can rotate 90-degrees forward or backward it can be used to bounce light off the ceiling or light a subject who is lying down.
Some ring lights, such as the YONGNUO YN608, do not have a rotatable ring head. But you could buy a light stand adapter that would allow you to rotate the ring head.

Should you get a fluorescent or LED ring light

Although fluorescent lights are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs, LEDs are even better at converting electrical power into light. So, from an environmental perspective, LED ring lights are a better choice.

LEDs are less fragile than Fluorescent tubes. LEDs are likely to survive some rough handling. If fluorescent tubes break, the mercury they contain, which is toxic, will be released.

If your home studio gets hot easily, or you don’t want your aircon to work any harder, choose LEDs. They run cold, whereas the tube lights will get hot.

If accurate color rending is important to you, say if you want vivid and natural skin tones, LEDs may be a better choice. Check for the Color Rendering Index (CRI) value of the lights. To get vibrant and natural skin tones you should look for a high CRI of 90 or more. Ideally, a CRI of 95+ will give you the best results. This is more common with good quality LEDs than fluorescent tubes.

LEDs last much longer than fluorescent tubes. However, you can replace a tube. You can’t replace LEDs. Depending on the length of use and handling, a fluorescent tube may last for months, whereas an LED light may last years.

Aging fluorescent tubes may flicker, produce less light than when new, and even develop a buzz or hum. However, LEDs normally are flicker-free and I have not come across any that make a noise.

Fluorescent tube lights need a mains outlet. But you can use some LED ring lights with a power adapter or with batteries. If you plan on using your lights outdoors LEDs offer an easier and safer option.

If you want a light with variable color temperature, from 3,200 to 5,500K, LEDs are again the option to choose.

Summary

For most people, LED ring lights tend to be a better option than those with fluorescent tubes. The LEDs last longer and do not visibly get dimmer with use. They are also more robust than fluorescents when moved or transported. Provided you get one with a high CRI value, they should make you or your subject look great and give you trouble-free service. If you can afford the large models get an 18 or 20-inch ring light. You will find the larger ring lights not only give you better results but also allow you to shoot more than just headshots.

My Ring Light Recommendation

Neewer Ring Light Kit:18"/48cm Outer 55W 5500K Dimmable LED Ring Light,...
  • PLEASE NOTE: 1. The light stand is packed in a separate box INSIDE the big package box (under the...
  • Kit includes: (1)18"/48cm Outer 55W 5500K LED Ring Light+(1)61"/155cm Light Stand+(1)Soft...
  • Dimmable 18"/48cm Outer 55W 5500K 240 Pieces LED bulbs with a wide dimming range from 1%-100%....
  • 61"/155cm light stand is constructed from aluminum alloy, giving it exceptional strength; The soft...

Last update on 2020-09-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The 18-inch Neewer LED light ring offers is a great choice if you have limited space in your studio space. Instead of setting up a couple of softboxes the Neewer light ring will provide you with even soft-light across your subject’s face.

The small footprint and affordable price make this an ideal choice for anyone starting out, especially in the beauty ort makeup niche.

Click here to read what buyers on Amazon think of the Neewer light.

See the Neewer LED Ring Light in action in this YouTube video.

Tosh Lubek runs an audio and video production business in the UK and has been using the Canon EOS R since it was released in the Autumn of 2018. He has used the camera to shoot TV commercials for Sky TV, promotional business videos, videos of events and functions, and YouTube creator content. He has also won international awards for his advertising and promotional work. You can meet him by visiting his “video booth” at HashTag business events across the country.

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